The international best-selling debut novel “The Time In Between” by Maria Dueòas, recently translated into English, is set during the Spanish Civil War and the onset of World War II. Madrid, Spanish Morocco and Lisbon in the years 1935 to 1941 are some of the backdrops for Sira Quiroga’s story, written as a memoir.
Sira Quiroga, a young girl of modest background, is caught up in the unrest. Reared by a single mother who earned her living as a seamstress, Sira lived a settled and predictable childhood until Spain erupted.
Sira begins to learn her mother’s trade. By age 14, she has begun her own apprenticeship as a seamstress. By her early 20s, she understands the business and is engaged to marry a well-established, kind man.
Then two dynamic men enter her well ordered life: a charming salesman and the father she never knew. Her father, fearful for his life, is preparing to flee from Spain, leaving his daughter with a large amount of money and jewelry.
With the threat of civil war gripping Madrid and the conviction that she is madly in love, Sira leaves her mother and her fiancé to follow her lover to Morocco. There he abandons her.
Penniless and alone, she realizes her ability to create beautiful clothes is the skill that perhaps will save her. A collection of European expatriates stuck in Morocco because of the political situation on the Continent are her potential clients. As Sira begins to take charge of her life, she becomes aware of the intrigue and warmongering around her. The quiet life she hoped for is gone.
As Germany, England and the other powers enter World War II, Sira returns to Spain, takes on a new identity and accepts the most dangerous challenge of her career: She becomes couturière and designer to the socialite wives of the German Nazi officers and a spy for Britain. Sira becomes involved in conspiracies and espionage as an undercover agent, relaying coded messages sewn into the hems and sleeves of her designs.
Through the eyes of the protagonist, Sira, the reader meets various historical figures: Juan Luis eigbeder, the commissioner of the Protectorate who would later become the foreign minister under Franco; Mr. Beigeder’s real-life lover, Rosalinda Powell Fox, a British national and spy; and Alan Hillgarth, head of the British Secret Services in Spain.
These people and their roles in Franco’s Spain provide a framework for the author’s page-turning tale of a tumultuous historical period.