“A typewriter shattered my destiny.”
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.