Sunday 5 June 2011

Miss Timmins' School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy

India, 1974.  Miss Timmins' School for Girls is a throwback from the British colonial days; now Indian parents send their children there for a British style boarding education.  Charulata Apte is a new teacher at the school and must find her own path away from the safety of her family home.  Just as she starts finding her feet, a teacher she has befriended is murdered and suspicion falls on various members of the community.

This book was much broader in scope than I had anticipated.  I expected a who-dunnit set in India but it was so much more - it was truly a coming of age novel, as Charu deals with sexuality, the role of women, becoming an effective teacher, relationships and subtle prejudices.

The novel is split into three broad sections.  The first is narrated by Charu as she settles into the school, the second by a pupil, Nandita, in the immediate aftermath of the murder, and the final by Charu again as the truth comes out.  In my opinion the first section was the best.   As a teacher myself, I enjoyed the way Currimbhoy wrote honestly about the challenges of teaching and I liked the boarding school setting (it took me back to my Enid Blyton days!).  I also though Currimbhoy wrote the relationships between Charu, the other teachers, her family and the pupils realistically, with emotional depth.

However as the book went on, the writing became a bit meandering and it seemed to lose focus.  The same scenes were dwelled on by different characters, which became a bit repetitive. There was a clever twist at the end (I didn't manage to guess the murderer), but the book could have been edited down to make the final sections pacier and more engaging.  The secondary 'mystery' of Charu's parents' background was almost more interesting to me than the primary mystery of who killed the teacher.

Verdict: Good debut novel by a talented writer.
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Publisher: Harper Collins
Available: 21st June 2011
Score: 3.5 out of 5


  1. I don't read alot of murder mysteries; I had thought this one might appeal to me because I like the locale and the boarding school setting. After reading your informative review, I think I'll pass.

  2. @TheBookGirl
    I think this would be a good introduction for someone who doesn't read murder mysteries, although I did prefer the other parts of the book. The locations and setting were the main reasons I requested it!

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