The Time In Between
From Gone with the Wind to The Thorn Birds, the romantic epic is a tried-and-true favorite, invariably set during a tumultuous period in history, with a heroine, and hero, overcoming spectacular odds to consummate their passion. In María Dueñas’s The Time in Between, some of these motifs come into play: a naïve seamstress named Sira falls in love and finds herself a victim of vicissitudes beyond her control, cast adrift in the Spanish protectorate of Morocco on the eve of the Spanish Civil War. Here, she’s forced to reinvent herself as a mysterious couturiere, abetted by a cast of eccentric friends, including a redoubtable black-marketeering landlady and stylish Englishwoman who happens to be the mistress of a high-ranking official.
But this is where the familiar ends. In her heroine, Dueñas has crafted a refreshingly ordinary woman who rises to the challenge of a world plunging into darkness. She’s clever but not infallible, and her driving ambition isn’t to get her man but to seize control of her fate. With her native Spain devastated and Europe overshadowed by the threat of Nazi supremacy, Sira discovers that her past isn’t so easy to escape when she’s drawn into an espionage ring that sends her back to shell-shocked Madrid, where the Nazis exploit the new regime’s Fascist sensibilities. Here, she undertakes a mission that could prove her undoing, returning to the world she left behind, to face old ghosts and new foes.
Narrated in elegant prose, set in a time rarely explored – that of the aftermath of Spain’s civil war and Franco’s underhanded dealings with Germany – The Time in Between is a romantic epic for a new age, in which love, when it arrives, cannot be fulfilled without freedom.