Friday, July 27, 2012

The Time in Between: a book review

The internet hasn’t been too cooperative lately. You know how I feel about that. Technology and I aren’t the closest of friends, and I get the feeling that the more I swear at my computer, the harder it’s digging in its heels not to cooperate.

I’ve been sewing in a minor way, embroidering a bit more, and reading. Reading and embroidering work better when stationed in front of a fan. I read something recently that I want to pass on, because not only was it a really fun read (think vacation – I’d have loved this on the beach) but it had sewing in it. How often does that happen?

The Time in Between, by Maria Duenas, is set in Spain and Morocco leading up to and during WWII. The main character, Sira Quiroga, grew up in a successful fashion house, starting out as an errand girl and becoming an accomplished seamstress. She leaves Madrid with a man and finds herself stranded, penniless, in Morocco. At first, she is at a loss as to how she can survive, but then she realizes that her salvation is in her hands, in a skill that is so second nature to her she doesn’t even think of it at first as a means of rescuing herself from the situation she is in.

One of my favorite bits from the book, when Sira takes up needle and thread again and it all comes flooding back:

"I took a big basket of bed linen out to the balcony and sat down to mend tears, strengthen hems and tidy up frayed edges.

And that day something unexpected happened.  I never could have imagined that the feeling of a needle between my fingers would be so pleasing.  Those rough bedspreads and coarse linen sheets had nothing in common with the silks and muslins of Dona Manuela's workshop, and the mending of their imperfections was a world away from the delicate backstitching that I had dedicated myself to in order to assemble clothes for the fine ladies of Madrid.  . . . But the rhythm of my wrist was just the same, and the needle was once again moving before my eyes as my fingers toiled away to get the stitches just right, just as they had done for years, day after day, in another place and for other ends.  The satisfaction of sewing again was so pleasing that for a couple of hours I was taken back to happier times and managed temporarily to dissolve the leaden weight of my own miseries.  It was like being back home."
 
Sira quickly establishes a customer base in Morocco which, prior to the start of WWII, is full of Germans and Spaniards and Italians and everyone else, all jockeying for position and power in an unstable world. She is content to build her business, but she makes powerful new friends in Morocco, and when one of them volunteers to help bring her mother from war-torn Madrid, she discovers that there is a lot more going on in the world than she ever imagined.

Soon Sira is back in Madrid, setting up her own fashion house, with a new name and very similar clientele. But there’s more to her business than making dresses; Sira listens to her high profile clients and reports on their activities to the British government, which is very interested in the direction Spain intends to take in the war.

And her reports are written in code, on pattern pieces – how cool is that?

The Time in Between is a fairly hefty book, but it turns out, a too-quick read. I thoroughly enjoyed, and would have happily followed, Sira’s fashionable – and dangerous – exploits for a few more years of the war.

13 comments:

Graca said...

I was looking at this book and put it down because I have quite a pile of must reads to get through (Microsoft 2010 for Dummies). Technology and I are not dear friends also. And I do love my Mac over that other machine. Good to hear it is a good book, I might need to pick it up for a break from that Microsoft read.

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

Another book to add to my sewing list! I think I'm suppose to say thank you but I'm not sure...*LOL*

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

Oops that's reading list!

Andrea said...

Thank you for the review - we are soon headed to the beach, and a book with sewing and espionage sounds just right.

Catherine said...

Sold as "the seamstress" in the uk ...just downloaded a sample on my kindle....thanks

.x.Helen.x. said...

Thanks for the recommendation, i have just been able to reserve it through my library. I spend ages trying to choose a good book or two, so its great to have a good tip!

Andrea said...

Thanks for the review. I'm adding this one to my reading list.

Linda T said...

Sounds wonderful. I go in spits and spirts with my reading. I'll have to find this one.

Lisette M said...

I finished reading this one at the beach and I enjoyed it very much. If you translate the title literally it is "The time between sewing" =)

Jodie said...

I'm a regular reader (of your blog) but not commenter. I'm "de-lurking" to say "thanks" for the review. Just put it on hold at my library. I enjoy my summers "off" (teacher) but loooove to read. The book sounds good. Hope things cool down for you. Warm/humid where I am (Alberta Canada) although according to Env. Canada, we're supposed to have a warm but dry summer. Not so far!

Pixie said...

ohh yes, me too delurking to say thanks, I've just gone to buy it for my kindle. It has a different title down here tho, it's called, The Seamstress. funny old world. thanks from Pixie in New Zealand

Sheila said...

Thanks for the review and have added it to my wishlist. Would be a perfect book after I finish Irrefutable/dale roberts.

Jane M said...

I am so eager to read this now, thanks so much for a terrific suggestion.