Time in between by María Duenas

El Tiempo entre costuras (English translation: Time in between)

EL TIEMO ENTRE COSTURAS 2There are times when you find yourself wanting a book to finish. The story has stalled on you, the characters have lost their mystery, the plot has become too tortuous…..in other words, the narrative has outstayed its welcome, and you are counting the pages to the end.

Occasionally, you find yourself so engrossed in the narrative of a piece of fiction, and you have unwittingly entered the lives and personalties of the protagonists to such an extent that you are happy to stay with the story to the end and, indeed, may be unhappy when you have to turn to that final page….

El tiempo entre costuras (Time in between) fell into the latter category. Although a little short of 700 pages, and a first published novel by María Duenas, for me this proved to be a literary tour de force. Set in the years of the Spanish Civil War, it proved to be an effective piece of historic narrative set in the context of fiction. The clever use of the first person narrative helps to draw the reader into the character and perspective of the protagonist, as she progresses from the humble beginnings of runningTime in between errands for a dressmaking business in Madrid, to setting up her own haute couture outlet in the Spanish Protectorate of North Africa, to eventually becoming a leading player in the British Secret Service during WW2.

The connections may seem very obscure, but Duenas has a thorough knowledge of the period, especially of the British involvement in espionage in the post Civil War years. Churchill desperately wanted to keep Spain out WW2. If Franco had opted in, it would most definitely have been with the Axis powers, given the help and support both Germany and Italy had provided the Nationalists during the Civil War.

This piece of historical fiction provides an illuminating insight into the little known machinations of MI6 on the Iberian peninsula. A very good read.


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on November 21, 2014, in Book reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I agree with you, Frank. This novel is a real page turner. A best-seller in Spain, and the series on TV worth watching, too.
    Un abrazo, Pilar

  2. Did you read the Spanish version or the English one? I read this but it was titled The Seamstress. http://suth2.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/now-i-will-look-at-markings-on-sewing-patterns-in-a-different-light/ Perhaps they decided to give it a different title as “The Seamstress” may have been too gender specific.

    • Very interesting, Heather. I know books can be given different titles in translation, across different countries of the same language, and the titles are frequently not a direct translation of the original.
      Anything that originates in Spanish, I always read in Spanish, so the English title of this was taken from Amazon. A literal translation of the title is “Time between seams”…….which I think is perfect for an English edition.

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