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Dressmaking, Spanish Civil War all rolled into one international bestseller

“Time In Between” by Maria Duenas is published by Simon & Schuster ($16 paperback)

Quite simply put: “The Time in Between” is a very good read — all 609 pages of it. The story is interesting and compelling and the type is a decent size, making for an easy read. The story of Sira Quiroga spans the years of the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The settings are Madrid, Lisbon and the Moroccan cities of Tangiers and Tetouan with a definite cosmopolitan flavor.

In her time between youth and adulthood, Sira sweeps the floors and does other odd jobs in the dressmaking shop where her single mother is a seamstress. The young girl also learns the skills of design and dressmaking. In her early 20s, she breaks her engagement to a modest government clerk and — with the Spanish Civil War brewing — follows her free-wheeling new lover to Morocco. He abruptly leaves her there, penniless and responsible for his debts.

There’s plenty of intrigue as Sira reinvents herself and becomes a much-sought-after dressmaker to the wives and lovers of Germans and high-placed Spanish officials in the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco. She’s in a position to hear secrets and becomes caught up in the espionage and political conspiracy as the Nazis reel toward World War II and intend to have Spain on their side.

With the ending of the Spanish Civil War, Sira is persuaded to return to Madrid as an undercover agent for the British Secret Service. She is set up in the best part of town and becomes the preeminent couturiere for an eager clientele of Nazi officers’ wives. The creative secret code she uses is hidden in the patterns of her dresses.

In this beautifully written book, I learned about dressmaking, the Spanish Civil War, Morocco and the role Spain played in World War II. There are quite a few real historical figures who play prominent roles in the story. The author is a professor at the University of Murcia in southeastern Spain and did diligent research for accuracy about the historical aspects of this novel. At the end of the book, she provides a detailed bibliography.

There are many words of praise for this book. One is from Mario Vargas Llosa, recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, who said, “A wonderful novel, in the good old tradition, with intrigue, love, mystery, and tender, audacious, and well-drawn characters.”


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About Lynn Lofton

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