Spy Sira Sews Secrets in “The Time In Between”

“A typewriter shattered my destiny.”

So begins Maria Duenas’ The Time in Between, a 600-page saga chronicling the metamorphosis of a poor Madrid seamstress into stealth, stylish World War II spy.

Sira Quiroga’s life changes quickly when her government clerk fiancée brings her to purchase a typewriter, with the hopes it will provide more status than sewing along side her mother. The charming salesman seduces her to move to Morocco, to escape the Spanish Civil War, and sample an exotic lifestyle. Before she departs, she meets her father, who she’d never known,  who then bequeaths her a hefty inheritance.

Within a short time, her lover squanders the money and abandons Sira.  In debt, she resorts to the one skill she has: dressmaking.  She runs guns to raise the cash to open her shop, which attracts an assortment of expatriates with money to spend.

Among her customers is real-life British spy Rosalinda Fox, who befriends Sira, and convinces her to join the cause. Sira’s salon becomes a gathering place of wealthy Nazi officers’ wives, who chatter and reveal information as they try on dresses and jackets.  Sira transmits these morsels through her sewing patterns, using a reverse Morse-code of dots and dashes that resemble guides for stitches.

Sira, whose name is now, Arish Agoriuq, to make her sound more Moroccan, returns to Madrid to further the espionage.

Romance, travel, intrigue.  I’m not usually a spy- novel type but this kept me turning pages. I loved how sewing became the vehicle for sharing information and was reminded of Dickens’ Madame Defarge, who knit targets of the French Revolution into her garments.

Here are my grandchildren in their hand-knits. No secret messages, no hit list of victims.


About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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4 Responses to Spy Sira Sews Secrets in “The Time In Between”

  1. I just re-read “Tale of Two Cities” earlier this year. I will pick up a copy. The grandchildren are beautiful.


  2. Madeline Taylor says:

    The grandchildren are DELICIOUS! And the knits amazing!
    Mom’s knitting was always a bridge lessening the gap between her and the women in all the third world countries they traveled to. Dad was always the front runner speaking tot the farmers about the lay of the land but because of her knitting, mom was always the one to get the behind-the scenes info. Her knitting was an especially helpful way to form an immediate bond and connect in countries where women were not often seen and less often heard.


  3. Leah says:

    Kids are SO cute! And this book sounds great and right up my ally. The 600 pages scared me at first, but I’ll put it on my wish list.


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