Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pg. 99: Pat Shipman's "Femme Fatale"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Pat Shipman's Femme Fatale: Love, Lies, and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari.

About the book, from the publisher:

In 1917, the notorious Oriental dancer Mata Hari was arrested on the charge of espionage; less than one year later she was tried and executed — charged with the deaths of at least 50,000 gallant French soldiers. The mistress of many senior Allied officers and government officials, even the French minister of war, she had a sharp intellect and a golden tongue fluent in several languages; she also traveled widely throughout wartorn Europe, with seeming disregard for the political and strategic alliances and borders. But was she actually a spy? In this persuasive new biography, Pat Shipman explores the life and times of the mythic and deeply misunderstood dark-eyed siren to find the truth.

Her blissful Dutch childhood as Margaretha Zelle ended abruptly with her parents' emotionally scarring divorce and, shortly after, her mother's death. Shuttled off to reluctant relations, Margaretha impulsively married a much older man, who gave her syphilis (then incurable) and took her to the Dutch East Indies, where the unhappy marriage exploded into vicious hatred following the death of their oldest child. Fleeing her tragic marriage, she reinvented herself as Mata Hari, a scandalously sensual dancer with an Indies name and an Indies aura about her novel "artistic" dances.

Mata Hari's life reads like both an action-packed adventure tale and passionate, poignant romance. Shipman reveals new information about this beautiful, brilliant, and dangerous woman, tracing the web of connections between her professional and personal lives. Once called "an orchid in a field of dandelions," Mata Hari was one of a kind, a rich and multifaceted personality whose ambitions and talents propelled her breathtaking rise — and her tragic fall.

Among the early praise for the book:
"The melodramatic true story of a mythic grand horizontal, told with clarity and understanding."
--Kirkus Reviews

"[A]n engrossing biography of an unusual woman for whom ... the truth was whatever she wanted it to be...."
--Publishers Weekly
Listen to Diane Rehm's interview with Pat Shipman.

Read an excerpt from Femme Fatale and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Pat Shipman is the author of eight previous books, including To the Heart of the Nile, The Man Who Found the Missing Link, and Taking Wing, which won the Phi Beta Kappa Prize for science and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and named a New York Times Notable Book for 1998.

The Page 99 Test: Femme Fatale.

--Marshal Zeringue