Summer Reading Marathon: Maria Duenas’s EL TIEMPO ENTRE COSTURAS, or, the ultimate in mid-career academic self-reinvention

PortadaReady … get set …. read!

Now I’ve recovered from the marathon that was Julia Navarro’s Dime quien soy, and after a couple of months devoted largely to trashy Edwardian fiction, I’m finally ready to begin the next Project Bestseller marathon read. As promised, my next big Spanish bestseller is María Dueñas’s El tiempo entre costuras (The Time Between Seams).

Since the first edition in June 2009, Dueñas’s novel has barely been out of the bestseller lists. Even in Que Leer’s February 2011 list (the most recent available online at the time of writing), it’s at no. 5 on the overall chart, and no. 3 on the fiction chart, after Javier Sierra’s enthusiastically-promoted El angel perdido (The lost angel, which saw Sierra embark on Spain’s biggest-ever promotional tour) and Federico Moccia’s slightly ickily-promoted Carolina se enamora (Caroline falls in love; original Italian title Amore 14).

Dueñas has been a Professor of English at the Universidad de Murcia in south-east Spain for almost 20 years, which makes her something of a poster-girl for mid-career academic reinvention. In June 2010, she was given two years’ leave to start writing her next novel, which she’s apparently doing at a university in the US. Conveniently, this means she should be on the spot when the English translation appears later this year, as The Time in Between (Simon & Schuster, 8 Nov 2011). Frustratingly, there is no information on the publisher webpage about the translator of the novel, which seems something of a professional diss to whoever’s currently working on it.

And what of the novel itself? I’m only about 50 pages in so far (out of 638), but already I can see that this is going to be a good read. It all begins in 1920s and 1930s Madrid, as the young seamstress Sira Quiroga relates her early life with her single mother, and her meeting with the man who is going to change her life. So far, so formulaic – but the level of writing, the tautness of description, and Sira’s own very likeable narrative voice gives the novel a liveliness and energy which, if it’s sustained, will make this a lively canter rather than a sweaty slog (/marathon metaphors).

Have you read the novel? What did you think of it? And why do you think that of all the historical-memory-civil-war novels currently flooding the Spanish market, it’s this one that has captured Spanish readers’ attention so completely?



  1. bythefirelight · · Reply

    I’m looking forward to your review. We have a copy at home which my partner was reading, but she’s been to busy to finish it so I didn’t get much of a review. I’ve kind of toyed with reading it to try something different and the period interests me any way.

    1. I’m getting along really well with it – so far it’s a great read! Hope to have the review up before too long…

  2. […] up, though, will be my promised review of María Dueñas’s El tiempo entre costuras. Watch this space! Share […]

  3. Daniel Hahn · · Reply

    Hi Kirsty –

    Hope you like the book; I presume you’re reading the Spanish original? For anyone who doesn’t read Spanish, the translation is out in the US in November, then over here early in the New Year, I think. (And I’m the translator – thank you for spotting that they’d neglected a mention!) And a major TV mini-series in Spain in 2012, too…



    1. Dan, hello, and thanks for stopping by. Delighted to know that the translation is in your safe hands – will look out for it in November, for sure. And a mini-series too, how fabulous! Loved the book as a reader, although my academic brain was a bit more critical -am working on the review, so watch this space 🙂

  4. […] As I mentioned back last July, the US edition was out at the end of last year . Not sure why, but the US and UK editions have […]

  5. Myrna Colberg-Lavergne · · Reply

    I enjoyed the spanigh version terribly..///// I know most of the spanish history
    and visited and lived in places mentioned in the book. A well-written and enjoyable novel. My husband is knowlegeable on the spanish civil war and
    helped with places, characters and situations.

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