Although Maris Duenas’s the Time In Between begins with slow-flowing mellifluous descriptions of life in Madrid in the 193os, the story morphs into the adventures of a young girl during the Spanish Civil War. The changes in the heroine’s life evolve quickly and often over the 600 page saga.
Ready to marry a staid civil servant, Sira is seduced by a typewriter salesman/scam artist, and runs away from the impending war and her mother to live with him in Morocco. Before she leaves, her wealthy father gives her jewels and money as compensation for having deserted her unwed mother. Her new-found fortune dissipates under the control of her lover, who disappears with her inheritance, just as she finds she is pregnant and the war closes the Strait. Abandoned and with no possibility of returning home, Sira is rescued by a police officer, and settles into a makeshift arrangement in a boarding house.
After a mad chase through the streets with guns strapped to her legs and hidden under a haik, Sira has the money to start her own business as a seamstress. The more successful she is, the better her contacts. Her dressmaking inadvertently connects her to Generalissimo Franco, and eventually Britain’s M-16 espionage team. The British recruit her and send her back to Madrid to sew for the wives of high-ranking Nazis. As her life as a beautiful undercover spy develops, the politics get scarier, and her escapades more thrilling.
Translated from Spanish, The Time in Between, has an easy flow with extravagant descriptions of food and fashion punctuating the action. Although the historical context is informative, Duenas uses the intrigue to promote romance as the main focus in her story – with the suave villains and the handsome Marcos, who keeps reentering her life – climaxing in a daring train episode.
Sira’s experiences will remind you of the Perils of Pauline – the beautiful heroine survives turmoil again and again, only to emerge victorious. At times, you may wonder why you are plowing through all those pages, but, the action is constant, and the descriptive interludes will lull you into imagining that you are somewhere else.