The Time In Between Maria Duenas (2009)
Also published under the title of The Seamstress
**** 4/5 stars Check out GoodReads for more reviews of this novel.
This book transported me to a time and place I had never before visited in historical fiction and makes me want to travel there again. It is 1935 and a young Spanish seamstress makes the bad choice to abandon her fiancé and her country for rouge who steels her heart and fortune. Stranded in the Spanish protectorate of Morocco while her country is plunged into civil war, she makes the best of it and in the process makes the choice to work for what she believes is right even though it leads her back to war torn Europe.
This story is straightforward, but layered with growth, self realization, and possibilities—not to mention extremely interesting places and people--that make it engrossing. I was seduced because of the haute couture angle. The. Loathing descriptions are breathtaking. Not realizing what was to come next, I found myself a little confused when the book took a radical turn into politics about half way through, but I was quickly seduced again. I liked the fact that the story kept me asking questions: What if she made this choice or that choice? What choice would I make? Who is a person down deep? How does one tell? How does one make a new start? And where does resilience come from? Fifty pages from the end of this 600 page book I was asking my husband how it might end. I had no idea.
There were a few flaws, but I think they are minor. 1. Not everyone is going to like the protagonist and her interesting form of passivity and innocence coupled with action. If you don’t like her, you will never get through the book. 2. There are several places where the author builds up to a meeting with people Sira is expecting, but the reader is left in the dark for a few extra beats. I found it annoying. Although it heightened the anticipation, it was a cheap trick. Since it only lasted a sentence or two, it was easily forgiven. 3. Many may not like the ending, although I didn’t have a problem with it. After reading the author’s essay on her historical sources, it was clear what her intention was for the book. What may have happened after the ending simply wasn’t of interest to her. It was a bit abrupt, but I was satisfied. I think I almost like the fact that I was left still asking questions.
Finally, I loved reading a book not by an American, British, or South/Central American author. Reading contemporary Spanish literature is a real twist for me and I am so happy that I took a risk on this book.
Resources about places and things in this novel
Here is Publisher's Weekly's review.
I didn't know anything about the Spanish zone in Morocco. If you are like me, here is a short history.
This Pinterest site has a plethora of photos of beautiful vintage dresses like the ones Sira would have made.
This fantastic novel is a smash hit tv series in Spain and came via Hulu to America this summer. You can find a review here. I, for one, am looking forward to watching.