By Paulo Coelho
Genres – History, Politics, Biography fiction
“When we don’t know where life is taking us, we are never truly lost.”
It’s been about a month since I’ve read a book and I decided to complete a somewhat shorter novel this time. The Spy is a pretty engaging read, hard to put down once you’ve begun and let’s face it. Paulo Coelho? The man is a master storyteller who drops amazing pieces of advice from time to time when the reader is least expecting it. I’ve personally made it a habit to try and remember the page numbers where I find motivational quotes (I don’t really like folding pages. I’m sure a lot of you can relate) and somewhere near the end, I lost count. That’s how good this man is.
The Spy is a tale of an enigmatic woman, Mata Hari who moves to Paris before the First World War. Near the end of the war in 1917 however, she is accused of espionage. The novel is based on a true story and primarily describes Mata Hari’s life; her struggle, her fame as a dancer, the lavish life she led and finally, it briefly touches on the manner of her downfall. The book isn’t simply a narrative of this woman’s life, however. Paulo Coelho uses subtle hints to portray the hypocrisy of human beings and governments, and he also shows his readers how men and women alike feel threatened by a famous and beautiful woman who has worked hard to achieve success in life.
Paulo Coelho’s books aren’t what I’d call mainstream novels. Sure, everyone’s reading them nowadays, but there’s always something different about them. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what sets them apart. It could be that they are all translated from a different language. It could be the connection Coelho forms between his characters’ lives and ours. It could be his unique way of narration. Or it could be a combination of all three.
The narration is in the form of 2 letters written by Mata Hari to her lawyer and vice versa. The book’s pace seemed a bit rushed to me. There were instances when I felt a bit unclear as to which event happened where. The ending was also rather abrupt, albeit full of literary genius. But come to think of it, that may have been the initial objective of the author. I’ve noticed this sort of pattern before in Paulo Coelho’s novels. The main purpose doesn’t really seem to be story-telling. It’s to narrate a set of events and drop philosophical quotes in between these. The attention to detail is pretty non-existent. The surroundings are rarely described and even the characters have very vague descriptions. I hadn’t been able to form a picture of Mata Hari in my mind by the time I finished the book.
In spite of all these deviations from the classical norm of story-telling, I did enjoy the novel. I can’t exactly explain why though. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, I guess? The book was extraordinary and the profound wisdom of the author really caused a lot of mind-fuck moments. If you want to try something new and enjoy reading about philosophy, I’d definitely recommend this book to you.
P.S. – I’ve stopped rating books on a scale after reading this one. I’ve realized that you can’t really set a bunch of parameters to describe how much you’ve enjoyed reading a book. I’ll rate books very occasionally from now on.
Also, it was a bit difficult deciding the genres of this book because Coelho said it was based on a real woman, but had been slightly dramatized. Biography fiction seemed the safest bet.