I can’t think of a more wonderful novel to offer in a giveaway to say thank you to all of our amazing followers. We’re very thankful for readers like you! You guys rock, and so we’re giving away one of the best novels we’ve read this year in the simplest giveaway we’ve ever hosted! WooHoo!
I kept seeing a beautiful book cover in publishing industry newsletters and loved its mysterious look. When I read more about the author and the novel, I wanted this book! So when Simon & Schuster’s imprint, Atria Books, held a sweepstakes for a copy of The Time In Between by Maria Duenas, I jumped on it and won! Yay! I literally jumped up and down when it was delivered. The mailman and UPS guy are used to it by now.
The novel is every bit as mysterious and wonderful as the book cover artwork. The Time In Between is already an international bestseller but it is just being released in the U.S. for the first time. If you like historical novels and/or stories about strong women and/or stories about relationships then you are going to love this one! And you might even win it!
Sira was born in 1911. Ever since she can remember, her mother has been an expert dressmaker for Dona Manuela Godina’s atelier in Madrid and her father has only been some mysterious man who already had a family. As a little girl, Sira loved to visit her mother at the shop and always knew she would join her there. In 1923, when she was 12, she begins to apprentice; first by sweeping up and delivering finished clothes to clients and slowly working her way up to more important work. Over time she became almost as accomplished as her mother.
Sira’s entire life has been very sheltered inside the design shop, sewing and preparing fine garments for clients. It’s really all she knows of work and life because by the time she and her mother get home, the day is over and they are too tired to involve themselves in the world outside. She has no idea how other people see her now that she’s developed into a beautiful young woman, who is very naïve about the world and particularly about men.
In 1931, when she’s twenty years old, Sira meets and is courted by Ignacio Montes, a very steady guy who’s studying to become a civil servant in Spanish government. Eventually he passes the rigorous test and becomes a government employee. As they make plans to become married, he encourages her to improve her life as well by studying to take the test since many young women are entering the field as typists. When she agrees, he decides to buy a typewriter for her so she can practice and become proficient.
“A typewriter shattered my destiny. The culprit was a Hispano-Olivetti, and for weeks, a store window kept it from me. Looking back now, from the vantage point of the years gone by, it’s hard to believe a simple mechanical object could have the power to divert the course of an entire life in just four short days, to pulverize the intricate plans on which it was built.”
Unfortunately the person who sells them the typewriter is a very slick, handsome man, Ramiro Arribas, with whom Sira falls madly in love (or lust) at first sight. Ramiro and Sira contrive to have an affair despite her strict upbringing, her guilt over Ignacio, and her upcoming marriage. Ramiro treats her like a princess, showering her with gifts and boosting her fragile self esteem. Eventually she is so smitten, and so tortured by guilt over not feeling the same way for her fiancé, that she breaks off her engagement.
At the same time, despite Sira and her mother’s lack of awareness, things are becoming much more unstable in Spain with Franco’s rise in power and influence. Sira’s absentee father, Gonzalo Alvarado, is so fearful about those developments and his safety that he calls them to his home. It’s the first time Sira has met him and she’s shocked that he’s a wealthy and successful business owner, while they have almost nothing. He and her mother explain to her their relationship, and why there was no contact at her mother’s insistence. Then he shocks them both by bequeathing Sira with a huge sum of money, boxes filled with heirloom jewelry, and documents not only acknowledging her as his daughter but also designed to protect her if her half-siblings contest what he has done.
He advises her to protect herself by not telling anyone about these gifts unless absolutely necessary. Further he asks her to use what he’s given her to ensure both she and her mother are provided for. Lastly he strongly urges them to flee the country as quickly as possible while they’re still able to get out. He really believes his life is in danger, that Spain is rapidly degenerating into war, and that they will not be safe there much longer.
“’Well, my advice is as follows: leave here as soon as possible. Both of you, go far away, the farther from Madrid you can go the better. Out of Spain, if possible. Not into Europe, as the situation there doesn’t look too good either. Go off to America, if that’s too far, to Africa. To Morocco: go to the Protectorate, that’s a good place to live…Start a new life far from this crazy country, because when you least expect it something enormous is going to explode and no one here will be left alive.’”
Sira has no idea what to do with money or jewels, so she gets advice from her lover because he has business experience. He assures her he will put everything in the business safe where it will be protected. He also proposes she invest in a typing school business franchise, which they can set up in Morocco where they’ll be safe. Sira’s mother refuses to leave Madrid or to take any of the money so, despite her fears for her mother, Sira leaves her behind when they flee to Morocco.
Once they’ve been in Tangiers for a short period, Sira notices that Ramiro seems to be meeting quite a few people he’s known before, is partying long into the night with them, and is behaving strangely. There’s no sign of the typing school business approval she expected them to receive or talk of any other venture that would help them become secure. They also haven’t bought or rented a house instead of continuing to stay in a luxurious hotel, which seems odd. Still she has no business experience so she has to rely on Ramiro
Within a few months, she confirms with a doctor that she’s pregnant and can hardly wait to tell Ramiro. When she arrives at their hotel though, she finds he has left her with everything he owns as well as with all of her money and jewels. But what he has left her with is a huge hotel bill and no way to pay it. Her naiveté has resulted in the worst possible situation. She’s a semi-literate young woman stranded alone in a foreign country with no money, a huge debt, a pregnancy, no way to communicate with 9/10 of the population, and she has just been horribly betrayed by the one person she thought loved her and on whom she could rely.
“We’ve been robbed, was the first thing I thought…Just one thought repeated itself in my mind: Ramiro, where is Ramiro? And then my eyes lighted on an envelope on the little nightstand, leaning on the base of the lamp, with my name in capital letters in the vigorous strokes of that handwriting I could have recognized from the far end of the world.”
Now you probably saw this coming. I know I did and I wanted to shake some sense into her back when she met this con artist. But I also recognize that Sira had no perspective or training that could have alerted her to who he really was, and she was in love with the idea of love and with the idea that a man cherished her so much.
What will Sira do? Her problems have only begun. She soon learns from a Moroccan policeman that one of her half-siblings is suing her for the cash her father gave her and has charged her with stealing the jewels. And that’s on top of the hotel, which has charged her with abandoning her bill. She can’t return to Spain without landing in jail, even if the ports weren’t all closed, and the only bargain this fairly sympathetic policeman can make for her is that she has to repay the hotel within one year, and stay out of trouble, or face jail time in Morocco. She sees no way to repay such an exorbitant amount and she’s terrified for her mother’s safety, given the war in Spain. Quite frankly I’m not sure why Sira doesn’t have a nervous breakdown at this point.
How Sira copes with all of these issues makes for an amazing story of courage, strength, determination, persistence, and above all, growth. Her transformation over the course of the novel is amazing! And all of it is set in a very strategic political arena during one of the most turbulent times in European history, the rise of Hitler and the events leading into World War II.
Sira transforms herself not once but several times and I was cheering for her the entire time. Yes, I was very impatient with her in the beginning because she was so naïve; however, I have fallen for someone I shouldn’t have and later thought I was a fool to do so, so I can’t cast any stones because the time she lived in and her life circumstances made her much more sheltered than I was.
The Time In Between kept me spellbound from the first page and I literally could not put it down. I understand completely why it’s a bestseller in Europe. Maria Duenas’ writing paints such vivid portraits of the people, places and events that I felt like I had been transported back in time. Her extensive research makes this novel so realistic that you’ll feel like the Morocco, Spain and Portugal of the mid to late 1930’s are all coming to life before your eyes. Have you figured out yet that I fell in love with this novel? You will too. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The Time In Between was released on November 8, 2011, in the U.S. and is already available in Europe, so it should be available from your favorite bookseller below:
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One lucky reader will win a finished novel of The Time In Between by Maria Duenas!
(Once you’ve entered our giveaway, be sure to check out the approximately 300 other giveaways in this Gratitude Giveaway Hop by using this link list.)
1) The deadline for entries is Sunday night, 11/27/2011, at 11:59pm EST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
2) This giveaway is open to entries with U.S. mailing addresses only because we do not ship books outside of the U.S.
3) You must be at least 18 years old to enter this giveaway.
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