The inspiring international bestseller 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.
Between Youth and Adulthood…
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. But everything changes when two charismatic men burst unexpectedly into her neatly mapped-out life: an attractive salesman and the father she never knew.
Between War and Peace…
With the Spanish Civil War brewing in Madrid, Sira leaves her mother and her fiancé, impetuously following her handsome lover to Morocco. However, she soon finds herself abandoned, penniless, and heartbroken in an exotic land. Among the odd collection of European expatriates trapped there by the worsening political situation back on the Continent, Sira reinvents herself by turning to the one skill that can save her: her gift for creating beautiful clothes.
Between Love and Duty…
As England, Germany, and the other great powers launch into the dire conflict of World War II, Sira is persuaded to return to Madrid, where she takes on a new identity to embark upon the most dangerous undertaking of her career. As the preeminent couturier for an eager clientele of Nazi officers’ wives, Sira becomes embroiled in the half-lit world of espionage and political conspiracy rife with love, intrigue, and betrayal.
An outstanding success around the world, The Time in Between has sold more than two million copies and inspired the Spanish television series based on the book, dubbed by the media as the “Spanish Downton Abbey.” In the US it was a critical and commercial hit, and a New York Times bestseller in paperback. It is one of those rare, richly textured novels that enthrall down to the last page. María Dueñas reminds us how it feels to be swept away by a masterful storyteller.
This reading group guide forThe Time in Betweenincludes an introduction and discussion questions for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
The Time in Between by Maria Dueñas is an international bestseller that spans the Spanish Civil War to World War II. This beautifully spun novel tells the story of a seamstress who rises to become the most sought-after couturiere and an undercover spy who passes information about the Nazi regime to the British Secret Service through a secret code stitched into the hems of her dresses. TheShadow of the Wind meets Casablanca in this sweeping and artfully crafted debut
TOPICS & QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. The first sentence of the book, “A typewriter shattered my destiny” is an example of the author’s use of foreshadowing of future events. Were you immediately drawn into the story? Were you curious to know whose destiny was shattered and why?
2. What's Sira's relationship with her mother like at the outset of The Time in Between? In what ways does it change throughout the course of the story? Do you think that Sira becomes engaged because she's really in love, or because of pressure from her mother? And, is it her humble beginnings, naiveté, or something more that lures Sira into an affair with Ramiro? Can you think of other protagonists who were led astray by a charming older man?
3. Discuss what role heartbreak plays in The Time in Between. How does it change Sira? Do you think it ultimately makes her stronger? Why or why not?
4. Sira is a couture designer who was born on June 8, 1911. The story ends in the early 1940s. Discuss how the world of fashion and Sira changed with the political situation of the time (see pgs.7, 143, 155).
5. What do you think of Candelaria and Dolores? How did each of these women influence Sira’s life and future choices?
6. Discuss the characters that Sira encounters in Candeleria's boarding house. What do you think of their interactions over the supper table? Does your opinion of Candelaria change throughout the novel? If so, why?
7. Who is Commissioner Claudio Vazquez? Was he friend, foe, or both to Sira?
8. How did the author give us insight into the political situation in Madrid and Morocco during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s and early World War II?
9. Felix is Sira’s Pygmalion. How did their unlikely friendship benefit each of them?
10. Discuss the many ways Sira re-invented herself. How was Sira Quiroga different from Arish Agoriuq?
11. Rosalinda Fox says to Sira on page 197, “Sometimes luck decides to make our decisions for us, no? Asi es la vida. That’s life, no?” Do you agree with that statement? Discuss how luck may have played a role in each of their lives.
12. How would you characterize Rosalind Fox? Does knowing that she's real affect your reading of her? How realistic does she seem to you?
13. Why is Sira so reticent about Marcus? What did you think about the revelations they each made about the other at the end?
14. Sira does extraordinary things throughout The Time in Between. Does this make her a heroine? Or, is she simply acting based on circumstances?
15. Like Sira, many of the other characters in The Time in Between take risks, particularly because of the wars. Which ones did you think were the most dangerous? Why? What do you think the title of the book signifies?
16. How would you cast the movie version of The Time in Between? Who would play the role of Sira? Marcus Logan? Ramiro Arribas?
17. Maria Duenas is an academic. Does knowing this influence your reading of the story? If so, in what ways?
A NOTE ABOUT THE GUIDE
The guide for The Time in Between was created through the participation of various reading groups, who read and reviewed the book and submitted questions. Are there questions that you would have included had you been writing the guide? What would you have asked?
María Dueñas holds a PhD in English philology. After two decades in academia, she broke onto the literary scene in 2009 with the publication of the New York Times bestselling novel The Time in Between, followed by The Heart Has Its Reasons in 2012. Both novels became international bestsellers and have been translated into thirty-five languages. The television adaptation of The Time in Between earned critical and international acclaim. The Vineyard is her third novel.