From Goodreads: On March 13, 1905, Mata Hari launches her famous career to great acclaim, although her origins remain a mystery. Except to Wim Brink, a Dutchman who is appalled by her performance, but more horrified to discover she is the same girl he adored as a youth in Leeuwarden.
To his dismay, the charms that bewitched him fifteen years before captivate Europe. Everyone seems obsessed with Mata Hari, particularly the people closest to him. To Wim, Mata Hari becomes the symbol of Europe’s moral decline. He wants nothing to do with her. Taking advantage of the ambiguity of her background, he decides not to let on she is the girl he knew.
But his efforts to conceal this connection inadvertently create friction with his wife and in-laws, and begin to isolate him from society. Matters escalate in Paris where an encounter with Mata Hari reveals for Wim a solution to his inner conflict, albeit at great cost to him and his family.
This is a interesting story. I feel that it is rare to have such a conservative protagonist, but at the same time, it’s very refreshing. Wim Brink is living in the early 1900s, a time when sex was regarded as more of a duty than a pleasure, when men and women regarded each other with respect and dressed conventionally. But, times are changing and, unfortunately for Wim, the Europe he knows is changing as well, embracing more secular notions which, as time does tell, seems to be the truth throughout all centuries. But, for Wim, the newest sensation, Mata Hari’s lewd dance, is anything but respectable.
The novel centers around Wim’s constant struggle within himself, as well as his inability to accept change. He spends a majority of the novel attempting to wipe away his past, having grown up with Mata Hari, yet her provocative dance causes him to attempt to hide all associations he had with her as a young man. While the premise is interesting on the whole, I felt that it lacked the action that I am used to in my novels. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially as this is a piece that actually looks deeper into relationships on the whole and seems to open up the human psyche as we watch Wim begin to deteriorate as Mata’s fame continues to grow. While interesting, I have to admit that it wasn’t really my forte, though I think those interested in the breakdown of humanity and our relationships with one another will highly enjoy this novel, especially as it is very well written. Two and a half stars.
I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.