The Brazilian master of inspiration has turned his attention to the story of Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan, Mata Hari, in his new novel, The Spy, but as with all of his books, there’s probably going to be a whole lot more beneath the surface. It may well have taken Paulo Coelho a while to get the literary recognition that he now has, but with a raft of awards, a huge fan following and massive international sales, his latest work will be getting a whole lot more attention than his most famous novel, The Alchemist, first got published.
The new novel will be published on hardback with a release date planned for the 24th November 2016 in the UK, so if it doesn’t take the Christmas #1 spot in the hardback charts, we’ll be very surprised. It’ll also be available on the same date in ebook from Amazon, iBooks, ebooks, WH Smiths and even Sainsbury’s, which is getting in on the digital download action too.
The story begins a few years before the outset of World War I as Mata Hari, who’s real name was Margaretha Geertruida “Margreet” MacLeod, arrived in Paris without much in the way of wealth or recognition. It imagines her rise to prominence as one of the city’s biggest names as she danced and courted her way to becoming the exotic dancing jewel in the crown of La Belle Époque.
However, things go badly for Mata Hari as war breaks out throughout Europe, spreading to engulf the vast majority of the world. Paranoia sets in and she’s accused of espionage as a result of her connection and influence with powerful men throughout Europe. The book will come to a head as she is arrested under suspicion of being a spy, taken from her residence in a hotel on the Champs Elyssee and consumed by the war machine that was in full flight by 1917.
It’s only been a couple of years now since Paulo Coelho’s last novel, Adultery, in 2014, and with twenty seven books published since his big breakthrough with the release of The Alchemist in 1988, he’s been pretty prolific over the years. Taking on such a well-known figure from history and attempting to breath life into the story in The Spy is going to be a fairly significant departure for the incredibly popular author.
While there has already been a lot written about Hari – from commentators during her lifetime and historians providing a retrospective – and there’s a wealth of postcard pinup photographs and even a video of her dancing, it’s going to be interesting to read Coelho’s interpretation of her. Creating an inner monologue and voice that fits the historical reality of the Dutch dancing queen is a unique challenge for the author and it should be a great read for fans of his work.