El tiempo entre costuras: A Page-Turning Read from Spain

Hola, hola caracolas!

It seems apt that I return to you after a long absence by recommending a book whose English title is The Time in Between.

Where in the world have I been and what have I been doing?  I was fortunate to be hired as a field producer for three television episodes in January and February, and I also traveled to Brazil to attend the most amazing wedding I’ve ever witnessed in my life!

Yes, the time in between, which in this case is between posts, has been long and jam-packed, but I haven’t forgotten The Spain Inside.  Indeed, I have a long backlog of ideas and photos to share with you, so many that it’s nearly overwhelming.  So I’ll start with the most recent and work backwards.


I just finished reading El tiempo entre costuras: Una novela (Atria Espanol) (Spanish Edition)by María Dueñas.  It’s a hefty novel about a young madrileña seamstress named Sira Quiroga who follows her heart to Tangier, Morocco in the 1930s only to find herself betrayed and forced to begin again.

Far from mainland Spain and in a world of trouble, she struggles to build a life for herself in the city of Tetuán, which is at the time served as the capital of the young Spanish Protectorate of Morocco.  (Click the links for some interesting history via Wikipedia.)

As Sira is building a new life in Tetuán, the political tide is turning in mainland Spain.   Soon the peninsula is engulfed in the Spanish Civil War, which oddly enough, grew from a Spanish military coup which began in Africa! (Again, the links will help you with the history if you are unfamiliar.)

Mohamed 5 street
Mohamed V Avenue in Tetuán in the former Spanish Protectorate.   “Mohamed 5 street” by Achraf errifi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Tetuán is a stronghold of the Nationalist cause and home to Spanish military installations.  Yet it also gets its fair share of business and military travelers from other nations, including Germany and Great Britain.  Sira’s path crosses with many powerful and intriguing international characters, including the wives and girlfriends of the international military men, and before long her involvement with them will compel her to return to Madrid with a new mission:  espionage.

You can probably tell I’m new to writing book reviews, and I don’t want to give too much away!  So you’ll have to read it to find out whose side she’s on, and for whom she is spying.

Who should read El tiempo entre costuras

Here’s what I can tell you about El tiempo entre costuras:  it’s written for an advanced Spanish reader, or a high-intermediate reader who is ready to hunker down with a dictionary by her side.  The prose is fluid and suspenseful.  So many times I found myself in bed reading only to come to a bombshell at the end of a chapter which compelled me to keep reading.  So many nights I told myself, Well,  just one more chapter, and that turned into two or three more until my husband finally rolled over, and ordered my reading lamp off, and my head to the pillow!

Sira meets an interesting character named Candelaria in Tetuán who is purported to be of Andalucían heritage.  I consider myself a very advanced reader, but even I had to break out my dictionary to decipher what the heck Candelaria was saying half the time.  (It was, however, always very funny!)  Also be sure to look up the meaning of matutera sooner rather than later.  Search for ‘matutero’ and well, it’s the lady version of that.

Antigua estación de tren de Tetuán by Jaro Varga
The old train station in Tetuán.     “Antigua estación de tren de Tetuán” by Jaro Varga (DSCF4174.JPG) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The author María Dueñas is a longtime professor of English literature at a university in Spain, so I really loved the way she interspersed little bits of English into the speech of her British characters.  They felt really well-drawn, and well, real.  Toward the end of this post there’s a great author video with her.  I hope one day I speak Spanish as well as she speaks English! 🙂

María Dueñas
Author María Dueñas. “Maria Dueñas 01” by Averater (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wait, some of these people are real?

I do have to tell you I was flabbergasted to get to the end of El tiempo entre costuras before realizing that the incredible tale I’d just devoured was not only a fabulous read, but a meticulously researched work of historical fiction!

Despite having the basics of the Spanish Civil War down (rough dates, central conflict, and which regions and factions pertained to which cause) I know very few of the names of the people involved (other than the Caudillo, of course) and so I had no clue that so many of the people portrayed in the book were actually real-life people!

It’s hard for me to imagine writing a novel, let alone undertaking a years-long research project beforehand to aid in the endeavor.

Súñer en Alemania by Bundesarchiv, Bild 121-1010 / CC-BY-SA [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
Ramón Serrano Súñer, A Spanish Francoist politician, visits Nazi Germany in 1940. “Súñer en Alemania” by Bundesarchiv, Bild 121-1010 / CC-BY-SA [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
So if you are looking for a challenging and entertaining read, pick up El tiempo entre costuras
which roughly and literally translates to a clumsy-sounding The Time Between Sewing Projects.  You can see why the English title was shortened to The Time In Between

My stepmother doesn’t speak Spanish, but she’s a voracious reader, so I’m thinking of picking up the English version for her for her as a gift.

Para que sepas, these are affiliate links…

If you decide to purchase the book, please know the links on my page are Amazon affiliate links, and I may receive a small percentage of the sale.  However, I’ve decided to write about El tiempo entre costuras because I love it.  No one has asked me to write about it nor am I receiving any other compensation for writing about it.

Sin embargo, it would be nice to get one sale from a link so Amazon doesn’t kick me out of their program again, haha!  I didn’t realize that you have to have a sale within 180 days of opening an account or you get the boot.  So I signed up again.  Wish me luck!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *