Last time I posted I said I was going to share my thoughts on a novel I’d just finished reading. I’ll try and keep this brief, though, ’cause I already talked some about it before.
The Time In Between
The Time In Between is an international bestselling novel (historical fiction) by Spanish author María Dueñas. Written in first person, the story is set in 1930s Spain (initially) and follows Sira Quiroga, daughter and apprentice to a seamstress. By her twenties she’s learned a great deal about the business which, unbeknownst to her, will help her immensely in the near future.
The novel opens splendidly: “A typewriter shattered my destiny.” Immediately you want to know how this could possibly be. From there the story is completely engaging.
Sira is already engaged to a government clerk at the beginning, but things go terribly awry when she meets a particularly charming salesman. Unfortunately, she decides to leave her fiance for Señor Suave and her life is completely turned upside down. She later ends up stranded in Morocco with her father’s inheritance in the hands of the conniving salesman, who’s gone off to God knows where. Though, perhaps this was a blessing in disguise; back home there’s a civil war a-brewing, and WWII is just around the corner…
With no means of leaving Morocco, fate has left Sira with no other choice but to depend on the one thing she knows well: how to sew clothes. With the help of a weary commissioner and a landlady of questionable repute, Sira decides to reinvent herself and open her own haute couture studio. Word starts to spread about her work, and before she knows it she’s developed quite the reputation.
What she wasn’t expecting by now was to become a target of a British intelligence recruiter. And that’s where things get really interesting…
Why I Love This Novel
First off, Dueñas really knows how to keep you turning the pages. There were several times throughout the story where I simply did not want to put my e-reader down. Interested writers could learn a thing or two on where to end their scenes and chapters from this author.
Another thing I mentioned before that was done well was the characters. Sira doesn’t especially grab me until the latter half of the book–which is, btw, over 600 pages long–but initially the secondary characters were what really caught my interest. Some are smoldering, some are quirky, and some are suspiciously plucky. In any case, these characters add a lot of spice to Sira’s adventures.
Something else I liked was the way Dueñas tied in the whole espionage thread. It developed slowly over time so that when it finally came it made sense. Sira’s skills as a seamstress were brilliantly incorporated into the plot, both in the methods she passed on coded messages and her cover story for relocating to Spain in order to spy on a certain businessman. Overall, I thought this was done well.
There were very few things I did not like about this novel.
The Nit-Picky Cons
Genre writers are forever encouraged to “show, don’t tell”; put the reader in the center of the story rather than making them watch. It’s practically been drilled into our brains. But The Time In Between is historical fiction–and to be honest I’m not sure if that’s really under “genre fiction”. In any case, historical fiction tends to follow different rules than, say, fantasy does. I tend to see a lot more telling with historical and for some reason it seems a bit more acceptable there than it would in sf/f. (But maybe that’s just my skewed opinion.) In any case, I think The Time In Between does a lot of telling, but you know what? I actually didn’t mind it, for the most part. At first I was aware of it, but over time it didn’t matter because Dueñas tells the parts that need to be told, never more. And she does it interestingly.
This is really comparing apples to oranges, I realize, so it’s not so much a criticism as it is pointing out an observation.
The only real “con” I can think of with this novel is that sometimes Dueñas makes unnecessary long lists of things that have already happened–I presume for the purpose of reminding the reader. But we really don’t need to be reminded of all the details, just the major ones. And even then not all that often. I guess it’s just a matter of balance, is all.
…And maybe Sira could have been more interesting in the first half, as the secondary characters fairly out-shined her.
Though, besides that, I pretty much loved everything else about this novel and would give it 5/5 stars. Or how about hearts.
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3
(Ha! So much for “brief”…)
Has anyone else read this novel?
If so, what did you think? Or, if you haven’t, does this sound like something you might read?