Sira Quiroga is a young Spanish dressmaker engaged to a solid suitor when a suave typewriter salesman upends her life.
Spain is being upended by a civil war and the new regime's growing alliances with Nazi Germany. But The Time in Between will appeal more to fans of romance novels than the serious spy reader. Think John LeCarre-lite.
First-time novelist Maria Duenas has drawn a memorable character in Sira. Smart, gutsy and resourceful with a Scarlett O'Hara-like ability to whip up designer duds on a moment's notice, Sira has spunk. Over the 600 pages of her saga, Sira gains and loses a small fortune, is dumped by her cad of a lover in Morocco, runs guns to get the cash to start her life anew and becomes couturier to the Nazi wives stationed in Madrid. Urged on by her friend, the real-life British spy Rosalinda Fox, Sira, too, aids the British cause.
An international best-seller, The Time in Between — not the most memorable title — provides a lush travelogue of early-20th-century Madrid, Tetouan, Morocco and Lisbon. From a terrific opening line to the final page, chapters zip by at a pulsing pace. Time is aimed at female readers or the rare metrosexual who won't be put off by lines such as "my impeccable makeup didn't allow her to see the distress that her words were causing."
Looking for a breezy read about the Spanish Civil War and the early days of World War II? This could be your book. But after 600 pages, the reader is left with the feeling this novel is more girlish and glib than gripping.