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Review: The Time in Between by Maria Duenas

[ 7 ] December 6, 2011 |

Reviewed by Alisha Churbe

The Time In Between is a recollection told by Sira Quiroga that begins and ends in Madrid, Spain. Her fate and adventures take her on an expedition through war torn Europe during the late 1930s. World War II is very much in the works and the Spanish Civil War rolls on.

I never imagined a story of a dressmaker during war times could keep my attention. The Time In Between is loaded with political and historical details, but the story only rarely slows from it’s breathtaking pace. Some of the historical details tend to slow the story down and many could be cut a bit shorter, but don’t let that deter you. This novel will take you back in time and let you experience the tales of risks and survival. The countries Sira visits and resides in, along with the characters you meet are very real, and many of them will stay with you long after the end.

On the back cover of this edition, the book summary mentions that The Time In Between has, “the storytelling power of The Name of the Wind” (by Patrick Rothfuss). In the end, I would have to agree with this statement.

In the beginning, I was disappointed that The Time In Between was not told using the same narrative structure, but it is quite similar. The Time In Between is much more grounded in history than the fantastic world of The Name of the Wind. It is also important to note that while Sira experiences a lot, takes risks, and ends up in danger, her story is much more of a curve upward. The ending seems abrupt, but it’s perfect. It leaves so much left to know, to ponder (a sequel, perhaps?), but it really couldn’t have happened any other way or it could have felt contrived or implausible.

The Time In Between is a twist on the normal coming of age stories. In the beginning, Sira is young, a daughter of a single mother, working as an assistant to her mother and Dona Manuela, running errands and sweeping floors. Duenas moves quickly through this portion of Sira’s life and gets us to the moments that shape her fate and send Sira on her adventures. In the end, she’s evolved into a strong-willed, charming and, at moments, quite cunning woman.

We travel with Sira through tough times, happy moments, loneliness, and true bliss. She breaks out of the life that is laid out before her and fights (sometimes unwillingly) to create a life of her own. She grows from a confused teenager into a woman who knows what she wants and in many ways, how to obtain it. She takes extreme risks, and some moments of The Time In Between will have you hanging on every word. I enjoyed this novel and look forward to future offerings from Maria Duenas.

Rating: 4/5

Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Atria Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Category: Contemporary, Genre Fiction, Historical, Literary, Literature & Fiction, War

Comments (7)

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  1. 3
    Carol Wong says:

    This book is exactly what I love to read. Like Colleen, I haven’t read a book set during WWII and set in Spain before.

    What I do when the book is a translation is to read the first few pages on and then I know if is very readable or not. It is. I have it on my wish list already. It is a hefty read but it is one that would love to read.

    The odd thing is that I am fasinated by historical fiction that involve dressmaking. That may be because my mother was an amazing seamtress and I love the details of dressmaking.

    If the ending does not seem complete, why not ask the author if there are plans to write more? If that is not possible, how about creating a more complete ending in your imagination?

    Carol Wong

  2. 2
    techeditor says:

    This writeup sounds like the reviewer rated the book a 5. But she gave it 4. I wonder why.

    I’m not anxious to read this book because I was under the impression that it is a translation. Translations never come across favorably to me. But am I wrong? Was this book originally written in English?

    • 2.1
      Vera says:

      It is a translation
      Vera recently posted..25 Days of Great Books

    • 2.2
      Vera says:

      In response to your question, here’s what Alisha had to say:

      I forgot to comment on the translation, because honestly, it was very well written to the point that you can’t notice and I honestly forgot it was a translation.

      That said, I rated the book a four for a few reasons. While over all I felt satisfied with the read as a whole and it was worth it, there were times where the narrative stalled for historical facts. I go in for the story, so this slowed me down. Some people love historical facts and will eat them up, they were organized and well described. Another reason is that (pseudo spoiler here), after her initial “bad” luck, things kept getting better for her. The writer would build up tension then write it off because everything was ok. I didn’t buy that someone in such a dangerous position could have so many bad things “almost” happen to her, without significant setbacks. This may not be apparent or bothersome for others. And lastly, I have read better books, I couldn’t rate this book higher than forgotten waltz or state of wonder, because I honestly feel they are the better reads.

      Hope that helps.

      • 2.2.1
        techeditor says:

        What a great explanation! Thanks.

        When I write a review and rate the book 4, most often the reason is because, although the book was very good, I couldn’t rate it 5 because I rated truly great books a 5.


    • 2.3
      techeditor says:

      I did read this, after all, because my mother thought it was wonderful. I thought it was a nice story. As historical fiction this book excels.

      But THE TIME IN BETWEEN disappointed me because it was so predictable. I could predict everything that happened. And I don’t mean just the historical facts. Everything that happened to Sira, every mess she got into, I could predict. At least, that’s the way it seemed to me. My mother disagrees.

  3. 1
    Colleen Turner says:

    This sounds really good! I have read a few different books set in WWII but none that took place in Spain. It would be refreshing to find out how the war affected this part of the world. The open ending might annoy me, though, unless I was sure there was a sequel coming (I hate books without resolutions if no sequel is expected). It is definitely worth giving a try. Thanks for the review!

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