This hefty tome is written by Maria Dueñas and translated by Daniel Hahn. It tells the story of Sira Quiroga, a young Spanish girl living in Madrid with her single seamstress mother. Sira becomes an accomplished seamstress and affianced to a nice young man. Instead, she runs away with a man who excites her. They live a grand life in colonial Morocco, until she gets pregnant and he gets in over his head. Then the cad leaves her, taking all her money, leaving her responsible for his debts. Worse still, she can't go home; the Spanish civil war has closed all borders. She opens an atelier to support herself with the help of a new friend. She reinvents herself to appeal to her clients. As a result, she makes powerful friends among those clients. She manages to get her mother out of war-torn Spain. Later, some of these same friends approach her with a proposal: open an atelier in Franco's Madrid to serve the many German ladies there. As a spy for British interests, she would be well placed to hear what those ladies' Nazi husbands were up to. The goal is to keep Spain from entering World War II on the side of the Axis. (Gibraltar is key, I believe, though that was never stated emphatically.) Sira is sceptical, her mother, who has been through a war, convinces her to do it. She has a gift for it.
A good editor would not have been amiss here. The timing dragged occasionally. I have found this to be true of other "international bestsellers" I've read before though. Perhaps the writing is not expected to be tight. There is more patience for the quotidian in the life of a character. This novel is a fine blend of historical and fiction; quite well researched. Altogether, a good read if you've got some time. A great read if you're interested in the era.