Monday, 7 May 2012

The Seamstress by Maria Duenas, translated by Daniel Hahn (Historical, Fiction, 9/10E)

April 2012, Viking
615 pages, Hardback
Review copy

Themes: dressmaking, being indebted to someone, closely watched by authorities, spies, life during a war, making mistakes with great consequences, working hard, enjoying work, tangled web of lies, lots of fabric, lots of high peril situations, some humour

Summary from Penguin
In love for the first time, Sira Quiroga leaves Madrid, along with everything she knows and cares about, to run away to Tangiers, Morocco with her lover Ramiro. She entrusts him with all her inheritance only to be left by him - pregnant, penniless and in trouble with the authorities. At her lowest ebb Sira falls back on the one skill she possesses: sewing. 

Moving to Tetouan, Sira survives by sewing beautiful clothes for the English mistress of one of the most powerful men in Morocco and for her German friends. As the women unguardedly gossip about their husbands and lovers, Sira is placed in a position very valuable to the British secret service, and she is soon forced to move to Madrid where great danger lies.

A grand and epic story that tells the story of Spain's civil war, Madrid in the Second World War and reveals a world of war, glamour, espionage and passion.

Nayuleska's thoughts
The moment I saw this book I was desperate to review it. I love anything to do with sewing, adding spying into the mix lured me in. It's a hefty book, but aside from picking it up I never noticed the length. From the first paragraph I was entranced with Sira's trouble filled life. I admired her determination to make the best of the situations she fell into, a determination and strength which grew and put her in a good (or, depending how you look at it bad) stead for spying on the Nazis. The friendships she strikes are at times odd, but their genuinity touched my heart, especially when the friends surprised Sira with kind words/deeds. This gets 9/10E because the political ins and outs didn't always interest me so I sometimes skim read those paragraphs.

Suggested read
For another war time drama check out Margaret Leroy's The Collaborator which puts yet another strong woman on a tightrope with the Nazi occupation.

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