The Time in Between

The Time in Between

by Maria Duenas


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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.

An outstanding success around the world, The Time in Between has sold more than two million copies and inspired the Spanish television series based on the book, dubbed by the media as the “Spanish Downton Abbey.” In the US it was a critical and commercial hit, and a New York Times bestseller in paperback. It 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451616897
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 07/10/2012
Pages: 640
Sales rank: 62,400
Product dimensions: 2.84(w) x 10.18(h) x 1.61(d)

About the Author

María Dueñas holds a PhD in English philology. After two decades in academia, she broke onto the literary scene in 2009 with the publication of the New York Times bestselling novel The Time in Between, followed by The Heart Has Its Reasons in 2012. Both novels became international bestsellers and have been translated into thirty-five languages. The television adaptation of The Time in Between earned critical and international acclaim. The Vineyard is her third novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A typewriter shattered my destiny. The culprit was a Hispano-Olivetti, and for weeks, a store window kept it from me. Looking back now, from the vantage point of the years gone by, it’s hard to believe a simple mechanical object could have the power to divert the course of an entire life in just four short days, to pulverize the intricate plans on which it was built. And yet that is how it was, and there was nothing I could have done to stop it.

It wasn’t really that I was treasuring any great plans in those days. My ambitions remained close to home, almost domestic, consistent with the coordinates of the place and time in which I happened to live, plans for a future that could be within my grasp if I reached out my fingertips. At that time my world revolved slowly around a few presences that seemed to me firm and eternal. My mother had always been the most solid of them all. She was a dressmaker, working in a shop with a distinguished clientele. She was experienced and had good judgment, but she was never any more than a salaried seamstress, a working woman like so many others who for ten hours a day sacrificed her nails and pupils cutting and sewing, checking and adjusting garments destined for bodies that were not her own and gazes that would rarely be aimed at her. I knew little about my father in those days. Nothing, to be exact. He had never been around, nor did his absence affect me. I never felt much curiosity about him until my mother, when I was eight or nine, ventured to offer me a few crumbs of information. That he had another family, that it was impossible for him to live with us. I swallowed up those details with the same haste and scant appetite with which I polished off the last spoonfuls of the Lenten broth before me: the life of that alien being interested me considerably less than racing down to play in the square.

I had been born in the summer of 1911, the same year that the dancer Pastora Imperio married El Gallo, when the Mexican singer Jorge Negrete came into the world. When the star of that age they called the Belle Époque was fading. In the distance the drums of what would be the first great war were beginning to be heard, while in Madrid cafés people read El Debate and El Heraldo, and on the stage La Chelito fired men’s passions as she moved her hips brazenly to the tempo of popular songs. During those summer months King Alfonso XIII managed to arrange that, between one lover and the next, his fifth legitimate child, a daughter, was conceived. Meanwhile, at the helm of the government was Canalejas the liberal, who couldn’t predict that just a year later an eccentric anarchist would put an end to his life, firing three bullets to his head while he was browsing in the San Martín bookshop.

I grew up in reasonably happy surroundings, with more constraints than excesses but nonetheless with no great deprivations or frustrations. I was raised in a narrow street in a fusty old neighborhood in Madrid, right beside the Plaza de la Paja, just a couple of steps from the Palacio Real. A stone’s throw from the ceaseless hubbub of the heart of the city, a world of clothes hung out to dry, the smell of bleach, the voices of neighboring women, and cats lying out in the sun. I attended a makeshift school on the mezzanine of a nearby building: on its benches, meant to be used by two people, we kids arranged ourselves in fours, with no sense of order, pushing and shoving, shouting our renditions of “The Pirate’s Song” or our times tables. It was there I learned to read and write, to master the four functions of basic arithmetic as well as the names of the rivers crisscrossing the yellowed map that hung from the wall. At the age of twelve I completed my schooling and became an apprentice in the workshop where my mother worked. My logical fate.

The business of Doña Manuela Godina—the owner—had for years produced fine garments, very skillfully cut and sewn, highly regarded all over Madrid. Day dresses, cocktail dresses, coats, and cloaks that would later be shown off by distinguished ladies as they walked along La Castellana, around the Hippodrome, and the Puerta de Hierro polo club, as they took their tea at Sakuska or entered the ostentatious churches. Some time passed, however, before I began to find my way into the secrets of sewing. At first I was the whole workshop’s girl: the one who took the charcoal from the braziers and swept the cuttings from the floor, who heated the irons in the fire and ran breathless to buy thread and buttons from the Plaza de Pontejos. The one who was in charge of getting the just-finished garments, wrapped in big brown linen bags, to the exclusive residences: my favorite job, the greatest joy of my budding career. That was how I came to know the porters and chauffeurs from the best buildings, the maids, housekeepers, and butlers of the wealthiest families. I watched—unseen—the most refined of ladies, daughters, and husbands. And like a mute witness I made my way into their bourgeois houses, into aristocratic mansions and the sumptuous apartments of charming old buildings. Sometimes I wouldn’t get past the servants’ area, and someone from the household would accept delivery of the dress; at other times, I was directed to go to the dressing room, so I would make my way down corridors and catch glimpses of drawing rooms, where my eyes would feast on the carpets, chandeliers, velvet curtains, and grand pianos that sometimes were being played and sometimes not, thinking all the while how strange it would be to live in such a universe.

My days shifted effortlessly between these two worlds, and I became less and less aware of the incongruity that existed between them. I would walk down those broad roads rutted with carriage tracks and lined with large imposing doorways just as naturally as I would pass through the crazy network of winding streets that formed my neighborhood, streets filled with puddles, rubbish, the cries of vendors, and the sharp barks of hungry dogs. Where everyone always went in a hurry, and at the cry of “Agua va!” you had better take cover to avoid being splattered with urine. Craftsmen, minor businessmen, employees, and newspaper vendors lately arrived in the capital filled the rental houses and gave my neighborhood its villagey feel. Many of them only left its bounds when obliged to; my mother and I, on the other hand, did so early each morning, to get over to Calle Zurbano and quickly buckle down to our day-to-day tasks in Doña Manuela’s workshop.

After my first two years as an apprentice, the two of them decided that the time had come for me to learn how to sew. At fourteen, I started with the simplest things: fasteners, overcasting, loose tacking. Then came buttonholes, backstitches, and hems. We worked seated on little rush chairs, hunched over wooden boards supported on our knees, where we placed the fabric we were sewing. Doña Manuela dealt with the customers, cutting, checking, and correcting. My mother took the measurements and dealt with all the rest: she did the most delicate needlework and assigned the remainder of the jobs, supervising their execution and imposing rhythm and discipline on a small battalion consisting of half a dozen older dressmakers, four or five young women, and a number of chatterbox apprentice girls, always keener on laughing and gossiping than on doing their work. Some of them ended up good seamstresses, and the ones who couldn’t sew well ended up doing the less desirable tasks. When one girl left, another would replace her in that noisy room, so incongruous compared to the serene opulence of the shop’s façade and the sobriety of its luminous front room to which only the customers had access. The two of them—Doña Manuela and my mother—were the only ones who could enjoy its saffron-colored drapery, its mahogany furniture, its luminous oak floor, which we younger girls were responsible for waxing with cotton rags. Only they, from time to time, would receive the rays of sunlight that came in through the four high balcony windows facing the street. The rest of us remained always in the rear guard: in the gynaeceum, freezing in winter and hellish in summer. That was our workshop, that grey space around the back whose only openings were two little windows onto an interior courtyard, where the hours passed like breaths of air between the humming of ballads and the noise of scissors.

I learned fast. I had agile fingers that adapted quickly to the shape of the needles and the touch of the fabrics. To measurements, draping, and volumes. Neck, bust, outside leg. Under bust, full back, cuff. At sixteen I learned to tell fabrics apart, at seventeen to appreciate their qualities and calibrate their possibilities. Crêpe de chine, silk muslin, georgette, Chantilly lace. Months passed as if turning on a Ferris wheel: autumns spent making coats in fine fabrics and between-season dresses, springs sewing flighty dresses destined for long, faraway Cantabrian holidays, the beaches at La Concha or El Sardinero. I turned eighteen, nineteen. Bit by bit I was initiated into handling the cutting work and tailoring the more delicate components. I learned to attach collars and lapels, to predict how things would end up. I liked my work, actually enjoyed it. Doña Manuela and my mother sometimes asked me for my opinion; they began to trust me. “The girl has a fine hand and a fine eye, Dolores,” Doña Manuela used to say. “She’s good, and she’ll get better if she stays on track. Better than you, you needn’t worry about that.” And my mother would just carry on with what she was doing, as if she hadn’t heard a thing. I didn’t look up from my working board either. But secretly I watched her out the corner of my eye, and in her mouth—studded with pins—saw the tiniest trace of a smile.

The years went by, life went by. Fashion changed, too, and at its command the activities of the workshop adjusted. After the war in Europe straight lines had arrived, corsets had been cast aside, and legs began to be shown without so much as the slightest blush. When the Roaring Twenties came to an end, however, the waistlines of dresses returned to their natural place, skirts got longer, and modesty once again imposed itself on sleeves, necklines, and desires. Then we launched ourselves into a new decade and there were more changes. All of them together, unforeseen, almost one on top of another. I turned twenty, the Republic arrived in Spain, and I met Ignacio. It was one September Sunday in Parque de la Bombilla, at a riotous dance that was crammed full with workshop girls, bad students, and soldiers on leave. He asked me to dance, he made me laugh. Two weeks later we began to sketch out plans to marry.

Who was Ignacio, and what was he to me? The man of my life, that’s what I thought then. The calm lad who I sensed would be a good father to my children. I had already reached the age when girls like me—girls with no professional expectations—had few options other than marriage. The example of my mother, who had raised me alone and in order to do so had worked from sunrise to sunset, had never seemed to me a very appealing fate. In Ignacio I found someone with whom to pass the rest of my adult life without having to wake up every morning to the taste of loneliness. I was not stirred to the heights of passion, but rather an intense affection and the certainty that my days by his side would pass without sorrows or stridency, sweetly gentle as a pillow.

Ignacio Montes, I thought, would come to be the owner of that arm of mine that he would take on a thousand and one walks, the nearby presence that would offer me security and shelter forever. Two years older than I, thin, genial, as straightforward as he was tender. He was tall, with a skinny build, good manners, and a heart whose capacity to love me seemed to multiply with the hours. The son of a Castilian widow who kept her well-counted money under the mattress, he lived intermittently in insignificant boardinghouses and was an eager applicant for bureaucratic jobs as well as a perpetual candidate for any ministry that might offer him a salary for life—War, Governance, the Treasury. The dream of nearly three thousand pesetas a year, two hundred and forty-one a month—a salary that is set forever, never to be changed, dedicating the rest of his days to the tame world of departmental offices and secretarial offices, of blotters, untrimmed paper, seals, and inkwells. It was on this that we based our plans for the future: on the back of a perfectly calm civil service that, one round of exams after another, refused stubbornly to include my Ignacio on its list of names. And he persisted, undiscouraged. In February he tried out for Justice and in June for Agriculture, and then it started all over again.

In the meantime, unable to allow himself costly diversions, and yet utterly devoted to making me happy, Ignacio feted me with the humble possibilities that his extremely meager pocket would allow: a cardboard box filled with silkworms and mulberry leaves, cones of roasted chestnuts, and promises of eternal love on the grass under the viaduct. Together we listened to the band from the pavilion in the Parque del Oeste and rowed boats in El Retiro on Sunday mornings when the weather was pleasant. There wasn’t a fair with swings and barrel organ that we didn’t turn up at, nor any chotis that we didn’t dance with watchlike precision. How many evenings we spent in the Vistillas gardens, how many movies we saw in cheap local cinemas. Drinking a Valencian horchata was a luxury to us, taking a taxi a dream. Ignacio’s tenderness, while not overly bold, was nevertheless boundless. I was his sky and his stars, the most beautiful, the best. My skin, my face, my eyes. My hands, my mouth, my voice. Everything that was me made up the unsurpassable for him, the source of his happiness. And I listened to him, told him he was being silly, and let him love me.

Life in the workshop in those days, however, followed a different rhythm. Things were becoming difficult, uncertain. The Second Republic had instilled a sense of apprehension in the comfortable prosperity surrounding our customers. Madrid was turbulent and frantic, the political tension permeating every street corner. The good families extended their northern summer holidays indefinitely, seeking to remain on the fringes of the unsettled, rebellious capital where the Mundo Obrero was declaimed loudly in the squares while the shirtless proletariat from the outskirts made their way, without retreat, into the Puerta del Sol. Big private motorcars began to be seen less and less on the streets, opulent parties dwindled. Old ladies in mourning prayed novenas for Azaña to fall soon, and the noise of bullets became routine at the hour when the gas street lamps were lit. The anarchists set fire to churches, the Falangists brandished pistols like bullies. With increasing frequency the aristocrats and hautes bourgeoises covered their furniture up with sheets, dismissed the staff, bolted the shutters, and set out hastily for foreign parts, taking jewels galore, fears, and banknotes across the borders, yearning for the exiled king and an obliging Spain, which would still be some time in coming.

Fewer and fewer ladies visited Doña Manuela’s workshop, fewer orders came in, and there was less and less to do. Drip by painful drip, first the apprentice girls and then the rest of the seamstresses were dismissed, till all that were left were the owner, my mother, and me. And when we finished the last dress for the Marchioness of Entrelagos and spent the next six days listening to the radio, twiddling our thumbs, without a single soul appearing at the door, Doña Manuela announced, sighing, that she had no choice but to shut up shop.

Amid the turbulence of those days in which the political fighting made theater audiences quake and governments lasted three paternosters, we barely had the chance to cry over what we’d lost. Three weeks after the advent of our enforced inactivity, Ignacio appeared with a bouquet of violets and the news that he had at last passed his civil service exam. The plans for our little wedding stifled any feelings of uncertainty, and on a little table we planned the event. Although the new breezes that swept in with the Republic carried on them the fashion for civil weddings, my mother—whose soul housed simultaneously, and with no contradiction, her condition as single mother, an iron Catholic spirit, and a nostalgic loyalty to the deposed monarchy—encouraged us to celebrate a religious wedding in the neighboring church of San Andrés. Ignacio and I agreed; how could we not, without toppling that hierarchy of order in which he submitted to all my desires and I deferred to my mother’s without argument. Nor did I have any good reason to refuse: the dreams I had about celebrating that marriage were modest ones, and it made no difference to me whether it was at an altar with a priest and cassock or in a large room presided over by a Republican tricolor flag.

So we prepared to set the date with the same parish priest who twenty-four years earlier, on June eighth, as dictated by the calendar of saints’ days, had given me the name Sira. Sabiniana, Victorina, Gaudencia, Heraclia, and Fortunata had been other possibilities that went with the saints of the day.

“Sira, Father, just put Sira—it’s short, at least.” That was my mother’s decision, in her single motherhood. And so I was Sira.

We would celebrate the marriage with family and a few friends. With my grandfather, who had neither his legs nor his wits, mutilated in body and spirit during the war of the Philippines, a permanent mute presence in his rocking chair next to our dining room balcony windows. With Ignacio’s mother and sisters who’d come in from the village. With our next-door socialist neighbors Engracia and Norberto and their three sons, as dear to us as if the same blood flowed right across the landing. With Doña Manuela, who took up the threads again to give me the gift of her final piece of work, in the form of a bridal dress. We would treat our guests to sugar-plum pastries, sweet Málagan wine and vermouth. Perhaps we would be able to hire a musician from the neighborhood to come up and play a paso doble, and some street photographer would take a dry-plate picture for us, which would adorn our home, something we did not yet have and for now would be my mother’s.

It was then, amid this jumble of plans and preparations, that it occurred to Ignacio to prepare me to take the test to make me a civil servant like him. His brand-new post in administration had opened his eyes to a new world: that of the administration of the Republic, an area where there existed professional destinies for women that lay beyond the stove, the wash house, and drudgery; through which the female sex could beat a path, elbow to elbow with men, in the same conditions and with their sights set on the same dreams. The first women were already sitting as deputies in the parliament; the equality of the sexes in public life was proclaimed. There had been recognition of our legal status, our right to work, and universal suffrage. All the same, I would have infinitely preferred to return to sewing, but it took Ignacio just three evenings to convince me. The old world of fabrics and backstitches had been toppled and a new universe was opening its doors to us: we had to adapt to it. Ignacio himself could take charge of my preparation; he had all the study topics and more than enough experience in the art of putting himself forward and failing countless times without ever giving in to despair. As for me, I would do my share to help the little platoon that we two would make up with my mother, my grandfather, and the progeny to come. And so I agreed. Once we were all set, there was only one thing we lacked: a typewriter on which I could learn to type in preparation for the unavoidable typing test. Ignacio had spent months practicing on other people’s machines, passing through a via dolorosa of sad academies smelling of grease, ink, and concentrated sweat. He didn’t want me to have to go through the same unpleasantness, hence his determination that we should obtain our own equipment. In the weeks that followed we launched ourselves on our search, as though it would turn our lives totally around.

We studied all the options and did endless calculations. I didn’t understand about detailed performance features, but it seemed to me that something small and light would be most suitable for us. Ignacio was indifferent to the size, but he did take extraordinary care over prices, installment payments, and terms. We located all the sellers in Madrid, spent hours standing at their window displays, and learned to pronounce exotic names that evoked distant geographies and movie stars: Remington, Royal, Underwood. We could just as easily have chosen one brand as another; we could just as well have ended up buying from an American establishment as a German one, but our choice settled finally on the Italian Hispano-Olivetti on Calle de Pi y Margall. How could we have known that with that simple act, with the mere fact of having taken two or three steps and crossed a threshold, we were signing the death sentence on our time together and irreparably twisting apart the strands of our future.

© 2009 María Dueñas

What People are Saying About This

Diana Gabaldon

Evocative, tender and lush; a wonderful experience of times and lives in turmoil. (Diana Gabaldon, author of the New York Times bestselling Outlander novels)

Javier Sierra

"How can a novel be both cruel and tender, dark and luminous all at the same time, and keep the reader glued to its pages with a complex, captivating narrative? MarÍa DueÑas's novel manages to make this possible with a tale that is destined to become a literary classic." --Javier Sierra, bestselling author of The Secret Supper and The Lady in Blue

Mario Vargas Llosa

A wonderful novel, in the good old tradition, with intrigue, love, mystery and tender, audacious and well-drawn characters." --Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Prize Laureate

Juan Gomez-Jurado

The Time in Between is a magnificent novel that flawlessly brings together history and intrigue. Sira Quiroga – the seamtress – won’t be easily forgotten.” -- Juan Gómez-Jurado, author of The Moses Expedition

Daisy Martinez

"The Time in Between is an epic novel with an unlikely Spanish heroine, Sira Quiroga, that takes us through one of the most turbulent times in Europe: the onset of World War II. Sira travels on a journey through romance, love, loss, and intrigue, all while discovering traits that she never dreamed she had. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough, and once I reached the end, I couldn't wait to start it all over again!" --Daisy Martinez, author of Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night and Daisy's Holiday Cooking

Kate Morton

“Maria Dueñas is a true storyteller. She weaves a spell, conjuring the heat and the glamour, the hardship and the thrill of Morocco and Spain in the late 1930s. The world of Casablanca comes to life as war breaks and Sira Quiroga, a beautiful and betrayed seamstress, is forced to discover her own strength. At a time when everyone must do what they can to survive, some will go beyond. Resistance will be formed and history will be written. Read this book and prepare to be transported.” –Kate Morton, New York Times bestselling author of The Distant Hours

Esmeralda Santiago

“It's exciting to find a deftly paced first novel with an engaging heroine, satisfying historical detail, and emotional balance. Love it!” --Esmeralda Santiago New York Times bestselling author of Conquistadora and When I was Puerto Rican

Kathy Cano-Murillo

"Engaging, romantic, vivid and captivating. Who knew a story about a seamstress in Spain could be so intriguing and captivating? If you love thick, juicy female-led novels that sweep you away from all sense of time and responsibility, you need to read The Time In Between by María Dueñas."

- Kathy Cano-Murillo, author of Waking Up in the Land of Glitter and Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing

Fabiola Santiago

"An enticing debut novel from Spain, The Time In Between is luxuriously landscaped with exotic geographies and international intrigue. MarÍa DueÑas delivers a hefty book that's as smooth to read as the tailored lines of the haute couture her unforgettable protagonist creates." -- Fabiola Santiago, author of Reclaiming Paris.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Time in Between includes an introduction and discussion questions for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


The Time in Between by Maria Dueñas is an international bestseller that spans the Spanish Civil War to World War II. This beautifully spun novel tells the story of a seamstress who rises to become the most sought-after couturiere and an undercover spy who passes information about the Nazi regime to the British Secret Service through a secret code stitched into the hems of her dresses. The Shadow of the Wind meets Casablanca in this sweeping and artfully crafted debut


1. The first sentence of the book, “A typewriter shattered my destiny” is an example of the author’s use of foreshadowing of future events. Were you immediately drawn into the story? Were you curious to know whose destiny was shattered and why?

2. What's Sira's relationship with her mother like at the outset of The Time in Between? In what ways does it change throughout the course of the story? Do you think that Sira becomes engaged because she's really in love, or because of pressure from her mother? And, is it her humble beginnings, naiveté, or something more that lures Sira into an affair with Ramiro? Can you think of other protagonists who were led astray by a charming older man?

3. Discuss what role heartbreak plays in The Time in Between. How does it change Sira? Do you think it ultimately makes her stronger? Why or why not?

4. Sira is a couture designer who was born on June 8, 1911. The story ends in the early 1940s. Discuss how the world of fashion and Sira changed with the political situation of the time (see pgs.7, 143, 155).

5. What do you think of Candelaria and Dolores? How did each of these women influence Sira’s life and future choices?

6. Discuss the characters that Sira encounters in Candeleria's boarding house. What do you think of their interactions over the supper table? Does your opinion of Candelaria change throughout the novel? If so, why?

7. Who is Commissioner Claudio Vazquez? Was he friend, foe, or both to Sira?

8. How did the author give us insight into the political situation in Madrid and Morocco during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s and early World War II?

9. Felix is Sira’s Pygmalion. How did their unlikely friendship benefit each of them?

10. Discuss the many ways Sira re-invented herself. How was Sira Quiroga different from Arish Agoriuq?

11. Rosalinda Fox says to Sira on page 197, “Sometimes luck decides to make our decisions for us, no? Asi es la vida. That’s life, no?” Do you agree with that statement? Discuss how luck may have played a role in each of their lives.

12. How would you characterize Rosalind Fox? Does knowing that she's real affect your reading of her? How realistic does she seem to you?

13. Why is Sira so reticent about Marcus? What did you think about the revelations they each made about the other at the end?

14. Sira does extraordinary things throughout The Time in Between. Does this make her a heroine? Or, is she simply acting based on circumstances?

15. Like Sira, many of the other characters in The Time in Between take risks, particularly because of the wars. Which ones did you think were the most dangerous? Why? What do you think the title of the book signifies?

16. How would you cast the movie version of The Time in Between? Who would play the role of Sira? Marcus Logan? Ramiro Arribas?

17. Maria Duenas is an academic. Does knowing this influence your reading of the story? If so, in what ways?


The guide for The Time in Between was created through the participation of various reading groups, who read and reviewed the book and submitted questions. Are there questions that you would have included had you been writing the guide? What would you have asked?

Customer Reviews

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The Time In Between 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 115 reviews.
bookhimdanno More than 1 year ago
I am going to be honest. I said I would read this book because I think I need to read more women authors and more foreign writers, just to get out of my comfort zone. But when I finally got the book in my hands and read the synopsis I was scared because it was hitting a lot of things I tend to avoid. What will I have in common with a pre WWII seamstress as she deals with love and intrigue in Southern Europe. A dressmaker for goodness sake! But being the dutiful guy that I am I took it to work with me to read on break, to at least make a start. That was a mistake, a big mistake, because BLOODY HELL THIS BOOK ROCKED!! I was distracted at work for the rest of the day and immediately devoured this book as soon as I got home - all 600 pages of it. People like to talk about the skill of the writing as if that is what made a good book, but in reality it is voice (flow) and story and María Dueñas has this in spades. The story is so compelling and slowly grabs you that you do not notice how tightly it has you trapped. Think of flow as notes in a piano recital; bad flow jars you just like an off note. The time in between just flows beautiful y as the pages go by. Very smooth without any off notes at all. What really came alive for me was the society that the heroine had to operate in, pre WWII Spain (& Morocco). It was dedicated to seeing who was loyal to the cause, forcing people to choose sides in a no win situation. But as in all unrighteous dominion situations it rapidly degenerated to a he said/she said scenario. You begin to lose all trust in those around you, even those that are closest. When you can't trust anyone you have no family (in any sense of the word), and that is the beginning of death for any society. Our heroine survived because in even the worst of situations she was always able to find someone, one lifeline to normalcy, someone to trust. It was that connection that got her thorough and it is a good lesson for all of us. Do not hesitate to get this book as soon as it comes out (November 2011 - though currently available for the Kindle). It should appeal to everyone, from millions of Europeans where this book was originally released to mystery loving guys living in Minnesota. This book has it all and is at the top of my recommend to friends list.
Icecream18 More than 1 year ago
This novel truly captures the atmosphere of the 1930's and 1940's. The main character, Sira, is young, capricious, and eager to find her future. Her mother, a dressmaker, teachers her to grow up like her. Sira's story would have ended when she became a dressmaker and lived out her days much like her mother if not for a chance encounter with a handsome man. Their connection is immediate and soon Sira is taking risks for him. Ramiro, Sira's lover, takes her to North Africa; he promptly abandons her and his unborn child. She suffers a mental breakdown, understandable given the circumstances. In order to pay back Ramiro's debts, Sira takes up sewing once again and finds that she enjoys the activity. She rubs shoulders with very influential politicians and officials in no time. Her dresses and clothing line become all the rage and she experiences sudden success. She is tapped by the British Secret Service to spy on the influential people she meets in everyday life. She learns to place the Morse code in her clothing. This novel was very well-written, smooth and the events flowed throughout the novel. Sira's breakdown was jarring as are some of the "spying" escapades, but other than that the reader will find him/herself immersed in a smooth, medium-paced novel. Sira herself is a likable character, she is a strong female character for her time period. To go from a mental breakdown to spying and paying off debts shows both her determination and strength. The secondary characters are all interesting to read about. The reader will find the plot intriguing. This book is recommended for young adults/adults who enjoy more historical novels concerning the 1930's/1940's time.
JessicaKnauss More than 1 year ago
Every once in a while, a long novel takes me on an emotional roller coaster, and I enjoy every minute. The Time in Between by María Dueñas is one of those novels. On only page 142, the main character can summarize her life thus: "I'd stopped being a humble dressmaker and transformed myself successively into a whole heap of different women. A civil service candidate, heiress of a major industrialist, globe-trotting lover to a scoundrel, hopeful aspirant to run an Argentine company, frustrated mother of an unborn child, a woman suspected of fraud and theft in debt up to her eyebrows, and a gunrunner camouflaged as an innocent local woman." As I progressed through the years and extraordinary events in the main character Sira's timeline, I would blithely update anyone who would listen about what kind of mess or adventure she'd stumbled into now. Sira is an ordinary girl with whom the reader can sympathize strongly, but she comes of age in a turbulent time and place: Spain in the 1930's. From her humble perspective, her only talent is sewing. She is distracted from her calling by a man who unwittingly sets the stage for her to regain her financial security and self esteem by becoming the most fashionable seamstress in Tetouan in Spanish Morocco. There, she meets rich and posh clientele and becomes friends with the lover of the most important man in the Spanish Protectorate, Colonel Beigbeder. Through plausible vicissitudes, her friends rescue her mother from war-torn Madrid, only to send Sira back there in the guise of a Moroccan seamstress who encodes messages about her Nazi customers to British Secret Intelligence in her dress patterns. Surprise visits from her past launch her into her most dangerous mission yet, where she can prove her abilities as a spy. The mission reunites her with the Englishman she loves, but can't allow herself to trust with her secret life. Sira's naivete throughout most of the first part is not only accurate for her historical context, but also allowed Dueñas to insert just the right balance of that historical context for the reader without ever being dry or overbearing. Overall, it's a balanced, factual approach while still showing the way the events may have impacted the lives of real people. The one place it goes wrong is around Chapter 35, when the narrative gets away from Sira to detail the anguish of Beigbeder when he returns to a not-so-friendly Madrid. This could have been handled differently or taken out all together without taking away from information necessary to understand the story. I would have liked to read this in the original Spanish, but the translation is well done. Only occasionally did it seem a little too literal, and with so much going on, that sin was easy to overlook. The character Rosalinda Fox's multilingual mishmash presents a special challenge to the translator and Daniel Hahn does a decent job scrambling languages while making her dialogue intelligible to the reader. The original title, El tiempo entre costuras (literally, "The Time Between Stitches") is more relatable to the story. The reader in English doesn't find out what The Time in Between refers to until the very last line. While the end of the book is a relevant reflection of what has gone before, I can't help thinking there must be a more catchy title to go with this amazing journey.
Regis_Schilken More than 1 year ago
Book Review by Regis Schilken Sira lives during an explosive time, The Time in Between, in world history. As a young woman under her mother's tutelage, Sira had become an expert seamstress creating the most admired and modern fashions of that time. Her skilled needled fingers created garments sought by those willing to pay for exotic dressware. At the same time, swept off her feet by a man who would 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 thought she admired and adored has unwittingly used her very own fortune to continue his high-living amidst Spanish nobility including any other high-lifers who immediately accept him, and his seemingly endless supply of funds, none of which are really his. They belong to Sira. The Time in Between reveals how Sira, fortified with her own ingenuity and with the help of her compassionate landlady and several female conspirators who damn Nazi occupation, she sets up her own chic seamstress workshop-Chez Cirah. In here, 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 who bestowed upon her, her misspent and/or stolen wealth. She begins to work for the English underground. Her shop is a prime location for overhearing and instigating 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 theform 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 unwaving 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 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, The Time in Between by Maria Duenas 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 breath the spirit of Sira, always seeking love, was willing to chance in order to stop an age of tyranny.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading so many complimentary reviews I was excited to read this book. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I did not enjoy this book very much. I really liked the story line.about Sira's life. Then information about dress making was interesting. I also enjoyed the fact she was a strong woman who worked hard to overcome obsticles. I lost interest in all the political information that had nothing to do with Sira's life. Chapter 35 was especially long winded and did absolutely nothing to advance the storyline with Sira. I like to read historical fiction. I thought The Other Bolyn Girl was fabulous. This story on the other often bored me when I wasn't reading about Sira. At 600 pages, a good shot of editing would have helped this story.
bfriedman More than 1 year ago
While the story here was fantastic, a lot of the book is devoted to historical background. I sometimes felt that Sira disappeared for the sake of slotting in large chunks of history, halting the plot and my interest. Overall though, the novel is beautifully written, I cared about the characters, and the history is worth knowing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was interesting because of all of the Spanish history. I am a quilter and loved all the talk about custom dress making.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has a good plot, is actually well written, but a bit long winded at times. There are several chapters where the author writes about political situations that are important to the story, to be sure, however should have been done in less amount of pages. It got a bit boring. When she actually writes about the plot it was an interesting read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful novel full of intrigue, suspense, espionage. All under the cover of a poor seamstress that grew into a strong courageous woman of the world. Loved it. I can't wait for her next book.
janhig More than 1 year ago
Although this is a pager turner, I can't give it rave reviews. The plot is somewhat contrived with convenient coincidences occurring just in time to save our heroine from certain destruction. The brief historical passages are informative and provide a vivid setting for the events of the narrative. Notwithstanding my criticisms, this was a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great novel with so much history woven into the story. The author and her wonderful writing transported me to Madrid, Morocco, and Portugal in the 1930s & 1940s. I felt the struggles and pain of the Spanish during their civil war and after. I read about a whole other side of the WWII story. There were heart pounding moments where I found myself holding my breath and just when I thought I figured something out, the author would take the story down a different path and I would find out that I was wrong. Loved this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book, could not put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a librarian I see many books, but few as good as this one.
MillyChills More than 1 year ago
From the time I read the first page to the turning of the last, I could not put this book down. Its beautifully and intelligently written, a real gem that I will not be able to stay away from long before it calls me back to its engrossing pages once again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting, charming, implausible coming of age story of a young woman. Unfortunately, the ending was highly predictable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is something magical about great books that can be felt from the very first pages and this is one of them. At the beginning I thought Duenas had too much influence from Carmen Laforet, a well-known female Spanish writer from the 1940¿s; but when I allowed myself to listen the voice behind the narrator, I was completely caught by the pace of the original storyline that fluctuates between the detailed descriptions of everyday life to a subtle and yet powerful political discourse. Great book, highly recommended!
KLTMD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It wsasn't sure if it was Historical Fiction, Romance or Spy Thriller. Took too long to decide. 600 pages needs better editing.
cfk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"The Time in Between" is a well written period piece set in Spain and Northern Africa between WW I and WW II. It is an intriguing coming of age story, following Sira from phenomenal innocence to competent young woman and spy in a highly challenging and volatile world.
lrobe190 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"The Time In Between follows the story of a seamstress who becomes the most sought-after couturiere during the Spanish Civil War and World War II"--.The book is very long and didn't always hold my attention, but I was fascinated by this time and place in history. After reading this, I plan to find out more about Spain's Civil War and it's history during WWWII.
cathyskye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First Line: A typewriter shattered my destiny.Sira Quiroga is the daughter of a humble seamstress in Madrid, Spain. From sweeping floors and running errands, Sira grows into an apprenticeship. By the time she's twenty, she's learned her trade and is looking forward to marriage to a government clerk. However, she hasn't learned to resist charismatic men. The father she never knew and a handsome salesman turn her world upside down.Abandoned in Morocco by the man she loves, the only way Sira can survive is by using her needle. Through hours of hard work and determination, she becomes a respected modiste in Morocco. Catering to the collection of European expatriates trapped there by the war in Spain and the worsening political situation in the rest of Europe lays the groundwork for the next stage in Sira's life. She returns to Madrid, opens an exclusive couturier for Nazi officers' wives, and becomes an undercover agent for the Allies.This was a very uneven reading experience for me. Its length (624 pages) is not for the weak of heart (or for those with weak wrists). If a story holds my interest, I don't care how long the book is, but this one only held it sporadically.In many ways, I enjoyed the first section of the book the most. My interest was fully engaged as I learned how Sira grew up, how she fell in love, and how she had to fight hard to make a living after being abandoned in Morocco. The reader's opinion of Sira will make or break this book since she is the narrator. At times I found that her naivete and impulsiveness made me want to slap some sense into her. However, she is honest about how she abandoned a good man for a bad one, and her friendships with Rosalinda and Candelaria as well as her descriptions of starting out in business definitely strengthen the narrative.But Sira tells us something very important: she is carefully picking and choosing each fact in her story. Some of her choices weaken the book for me. When she becomes couturier for the Nazi officers' wives, it is a case of too much reporting and not enough doing. We're told more about the days the coded messages are delivered and very little about how the information was gathered. It would have added so much to the story to have a scene at the shop when the wives were gathered, relaxed and being served tea, gossiping away, with Sira working-- and listening-- diligently. I wanted to see it happen, not be told about it later.It also came to the point where the political segments made my eyes glaze over. Sira purposely avoided many areas of Madrid because she didn't want to see what had happened to the city of her birth. There was too much in this book that Sira didn't wish to see, and I didn't appreciate being forced to wear blinders. Moreover, it felt as though Sira kept me at a distance-- as if she didn't really trust me. Granted, being a spy would make a person extremely distrustful, but when that spy is the narrator of a huge novel, distancing the reader can be very off-putting.When all is said and done, your reaction to the main character of this sweeping historical novel will determine how much you enjoy it. I found much in the book to admire, but in the end, I felt as though Sira had led me down the garden path.
TooBusyReading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first few pages of this book really grabbed me, especially these first couple of sentences: A typewriter shattered my destiny. The culprit was a Hispano-Olivetti, and for weeks, a store window kept it from me. The story seemed like it was going to be interesting, and I liked the writing. Then the protagonist, Sira, turned into a simpering victim who made a bad decision and then let others continue making bad decisions for her. I'm happy that she changed as the story went along. The story ties together fiction with historical people and events, and the combination should have made me very happy.I'm sad to say it didn't The book was too long at about 600 pages. Long books don't scare me away, but they do have to entertain me for the whole story. This one had too much description, and even though I am a fan of well-done description, it seemed there was just too much describing in this one. I couldn't connect with the characters, and while I was interested in what would happen next, it was more a feeling of curiosity than caring about the characters. The history wasn't written in a way that caused me to want to learn more, and the telling of it seemed a bit muddled in places. Some of the story relied on coincidences that just were a little too convenient.Most reviews of this book are very positive, so I think that many people who like historical fiction will like it, but it just didn't work for me. Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
NovelChatter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
WOW! The Time In Between is an amazing saga of a young woman caught in the turmoil of the Spanish civil war, it's as much a story of a woman's survival during wartime as was Scarlett O'Hara's saga in Gone With The Wind. Author Maria Duenas has created a new literary heroine in Sira Quiroga. The reader watches Sira's growth and struggle to not only survive, but to come out ahead of those around her. This is a fantastic example of historical fiction at its best! I didn't know much about the Spanish civil war, and this was an incredible learning experience disguised as a great read! Ms. Duenas brings the sights, smells and textures of the 1930s Madrid and Morocco to live. her descriptive phrases are so multi-layered that as a reader, I could "see" the cities as if I were there.I do have a couple of issues with this book, even as much as I loved it, it was just about thirty percent too long. I loved the descriptions and the background given each situation, character and locale, but there was more than enough and I found myself skimming over bits that brought nothing to the story. In all honesty, the descriptive verbiage took away from the story. You really don't get to the meat of the book until about half way into the story. I don't know if the flowery prose was a product of translation from the original Spanish to English, but for me, it didn't add to the plot. It detracted from it.I will say that once we got to the part where Sira is approached by her friend to work with the British counterintelligence (about half way through) the story seemed to just race through the last half. Maria Duenas' ability to build supporting characters as real and multi-layered people is just brilliant! If The Time In Between is ever made into a film, the supporting actors could steal the story! In fact, in some places in this book, they did just that! All that being said, I LOVE this book!! It's one that I'll give to friends as gifts. I give it a big 5 out of 5 stars! Buy them in quantities to give to everyone on your gift list! You won't be sorry and they will love you for it!**This e-galley was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley, and that in no way affected my ability to write an honest review of this book.
Quiltinfun06 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to say that I only read 250 of the 400 pages. The story of Sira growing up in pre war Madrid learning to be a dressmaker started out well. Life seemed to be complete for her with an engagement to Ignacio and a career as a seamstress. Then the war threatened and there wasn't any need for dressmakers anymore. Ignacio had just become a civil servant and thought that it would be a good option for Sira and that she should learn to type. The purchase of a typewriter and the introduction to the salesman, Ramiro was the beginning of the end for both Ignacio and Sira. Soon enough the story began to drag for me with Sira running away with Ramiro and then Ramior abandoning Sira. Frankly, I lost patience with the story and I doubt that I will be drawn to it again to complete.
DarcyO on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Maria Duenas' "The Time in Between" is a sweeping saga of Sira Quiroga, the young daughter of a dressmaker in Madrid. Born in 1911, Sira comes of age as Spain is experiencing rumblings of a civil war. She is engaged to Ignacio, but a trip to buy a typewriter changes that as Sira falls for the shop salesman, Ramiro. Because he fears for his life, Sira's father, Gonzalo, whom Sira has never before met, requests to meet her. He gives her some of his family's jewels and money and suggests she leave the country for her own protection because of Spain's soon-to-come civil war.She and Ramiro do leave for Tangiers, Morocco, where Ramiro absconds with Sira's treasures after she becomes pregnant. Penniless, Sira flees the hotel, but passes out and wakes up in hospital, having lost the baby. In order to repay Ramiro's debt to the hotel, Sira relies on the skills she learned from her mother and starts a business as a dressmaker.Being a dressmaker gives Sira the opportunity to fit in with both the English and Germans during World War II. She is enticed to return to Madrid as a spy for the English. Back in Madrid, Sira is given a new dress shop to operate from which she learns of Germany's maneuvering.Returning to Madrid also brings her face-to-face with several people from her past. Some are more welcoming than others.This novel sucked me in and swept me away. Even at 609 pages, I didn't want it to end. I loved reading about Spain and Morocco and their part in the war. Author Duenas is a wonderful storyteller. I highly recommend "The Time in Between."