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The Time In Between: A Novel Hardcover – November 8, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 472 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: Félix J. Palma Interviews María Dueñas

Félix J. Palma has been unanimously acclaimed by critics as one of the most brilliant and original storytellers of our time. His devotion to the short story genre has earned him more than a hundred awards. The Map of Time, his first book to be published in the United States, received the 2008 Ateneo de Sevilla XL Prize and is being published in more than thirty countries.

Félix J. Palma: The Time in Between features many real life characters. How did you ensure that these individuals were accurately portrayed? I imagine that you had to be especially careful given that people who knew them are still alive.

María Dueñas: Some of the characters in my book belong to our recent history and played a prominent role in the Spanish Civil War and WWII in Spain. Ironically, however, a few of them have been obscured by time, and so my task was to bring them back to the forefront in order to recreate some significant events during those febrile years. For this purpose, I used a wide variety of sources: academic works, archives, old newspapers and even interviews with people who personally knew these people. I was very thorough in my research, and I think the outcome has been positive. Many readers finally get to meet these historical figures and no one has complained that the personalities I've managed to reconstruct are inaccurate.

FP: It's unusual to come across a heroine who is a seamstress. How did you decide upon this occupation for Sira?

MD: I needed an independent female character who was able to support herself so that she could move about freely without depending on a man. In the late thirties and early forties few occupations offered women this ability, but a seamstress was one of them.

FP: Many novels take place during World War II and yet you've done a wonderful job of taking a fresh approach. Can you tell us about it?

MD: WWII took place when Spain was immersed in post-Civil War reconstruction so many people think that the war had no effect on Spain. But this is not true. Our territory was coveted by Britain and Germany, and there was a lot of espionage in the country at that time. I also added a new ingredient to the traditional view of this period by incorporating a female character into the war game. I think the combination of both these things--an unexplored environment and a new type of heroine--is what sets The Time In Between apart.


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

“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

"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

“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

"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

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

“This thrilling debut is marked by immaculate prose and a driving narrative, establishing Dueñas as a writer to watch.” --starred Publishers Weekly review

"Packed with engaging characters, flawlessly researched, and breathlessly paced." --starred Booklist review

"It is no surprise this debut novel was a runaway success in Europe. American fans of historical fiction looking for a dramatic, uncomplicated escape will be similarly entranced." --Library Journal

"From a terrific opening line to the final page, chapters zip by at a pulsing pace." --USA TODAY

"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

"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

"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.

“With its detailed depictions of fashions and the fashionable crowd, exotic settings like Portuguese beaches and crowded bars in Tangiers, and a growing sense of danger and intrigue, The Time In Between is a stunning novel.“ --Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; 1 edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451616880
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451616880
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (472 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is historical fiction, with a larger than usual dose of history, but that history is woven in well at least partly because it's history that's not well known even to the Spanish, and hardly known at all by English speakers. Set in Madrid, Spanish Morocco, and Lisbon from 1935 into 1941, the story centers on Sira Quiroga, daughter of a single mother who works as a seamstress in Madrid. She learns the trade as well, which is fortunate when she finds herself without resources in Morocco just as the civil war in Spain breaks out. How she manages to overcome legal obstacles and flourish amid political intrigue involving Spaniards, Germans, and the British is the heart of the story. There is romance as well, but it takes a backseat to Sira's growth from insecure working-class girl to woman of the world who takes charge of her own life. And the central role played by real-life characters may send you to Google and the library to find out more.

If there's a flaw, it's the occasional overwriting -- judicious editing could have pruned the 600+ pages down to 500. Despite that, I couldn't put it down, and even missed my subway stop one morning, I was so absorbed.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the story of Sira Quiroga, she leaves her fiance and her mother in Spain and runs off with a man she thinks she is in love with. The man leaves her, steals her money, and leaves her responsible for paying the bill for the hotel they had been staying in at the time. For the first time in her life Sira is lost, desperate and does not know what to do. From here Sira finds her way in the world on her own terms, she begins a career sewing beautiful clothes for important woman and eventually uses this skill to spy for the British Secret Service.

Wow! This book was an amazing read, I enjoyed every page of it. The first thing that impressed me was how the writing flowed throughout the book, it made it such a pleasure to read. I love historical fiction and reading about WWII so I was thrilled with all of the history put into the book. I have to say that I have never really looked at what happened in Spain during this time so this book gave me a whole new perspective. All of the spying of course added lots of excitement and tension. Sira gets herself into some pretty dangerous situations and at times I could not put the book down until I found out how everything turned out.

Sira was a wonderful main character. At first she is shown as a selfish young woman who leaves her family for a man who is obviously not good for her. After this we watch her mature and grow into an intelligent woman able to take care of herself and use her skills in unusual but successful ways.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of this time and to anyone who enjoys reading about espionage. Both aspects are well detailed in this beautiful book.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to admit that Simon and Schuster piqued my curiosity about this title simply because they promoted it so heavily prior to its publication. In my mind, that's a huge vote of confidence from the publishing house. And, apparently it has been a bestseller in Europe, where it was originally published. Alas, my own response to The Time in Between was mixed. It got off to a rocky start, but ended much stronger--which is a better situation than had it been the other way `round.

With regard to the "rocky start," the first-person narrator of this 600-page epic is Sira Quiroga, a young seamstress from Madrid with a modest background. Unfortunately, she makes a terrible initial impression. Virtually the first thing we learn about her is that she is an inconstant woman. She behaves deplorably towards a man she's supposed to love, and then runs off to Morocco with a man slicker than Teflon. On many, many levels, her behavior is unforgivably stupid. Truthfully, I wanted to slap her. (Note to Authors: Having your protagonist repent and/or wise-up eventually does not justify making us hate her in the beginning.) And this whole opening drama takes up about the first hundred pages of the novel.

Which leads us to issue number two... God, I felt like it took forever for this story to really get going! No way did this novel need to be over 600 hundred pages long. I would have written a far more positive review had it been condensed by a good 200 pages. The overly drawn out introduction (that made me sort of hate the heroine) could have been condensed so that we could get to the meat of this story so much sooner. As it is, the plot described in the jacket copy of this novel doesn't even come into play until well past the half-way point of the novel.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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