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Book Review: The Time in Between by Maria Duenas

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Sira lives during an explosive time in world history in Maria Duenas’s novel The Time in Between. As a young woman under her mother’s tutelage, Sira has become an expert seamstress, creating the most admired and modern fashions of that time. Her skilled fingers create garments sought by those willing to pay for exotic dressware.

Then she is wept off her feet by a man who we find will sweep away huge sums and jewels she had just inherited from a father she’d never met, Sira moves with this lover to Tetuan, across the Straight of Gibralter, at a time when Hitler’s henchmen are quickly infiltrating the Spanish government, planting seeds of unrest in favor of eventual complete Nazi occupation and dominion.

Slowly, she realizes that the man she admired and adored has used her fortune to continue his high-living amidst Spanish nobility.

The Time in Between then has Sira, fortified with her own ingenuity and with the help of her compassionate landlady and several female conspirators who damn the Nazi occupation, set up her own chic seamstress workshop, Chez Cirah.

Nazi woman seek the latest clothing fashions in northern Africa and are willing to pay plentifully for them. At the same time, speech in Sira’s seamstress shop runs freely, particularly among the proud Nazi wives and mistresses of moneyed high-ranking Nazi military officials.

At any second, betrayal looms. Yet sophisticated Sira remains faithful to her father in Spain. She begins to work for the English underground. Her shop is a prime location for overhearing and encouraging Nazi women to talk of Hitler’s intended plans for world domination.

Filled with constant anxiety and extreme fear lest she be caught and murdered, Sira sews disclosed secret plans into the hems of her beautiful creations in the form of Morse Code. These garments, of course, reach England and are critically helpful in eliminating political conspiracies and obscure secret missions.

What will happen to this brave woman who dares, in one sense, to play both sides against the middle? This tale of betrayal, honor, and unwavering courage I will leave to the reader of The Time in Between.

Author Maria Duenas has done a remarkable job keeping her book focused, wandering only far enough away from its theme, to give readers information regarding times, places, and the deep emotions of those involved.

I would recommend The Time in Between to all readers who love stories of spying, high intrigue, fear, dishonor, and ultimately — love. The book is 612 pages long, but the story moves quickly. I must confess, however, that I found myself skipping some long paragraphs that seemed to provide just a bit too much detail to move the story along.

All in all, however, The Time in Between will not disappoint. It will transport the reader back to an era between two world wars — a time of warfare that eventually plagued most of the civilized world.

The story is clever because it shows the length and breadth the spirit of Sira, always seeking love, is willing to chance in order to stop an age of tyranny.

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About Regis Schilken

  • nonnie

    A correction: She doesn’t sew secrets into garment hems. She draws pattern pieces with messages in morse code (simulating stitching) around the pattern edges.