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90 of 95 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique view of Spanish Civil War and WWII
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...
Published on November 8, 2011 by sjr

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107 of 123 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts with a whimper, but ends with a bang
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...
Published on November 8, 2011 by Susan Tunis


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90 of 95 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique view of Spanish Civil War and WWII, November 8, 2011
This review is from: The Time In Between: A Novel (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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107 of 123 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts with a whimper, but ends with a bang, November 8, 2011
By 
This review is from: The Time In Between: A Novel (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.

And that plot involves Sira working on behalf of the British Resistance in the early days of WWII. But, given that that doesn't even get broached until page 355 of my galley, there's a whole lot that goes on before the excitement kicks in. And I don't mean to imply that it's all bad or boring. I think that Ms. Dueñas is going for a picaresque quality to Sira's story, with a series of episodic adventures. Some parts were more successful than others for me, but stuff does happen. I wouldn't call it fast-paced. What I liked much, much more than the drawn out plot were the many supporting characters that bring life and interest to the story. They're an excellent and entertaining supporting cast.

And as the novel goes on, the pace does pick up, the main plot kicks in, and from there on out it's a different book. There is romance, excitement, suspense--all the things I would have enjoyed seeing more of in the first half of the novel. So, The Time In Between ends on a high note. Heck, the door is even open for a sequel. By the end, Sira is a far more appealing protagonist. The prose throughout the novel is acceptable, but not what I'd consider a selling point. The North African setting of much of the tale, however, is unusual and adds its own level of interest.

I would recommend this debut to readers who are fans of long novels, and who are willing to have a little patience. I would also recommend it to fans of these types of stories--of the time, the place, the war. If the flaws I described sound like deal-breakers, you're probably better off skipping The Time In Between.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written story that I really enjoyed, November 9, 2011
This review is from: The Time In Between: A Novel (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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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb storytelling skills in a lighter than expected novel, November 8, 2011
By 
Liviu C. Suciu (Ann Arbor, MI, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Time In Between: A Novel (Hardcover)
INTRODUCTION: Maria Duenas holds a PhD in English Philology and is currently a professor at the University of Murcia. She has also taught at American universities, is the author of several academic articles, and has participated in various educational, cultural, and editorial projects. After her immensely successful novelistic debut in 2009 in Spain with El Tiempo entre Costuras translated this year as The Time in Between, she is currently working on her second novel.

"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"

The Time in Between has been translated by Miguel Saenz.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: A huge bestseller in Europe, The Time in Between intrigued me quite a lot when I read its blurb and the praise offered to it in various places. I asked for and was lucky to get an e-arc from the publishers and on opening the novel I was swept by its voice and narrative flow, so despite what turned into a somewhat rough first 50 pages, I kept turning the pages...

"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."

The Time in Between is a first person narration from Sira Quiroga who is raised by her single seamstress mother in the Madrid of the 20's and 30's. After the opening paragraph above that hooked me on the style, the novel slows down for a while - one thing I cannot abide is silly narrators and for the first 40-50 pages Sira makes some really dumb decisions that one can see for a mile that are dumb in an obvious manner, so while the actions of the heroine are understandable somewhat as due to lack of maturity, etc, they are presented in the novel in quite an annoying fashion. However once we get past the "we've seen it coming, now let's get on with the real story" moment, The Time in Between gets its footing and never looks back.

The Time in Between flows so well that despite its 600+ page length I was shocked to see the novel ending and I could have read another 600 pages easily; actually the ending is good and satisfying to a large extent but the book could have gone on for a while more for sure. Maria Duenas definitely knows how to spin a story and I would say that she proved here to be one of those natural born storytellers whom the audience can listen to for a long time...

The other main strength of the novel beside the voice and the narrative flow, is the world building; or if you want the recreation of the atmosphere of the Spanish Marocco and later Madrid in the turbulent years from 1936 to the 1940's. Filled with expatriates, intrigue, even decadence but also with poverty and anger, the main cities of Tangier and Tetouan where the action takes place in the first part of the novel come fully to life and we see quite a few facets as Sira's fate twists and turns. This part is exceptional once we pass the first 50 pages.

Later when the action moves back to the Iberian mainland and to a Madrid devastated by the civil war and sullenly hunkering down under the new order, the atmosphere becomes bleaker but the optimistic voice of Sira never falters.

As slight negatives, The Time in Between is more detached and tension-less than I expected; it has its emotional moments for sure, but fewer than I would have liked. While Sira is a very strong character and the novel is her story after all, the secondary characters wax and wane through it with pages where indeed there appear others who are quite impressive, but also pages where only Sira seems real.

Overall The Time in Between (A+, highly recommended as an example of superb storytelling ability) is a page turner but a lighter novel than I expected based on its blurb and advanced word, so an excellent read but not a blow me away one like say last year's The Invisible Bridge.

Note: this review has been originally published on Fantasy Book Critic and all links and references are to be found there
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you like the main character, you'll probably like the book, November 10, 2011
This review is from: The Time In Between: A Novel (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. 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.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From simple beginnings to great endeavors, November 18, 2011
By 
dianaers (Fort Worth, TX) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Time In Between: A Novel (Hardcover)
The Time in Between is Spanish writer María Dueña's debut novel that has become a sleeper bestseller in Spain and is predicted to be an international phenomenon. The story is set in Madrid before the advent of the Spanish Civil War. Sira Quiroga is an innocent, naive young seamstress engaged to an aspiring civil servant when she meets the man who will become the major turning point to her eventless existence, Ramiro. She leaves her fiancé Ignacio for Ramiro, living a glamorous, overindulgent lifestyle, forgetting her roots as a commoner. Shortly thereafter, she meets her long absent father, who bestows upon her an inheritance for fear of his death amidst the political turmoil. With the inheritance, he insists that she and her mother leave Spain to escape the impending war, suggesting the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco.

Without her mother, Sira heeds his advice and leave Spain with Ramiro. Sira becomes more withdrawn, and eventually gets abandoned and robbed by Ramiro. She is left with an outstanding debt, and she has to pay it off. She comes to a board house run by Candelaria, a former smuggler. Candelaria discovers Sira's gift for dressmaking and schemes of how both can profit off of it. With some shady dealings, they are able to procure the money so that Sira can open her own boutique. Her patrons are primarily the upperclass, one of whom is Rosalinda Fox. After paying off her debt, she owns a successful boutique. She is then approached by the British government to become a spy under the guise of a seamstress to the German officials' wives in Madrid during World War II.

The story itself was pretty good. While the translation was good, there were moments when the ebb and flow of the story were kind of awkward, which made for slow reading at parts. The Time in Between also reads like it has been a lifetime, when it actually spans about ten years. The conversations were also somewhat unnatural. There were too many revealing monologues, particularly by Rosalinda Fox. It was almost like Sira was a priest in a confessional.

I also found it a little difficult to connect with Sira. Despite witnessing all of her trials and tribulations, I felt the more shallow aspects of the story are touched on more than her actual emotional growth of a character. The book has been lauded as a testament to female independence, but I didn't feel that was so. Many of the paths that Sira follows are laid out by some other person: her father, Ramiro, Candelaria, Rosalinda Fox, etc.

With as much politics contained within this book, I never once felt alienated. It was refreshing that there was no pretense, especially since Sira is humble enough to admit when she doesn't know something.

Despite the upswing of the last third of the book, I found myself rushing through it. I was kind of bored and done with Sira. Despite all of my criticisms with this book, I gave it three stars because it still lingered with me about a week after I read it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stirring Novel of Love, Betrayal, Redemption and Intrigue, November 30, 2011
This review is from: The Time In Between: A Novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"The Time In Between", the debut novel by Spanish academic Maria Dueñas, is an engrossing tale of a young woman from humble beginnings who ascends through hardships, triumphs, and setbacks to a life of glamour, mystery, and intrigue.

Set in a turbulent time and place - Spain and the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco in the years of the Spanish Civil War and the period just prior to the outbreak of World War II - "The Time In Between" is the story of Sira Quiroga, a young Madrileña raised by a single mother. Sira's mother is a seamstress at a well-respected dressmaker's shop in Madrid; Sira apprentices there after leaving school at age 12 and learns the dressmaker's trade from the ground up - literally, as her first job is sweeping the floors of the sewing rooms.

As she grows into a young woman Sira becomes a skilled seamstress, and is on track to a quiet, respectable life as a dressmaker married to a young civil servant, but the intrusion of a charismatic older man into her well-ordered life sets in place a chain of events which sweeps her into a much different life.

Abandoning Spain, and her young fiancé, for a life in the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco with the older man who swept her off her feet, Sira is in turn betrayed and abandoned by her lover. Set adrift in an unfamiliar city, with legal and financial troubles besetting her on all sides, Sira turns to her skill with needle, thread, and fabric for redemption. Stranded in the Protectorate by the financial and legal trouble she is left in by the disappearance of her lover, and isolated from her mother in Madrid by the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War, Sira sets about rebuilding her life.

With help from her roguish Gypsy landlady and under the eye of the suspicious but accommodating Commissioner of Police, Sira starts her own modest dressmaking shop in Tetouan, the capital of Spanish Morocco. Avoiding competition with the established shops in the city, she builds a clientele among the newly-arrived, and often similarly-stranded, ex-patriate community: the wives and companions of European (mostly German) businessmen and Spanish Colonial officials.

As Spain trembles under the flail of civil war, political intrigue and civil unrest leak across the Strait of Gibraltar into the Protectorate. Sira's position as a potential witness to the conversations of the women who come to her shop thrusts her into the political maelstrom of the Spanish Civil War, and the even more sensitive period which follows, as both Nazi Germany and the Allies woo Franco's Fascist New Spain while war threatens to engulf Europe for the second time in less than a quarter of a century. Her life changes again as she grows into a new, more complex- and more dangerous - role, with danger, excitement, and both new men and men from her past embroiled in her life.

In "The Time In Between", Sra Dueñas has crafted a fascinating, fast-moving story which treads the dangerous ground of a fictional tale set in the context of an historical setting. She incorporates actual historical personalities and events into her tale, and her fictional characters into the true events of the time, in a manner which is so seamless and true to life that the reader almost expects to find Sira Quiroga mentioned in historical accounts of the day.

I found this book difficult to put down between readings, and came to the final pages with the highest respect for the author. The true test of historical fiction, for me, is whether it leads me to a desire to learn more about the era in which it is set, and the events which surround the tale. "The Time In Between" passes that test with flying colors, as I have already started searching for historical works concerning the Spanish Civil War and the role of the nominally neutral countries of Spain and Portugal in the Second World War. I recommend this book highly, and without reservation.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Plot Lacks Passion, November 22, 2011
This review is from: The Time In Between: A Novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
On the eve of the Spanish Civil War, Sira, a young dress maker, escapes quickly with her new lover to Morocco. She leaves behind her mother, her former fiance and the father that she has just met for the first time in her life. While in Morocco, naive Sira will have her heart broken, will make new friends and find her own inner strength to succeed. Later, the world is embroiled in World War II and Sira is recruited as a spy.

I read the first 200 pages in a single day. I was swept up in Sira's life and the richness of the descriptions of Morocco. Maria Duenas, the author, creates a rich and sympathetic character and the reader is immediately entranced by her story and life. However, as Sira, heartbroken, holds off the potential lovers, so too the author seems to hold the reader at arm's length. There are huge sections where the details are told yet there is no passion, no life. The novel redeems itself in the third section and Duenas reclaims the earlier thrill only to have a rushed and incomplete ending. Given that the novel is over 600 pages long there seems little reason to have a quick conclusion.

I loved Sira's character. I loved the plot. I loved the setting. But there was no real passion. I don't enjoy reading "sex scenes" and I'm pleased that this book is free of them. What I mean, is that the scenes between Sira and her main love interest are flat. In fact, there is little intense emotion evoked in any of the scenes that should, including when Sira's life is in danger.

I have to admit that I'm holding this book to a higher standard than many. It was better than most books. It has so many great things going for it, I just thought it could have been even better.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There's a great thriller in here somewhere, December 20, 2011
By 
S. Chiger (New York, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Time In Between: A Novel (Hardcover)
The promotional copy made it seem as if this would be a fast-moving, intriguing read, a cross between the spy novels of Alan Furst and Susan Isaacs's "Shining Through." And if it had been edited down to half its length, and the narrator given some semblance of a personality, it would have been. Instead we have to endure several hundred pages of fairly mundane misadventures of a colorless young woman who could well be related to Basil Exposition for all the finesse with which she releases her info dumps. And even once we're finally served the story of adventure and espionage we'd been promised, it's accompanied by as many coincidences as in a Dickens novel. If only Sira, the protagonist, were an iota as engaging as a Dickens character.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book Rocks!, November 20, 2011
This review is from: The Time In Between: A Novel (Hardcover)
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 beep 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.
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The Time In Between: A Novel
The Time In Between: A Novel by María Dueñas (Hardcover - November 8, 2011)
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