The nicest thing about Nayana Currimbhoy’s book is the period and place in which it is set. A girls’ boarding school in Panchgani, in the seventies. Having studied in a boarding school myself, Miss Timmin’s School for Girls rang true for me—their blue checked uniform, the walking through Panchgani market in a line like a “docile crocodile”; the cough syrup-’n-pickle midnight feasts, and the employing of Marukh Tunty’s massive brassiere as twin caps for the heads of two girls taking part in a lunatic version of the three-legged race.
But there’s a little too much tedious detail, like the blot on Miss Apte’s face—a coin-sized birthmark that can go from nipple pink to livid red to ominous brown. I got tired of it about half way through—especially as the blot didn’t turn out to be particularly integral to the plot. Blot apart, Miss Apte—as the repressed, Maharashtrian ‘wanting woman’ turned bisexual hippie wild child—is compelling, even if you don’t particularly warm to her. I didn’t.
The other teachers and the part-cosy and part-claustrophobic small-town milieu is beautifully done. Miss Timmins’ School For Girls possesses a lovely gothic quality which keeps you hooked till the end, even if the plot is somewhat reminiscent of many boarding school murder stories—the one I’ve read most recently being Jaishree Mishra’s Secrets and Lies.