In the cold October of 1917, Margaretha Zelle, alias Mata Hari, the infamous exotic dancer, sits in a prison cell in Paris awaiting trial on charges of espionage; the penalty, death by firing squad. As she waits, Mata Hari tells stories - much like Scheherazade in The 1001 Nights - to buy back her life from her interrogators. From a bleak childhood on the shores of the North Sea, through a loveless marriage to a Dutch naval officer, Margaretha is transported to the sensual pleasures of the south seas. She spins tales of native lovers and fragrant Javanese jungles; she tells of the ugly disintegration of her family. Then, in flight from her brutal husband, Margaretha reinvents herself: she becomes the temple dancer Mata Hari - dressed in veils, admired by Diaghilev, performing for the crowned heads of Europe. Tender, subtle and intensely erotic, Murphy's retelling of an iconic story is a haunting portrait of love and treachery.
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