Already an International bestseller, THE TIME IN BETWEEN, by Maria Duenas, is sure to incite plenty of chatter in our country. The cover will draw you in, the blurbs will entice you, and once you take a peek at the writing, you will be hooked.
With the impending Spanish Civil War looming in the distance, Sira Quiroga works side by side with her single mother in a seamstress shop in Madrid. It is hard and humble work but Sira’s mother excels at it. Sira learns from her mother’s hands this valuable life saving skill that will come to mean more to her than life itself.
Sira becomes engaged to a safe, young Spaniard of meager means. Her mother is thrilled. However, all this is short-lived. Along comes a dark and handsome stranger with the gift of charm and the promise of excitement. Sira is most aptly swept away on this sea of “better things to come.” She falls desperately in love. But before Sira leaves the country her mother introduces her to her father for the first time. He lavishes her with family jewelry and money thinking he may not survive the war.
Sira literally runs after her guy; ends up in the very exotic Morocco. There she will find herself abandoned and left riddled with unpaid debts racked up by her lover. And, of course, he ran off with her money and jewelry. Now, having heard this, you may find yourself saying, “what a sap.” But this is when the story totally began for me.
Sira Quiroga is no slouch. This strong young woman picks herself up with the help of a couple of new-found friends, and begins using her most valuable skill: her sewing. She opens a small shop in Tetuan and attracts the elite with her specialized dresses. And then the newly landed Nazi women find her. And the intrigue begins.
WWII is now the big threat to Spain. This country that is still reeling from the Civil war is about to be bombarded and infiltrated by the Germans. And, for Sira, this means she must find a way to help her mother, who is still in Madrid, escape to Morocco. A very mysterious man helps her do this. She is not ready to love again, not after such an atrocious affair as the one she has just been through. But you can tell she cares for this young man.
Sira’s best friend is a vivacious English woman named Rosalind Fox. Fox is entangled with a high official and is quite influential in the war and politics of the time. She and her lover engage Sira in espionage of the highest level. Sira moves back to Madrid. She opens up another shop. Using her expertize, Sira begins listening to the ladies’ conversations. They chatter between themselves, totally unaware that someone is spying on them. They, of course, are discussing upcoming events concerning their husbands and the government.
At times, I felt there was too much prose, but for the most part, the story moves along well. I loved learning about the war and feeling like I was right there. Duenas uses some of the great hotels to house her characters and that adds sophistication. Duenas has given careful attention to detain with each design and every piece of clothing. This needlework, is indeed, quite fine. In more ways than one.
Mario Vargas Llosa, 2011 Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature says, ” A wonderful novel, with intrigue, love and mystery.”
This new smartly written and deeply moving novel with all its historical moments, is a must- read for the season.