Book Review: The Seamstress / The Time In Between by Maria Duenas

Updated: Dec 20, 2021

Written by Maria Duenas, originally in Spanish, The Seamstress is a historical-fiction novel so well-researched you will be transported. Sira Quiroga a working class girl from Madrid on the brink of the Spanish Civil War. Sira's life is forever changed the day she walks into a typewriter storefront with her fiancé. Storming into a new life and romance with her lover Ramiro, Sira leaves more than she ever wanted to about life outside Madrid.

Abandoned in Morocco by her lover, Sira turns back to the work of her childhood to pay off the enormous debt she and her lover incurred at a high-end hotel they were living in while they waited for Ramiro to find work. Through this work she meets all of the wives of important diplomates, generals, officers, and official from all backgrounds including those working for the Nazi regime. It becomes know to British officials high echelon of British intelligence that Sira is in a position that could help the allied cause and turn the war in favor of a British victory. Enlisted to work as a spy, Sira becomes Arish, and lives and works a daring life as an exotic Moroccan dressmaker, courting important men and the danger of her situation.

Summarized on the back of my Penguin publishing house edition,

"Aged twelve, Sira Quiroga was apprenticed to a Madrid dressmaker. As she masters the seamstress's art, her life seems to be clearly mapped out -- until she falls passionately in love and flees with her seductive lover.

But in Morocco she is betrayed and left penniless. As civil war engulfs Spain, Sira finds she cannot return and so turns to her one true skill -- and sews beautiful clothes for the expat elite and their German friends.

With Europe rumbling towards war, Sira is lured back to Franco's Nazi-friendly Spain. She is drawn into the shadowy world of espionage, rife with love, intrigue, and betrayal. And where the greatest danger lies..."

Perhaps the tiniest bit long winded in some parts, and unrealistically I wanted Ramiro to make a comeback for some more true drama, but the story is so well-written there really is nothing to change. A must-read if you're looking for adventure and to be transported to a colorful world woven with multiple cultures, beautiful languages, and an unforgettable story.

The original novel El Tiempo Entre Costuras was available on Netflix for a period of time in a perfectly casted, amazingly dressed mini-series. I watched the series before I ever knew it was a book and now that I have read the book I think you can read or watch either first because you'll probably enjoy one if you enjoyed the other.

This story was also very interesting for me on a personal level because my mother in law was born in the province of Rabat, Morocco to a family of Spanish-Jews who immigrated to Morocco for work. Her father was an account for the US military and was stationed in the small town in Morocco, where he worked, built a life, and had six children. From my mother-in-law's memories, life there was good; there were young Moorish girls who helped in the kitchen, another who came for the washing, and several who helped feed, dress, and care for all the children. She has shared so many vivid stories and memories with me from her time growing up Spanish and Jewish in Morocco that reading The Seamstress really brought to life many of my mother-in-law's memories she has shared with me.

Overall a four star rating for this one. You can see this book on my virtual shelf here and in my library at Sunbird House here!

Until next time, be well


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