I’ve had my share of rough times while abroad in Spain – tearfully attempting to explain my vivid yellow diarrhea to doctors who openly mocked me after spending a horrific night hallucinating on the toilet; being guilted into eating ham that was sliced off a pig leg in our pantry – a pig leg that that was still covered in a fine coating of PIG HAIR, mind you; eating what can I only assume what was a bowl of sea creatures and worms which my house-mom masqueraded as “pasta;” I’ve even had to see my house-mom’s cleaning lady naked….and well, my house-mom parading about in her birthday suit too for that matter… and those are sights that I can NEVER unsee. But at least I didn’t wake up in a hospital bed in Morocco after the typewriter salesman I fled Spain with disappeared with my fortune, leaving me high and dry with an unborn baby and an unpaid hotel bill for thousands of dollars. Of course my house-mom in not so many words banned me from visiting Morocco… so maybe she saved me some trouble. Thanks for that María Jose. But anyway, that is the situation we find our main character Sira in shortly after beginning The Time In Between by María Dueñas.
And it only gets better from there (better from an entertainment perspective of course, it actually gets a little worse for Sira).
This book is everything I hoped the Devil in the White City would be – in other words, based on history but not rigidly bound to the cold hard facts. Dueñas seamlessly interweaved the real with the imaginary in creating the fictitious Sira and her relationships with a number of key figures who actually existed in Morocco and Spain during World War II. It’s the best of both worlds – Dueñas was able to take some artistic liberties while still being true to the personalities of the real characters and the general chain of events than unfolded during and after the Spanish Civil War. For me, straight up history can be a hard pill to swallow, and if a little bit of fiction helps it go down easier, I’m more than ok with that.
The Time in Between had a great many elements from my literary love list – mystery, romance, gossipy women, heartbreak, SPAIN, Portugal, danger, WWII, espionage, and a strong female lead (even if Sira didn’t necessarily start out that way). Despite it’s length (over 600 pages, at least on my nook) it never felt slow or boring in the least, and I had a hard time putting it down for very long at a time. Sadly, this is the twenty-year veteran of teaching Dueñas’ first novel, and given that it was the end result of her wanting to do something “new” for a change, who knows if we will be privy to any more of her masterful writing in the future. I guess I will just have to busy myself with reading the Spanish version of this book (which is the language in which the book was originally written) in the meantime, while I wait on the edge of my seat for any potential future works from her. This gives her a lot of time to come up with something good, because lets be honest, it will probably take me 15+ years to read the novel in Spanish, given that the meager abilities I once had have withered from years of neglect and disuse. And so I will end with a simple request to the author: ¡Más por favor!
Final Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars