Fabulous Fiction Firsts #306
Already an international bestseller Maria Duenas' The Time in Between * * (translated from the Spanish by Daniel Hahn) is the inspiring, richly textured story of a seemingly ordinary woman who uses her talent and courage to transform herself first into a prestigious couturier and then into an undercover agent for the Allies during World War II. (This title is also available in the original Spanish language).
At age twelve, Sira Quiroga sweeps the atelier floors where her single mother works as a seamstress. At fourteen, she quietly begins her own apprenticeship. By her early twenties she has learned the ropes of the business and is engaged to a modest government clerk. With the Spanish Civil War brewing in Madrid, Sira impetuously following her handsome lover to Morocco, only to be abandoned and penniless. Sira reinvents herself by turning to the one skill that can save her: her gift for creating beautiful clothes.
As WWII looms, Sira is persuaded by the British Government to return to Madrid, where she takes on a new identity, and embarks on the most dangerous undertaking of her career - as a spy. Being the preeminent couturier for an eager clientele of Nazi officers' wives, Sira is able to navigate within the world of espionage and political conspiracy rife with love, intrigue, and betrayal.
"(F)lawlessly researched, and breathlessly paced... this debut novel captures the beauty and decadence of pre-WWII Europe".
Anyone with an interest in the world of fashion and the life of Coco Chanel will find this fascinating.
If you like the smooth blend of romantic fiction, spy thriller, and sassy heroines, then I would like to suggest Susan Isaacs' Shining Through (1988), Signed, Mata Hari (2007) by Yannick Murphy, and A Game of Lies by Rebecca Cantrell (2011).
* * = starred reviews