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December 21, 2011 Edition
Erica and her sister Beth have just inherited their grandmother’s country estate with the stipulation that they actually live at the manor. Privately, Erica is convinced that they won’t be able to – there is something niggling at her that she can’t remember about one of their childhood summers here, or rather, someone – Henry - their cousin. Then, too, there is Beth, whose depression has already had her institutionalized once – it remains to be seen whether living out in the country will help or hurt her. As she wanders the estate, getting to know its winter face, Erica meets an old friend she never expected to see again, but now isn’t sure he ever really was a friend. Interwoven with their story is that of their great-grandmother, Caroline, which carries at the heart of it a betrayal whose repercussions have been unknowingly felt through generations.
Set in the opening days of the Spanish Civil War, this novel follows Sira Quiroga from a young adulthood with a sedate future as a wife and seamstress ahead of her, to a womanhood full of betrayal, seduction, and intrigue. Sira is engaged to a steady and loving man when she meets Ramiro, a slickly handsome typewriter salesman who sweeps her off her feet and introduces her to a completely new life. When he abandons Sira in Morocco, she has to scramble to make ends meet and ends up falling back to the only profession she knows: fashion sewing. It brings her into contact with expatriate women from Europe, and especially Germany, and she is convinced by the British to become a spy for them. The attention to detail she’s developed as a seamstress brings her success at her new job, too, and enables her to hold her own in a constantly-changing world. Long, detailed, and rewarding.