Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Time in Between by Maria Duenas

The inspiring international bestseller of a seemingly ordinary woman who uses her talent and courage to transform herself first into a prestigious couturier and then into an undercover agent for the Allies during World War II .

Between Youth and Adulthood . . .
At age twelve, Sira Quiroga sweeps the atelier floors where her single mother works as a seamstress. At fourteen, she quietly begins her own apprenticeship. By her early twenties she has learned the ropes of the business and is engaged to a modest government clerk. But everything changes when two charismatic men burst unexpectedly into her neatly mapped-out life: an attractive salesman and the father she never knew.

Between War and Peace . . .
With the Spanish Civil War brewing in Madrid, Sira leaves her mother and her fiancé, impetuously following her handsome lover to Morocco. However, she soon finds herself abandoned, penniless, and heartbroken in an exotic land. Among the odd collection of European expatriates trapped there by the worsening political situation back on the Continent, Sira reinvents herself by turning to the one skill that can save her: her gift for creating beautiful clothes.

Between Love and Duty . . .
As England, Germany, and the other great powers launch into the dire conflict of World War II, Sira is persuaded to return to Madrid, where she takes on a new identity to embark upon the most dangerous undertaking of her career. As the preeminent couturier for an eager clientele of Nazi officers’ wives, Sira becomes embroiled in the half-lit world of espionage and political conspiracy rife with love, intrigue, and betrayal.

Already a runaway bestseller across Europe, The Time In Between is one of those rare, richly textured novels that enthrall down to the last page. María Dueñas reminds us how it feels to be swept away by a masterful storyteller.

The Time in Between is a novel that became an international bestseller in Europe through the power of word-of-mouth. This comes as no surprise; the story unfolds with a luscious first person narrative and detail that truly creates some incredibly vivid scenes.

In 1920’s Spain, Sira Quiroga is the daughter of a poor seamstress who must work alongside her mother in order to earn a scant living. Through painstaking tutelage, she hones her skills. Although engaged to marry a well-established, kind-hearted man, she leaves him for an extremely handsome and charismatic man who sweeps her off her feet with his romantic attentions. Against her mother’s better judgement, she moves in with him, without the benefit of marriage.

One day, the father she has never known mysteriously summons her. Due to the turbulent political situation, he is fearful of his life and is prepared to flee from Spain. He hands her an incredible amount of money and jewellery to take care of her future.

Her lover convinces her to move with him to Tangier and Tetouan on a business scheme. There they live the high life until the day Sira learns she is pregnant. When she returns home to tell her lover, she discovers he has abandoned her, taking all the money and jewels, and leaving her without a penny to pay the extensive hotel bill.

Devastated, Sira struggles to pay off her debts and earn a decent living, enough so that she can bring her mother out of the dangerous political situation in Spain. She opens shop as a seamstress and soon attracts a cliental of rich German women. Soon, she is lead into a dangerous role ad risks her life spying against Hitler’s growing regime.

The appeal of this novel is definitely the human portrayal of a brave heroine who must overcome insurmountable circumstances. Add to that the politics of a volatile world on the eve of World War II, and you have a novel with a fascinating plot. Filled with peril, deception, poverty, corruption, and excessive wealth, we feel as if we are actually experiencing the heroine’s pain and troubles with each page turn.

Written with vivid prose that evokes deep emotion in its reader, The Time in Between is a timeless novel of treachery, duplicity, and bravery.

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