Exceptional EA’s Bookshelf – The Time In Between

The Time In Between - Duenas, MariaAre you one of the untold assistants who love to carve out time to read for pleasure? During some down time at a conference early last month, conversation turned to recent reads, resulting in enthusiastic exchanges of titles, including my recommendation of a 2009 novel originally published in Spain under the title Costuras.

Between this and readers’ reactions to the article I wrote about Susan Cain’s Quiet, it occurred to me that the assistants and others who turn to Exceptional EA may be interested in word of this and other reads. With this in mind, today’s article launchesa new feature, The Exceptional EA’s Bookshelf.

Maria Duenas nabbed my attention with her opening sentence, “A typewriter shattered my destiny”, and didn’t let go. The Time In Between, also released under the title The Seamstress, is one of those fat (600+ pages) historical fiction novels that will have you alternately looking forward to and regretting reaching the final chapters.

Despite the opening line, this is not the story of a career typist or administrator. Duenas’ protaganist, Sira Quiroga, is born in 1911 Madrid – a time when France’s Belle Époque, or “Beautiful Era”, is drawing to a close. Her early years, which suggest that she will live the quiet life of a seamstress, span the Great War that came to be known as World War I. As she matures and Spain edges closer to civil war, Sira’s choices shatter her early patterns and prospects for normalcy or routine.


If you’ve been longing for a read that will pull you back to the simplicity of the 20th century, this is not the book for you. If you’d like a rich dive into fashion, romance, espionage and the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War and World War II, with intriguing twists and forays from Spain to the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco, you may already be planning your stop at the library or bookstore.

Duenas, a professer at Spain’s University of Murcia (Universidad de Murcia), holds a PhD in English philology, the study of language and how languages and words develop. An academic who taught for 20 years before publishing this debut novel, Duenas has subsequently been on sabbatical and published her second novel, Misión Olvido (Mission: Oblivion).

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