Friday, September 30, 2011

The Slices of Past

Book Review: Fiction/ Miss Timmins’ School of Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy, Harper Collins/2011, 496 pp; Rs399 {Paperback}, ISBN 978-93-5029-073-6
Nayana’s literary debut is promising, her book easily reveals it. She went to all girls Convent school in India and in over the years, she kept her memories vivid and scrimped those intense personal treasure for her literary foray with Miss Timmins’s School for Girls. As normally happens with expats, their belongingness grow for the place of origin though such feelings rarely routes into serious literary fiction. But with Nayana, such myths have backyarded with profound narration and very intense intertwining with the series of events and scenes of life.

Miss Timmins’s School of Girls narrates the story of young Charu with strong individual characteristics, remarkably amidst the eventful collective surroundings. She hails from a traditional family background; usually it refers to the reality of India’s non-metropolis urban spaces. She moves to an Anglo Missionaries school with upward aspirations, that’s also a commonly prevailing in modern India. Here, in the course of adaptation with British colonial tantrums of public school, such as rock “n” roll {not awkward here}, drugs {not obscene here}, free love philosophy {way of life here}, Charu overtures with an absurd nostalgia of Britain’s crumbling signs of colonialism. Alas, in 1970s, novel depicts such scene albeit still many public schools in India nurtures similar complex among its students which we often see in roaring at public spaces when someone from Doon or Stephens announces, the word “dichotomous” is strictly patented for them and their elite tribes! Will they ever heed to the truths?

Until Charu started moving with normalcy, thrills suddenly reaches to the crest and at dangerous level…in a dark havocking monsoon night, a teacher is murdered and her world changes forever. She finds herself falsely implicated; rest is her struggle to prove herself out of offence. She finally succeeds but not without meeting the worst of suffering that world offers to a person in deep trouble. The best this is, this novel hardly has any popular tone, so there is not even a distant chance to be get it called a thriller. Interpretations of every covert component of events have given proper space within the framework of story. Nayana must be a happy author, as after writing such a detailed fiction can be remain carefree from the critics who will be never afford to ignore the intrinsic literary puts on the pages.

Where originality of work is the major strength, it becomes hard to see it in comparison with the other contemporary works. In recent times, many books have been written in popular literature with centralizing the elite professional institutions but barely could we see an entire novel centered on a Missionaries school. May be, this trend is co-related to India’s own resilience as a stable democracy and vibrant economy that outgrowing the imposed eliticism of erstwhile universally accepted schools. World is open now, so obviously the realm of ideas; nevertheless, distinct and offbeat experiences still have many takers. Sometime in the utter fantasies but mostly in nostalgic possession. Nayana has woven the plot for her novel with a rare mix of insider’s lucid accounts {life inside the walls of closely monitored old type Public schools} and the natural sarcasm that refers for a free life out of false and sinful cosmopolitanism!

Reckoning history, personal or collective, timid or buoyant always gives an edge over the state of not knowing the past. Sixty four years on of India’s independence, still our “tryst with destiny” is in progress but unfortunately level of struggle is perilously unequal and divided in hierarchies now. Every day passes, meaning of this nation differentiated for the different segments …either in soft tone or in candid expression, if literary writings are touching those issues that means sentiments are not completely dried out. Like this novel, looking on lives of schools or any other collective conditions profusely allow an author to delve with the broader realities of time besides searching personal world. Up to the end, this book is pleasantly readable…among the best entries in fiction this year, Miss Timmins’ School of Girls should be considered for the top slot. Indian literary writing in English has grown richer with this debut novel of Nayana…!
Atul Kumar Thakur
September 30, 2011, Friday, New Delhi


  1. hey!!!!!!!!!! it's really good and interesting..Varsha Singh

  2. Hi Atul,

    I came across your blog which is pretty impressive with the amount of reviews that are being posted.Good job. The book reviews are great and I have something in my mind which I have to share with you. I would like to introduce myself as a Chennai based writer with three young novels in my kitty. Now and then I have been looking for honest reviews and I am wondering if I can get reviews from you as well. Could you please send me your postal address so that I can send copies of my books to you?
    Awaiting your reply.


    Chital Mehta

  3. Nice once again..
    Ruchita Misra, Author/TheIn EligibleBachelors]