Sunday, June 26, 2011

Miss Timmins’ School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy — 512 pgs

Miss Timmins' School for Girls: A NovelWhen young Charulata Apte is sent to Miss Timmins’ School for Girls as a new teacher, she is sheltered, shy and reclusive. Believing herself to be disfigured by a birthmark on her face, Charu spends a lot of her time fading into the background and observing the world from behind her dark curtain of hair. Navigating her way among the other teachers and students, Charu is suddenly swept up into a curious relationship with one of the more unconventional and wayward teachers, Ms. Moira Prince, and this relationship begins to change the reserved and quiet Charu in ways that no one can imagine. But when Moira is murdered and rumors fly through the school, Charu finds herself at the center of a controversy regarding Ms. Prince. Added to this mysterious murder is Charu’s new and unpredictable relationship with a man named Merch and the wayward drifters he spends time with, and Charu’s increasingly difficult relationship with her parents, whose hidden secrets have finally burst forth in destructive and powerful ways. In this novel of India during the 1970s, one year of boarding school mayhem and an unexpected murder is examined through the myopic lens of those who reside inside Miss Timmins’ School for Girls and the surrounding area.

I have to admit that I had a really hard time with this book for a lot of reasons. Normally I love books set in and around India, and the time period the book took place in was also a boon for me. But for some reason, the amalgamation of all these elements coupled with the plot and characters just didn’t work for me. It all came across as sort of a jumble, and I was glad to have finally turned the last page and called it quits. Stylistically, I felt this book had a lot in common with The God of Small Things, which is another read that although beloved by others, just didn’t work for me.

One of the main problems I had with the book was the sheer overabundance of characters. Each was given a brief description and then sort of disappeared from view for a while until they would make their second and third appearance and I would have forgotten every description I had read earlier. They were all just so amorphous and fuzzy, these many characters, and for some reason even the characters that weren’t given short shrift lacked subtle definition. The one character I felt that I got to know well was the protagonist, Charu, and what I knew of her, I liked. I thought her moral and mental indecision was very realistic and I grew invested in finding out what would eventually happen to her. Unfortunately, the other characters just didn’t stick with me and I was unable to form any type of connection with them, which made me feel curiously detached from the story.

I also had a problem with the plot, or really, the lack of it. I can only assume this book was meant to be a character study of Charu, because the murder of Ms. Prince was literally the only thing that happened here, and it was examined from so many angles and garnished with so many rumors that I quickly became exhausted with it. How many times can you go around and around about the same plot point without it becoming tedious? I grew to resent the fact that this crime was so all-inclusive and important to the story, and felt that the author was beating the reader over the head with the significance, repercussions and nuances of the murder. At a certain point, I didn’t care anymore, and the more it was harped on, the more I felt like I just wanted to close the book and be done with it. One significant plot point does not a book make, and though the writing was elegant and lush, I found myself becoming ever more frustrated with the way the book kept circling the same events over and over again. This is not to say that the murder was the only thing that happened in the book, but that it was the focal point for too long in in too many ways. I would have liked to have learned more about Charu and her family, or possibly have seen more information about the townsfolk that populated the area.

There were some aspects of the book that I did like even though most of it didn’t work for me. I liked the atmosphere of 1970s India during the monsoons and felt that the book drew a lot of tension and ambiance from the setting, which was pitch perfect. I also really adored the protagonist, Charu, and felt her fears and worries were very credible and understandable. The prose was tightly and expertly crafted, and I found certain sections of the book to be written with a very solid and artistic style. If not for the other problems I had with the plot and characters, this probably would have made for a tremendous reading experience for me. I can imagine that I’m probably going to be in the minority with my opinions on this book, which is fine with me, but I feel like the book could have been so much more with just a little bit of careful editing and trimming of fat.

Though I wasn’t overly fond of this book, it did have its moments and I can imagine that there are many readers out there who might like it. In spite of the difficulties I had with it, there are some scenes that stick in my mind and that I know will be hard to forget. I think this book will end up being very polarizing, with two camps forming between love and hate, and while I wouldn’t exactly say I hated it, I can say that it wasn’t at all what I had been expecting. A dark and mysterious read that although uneven was still haunting.


Author Photo About the Author

Nayana Currimbhoy was raised in India where she attended an all-girls boarding school in a fairly remote hill station. She moved to the U.S. in the early eighties, and has been a businesswoman and a freelance writer. She has written books, film scripts, and articles about many things, including architecture and design, and a biography of India Gandhi. Miss Timmins' School for Girls is her first novel. Nayana lives in New York City with her husband, an architect, and their teenage daughter.

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Tuesday, June 21st:Dolce Bellezza
Wednesday, June 22nd:The Lost Entwife
Thursday, June 23rd:Bookworm’s Dinner
Monday, June 27th:Raging Bibliomania
Tuesday, June 28th:Steph and Tony Investigate
Wednesday, June 29th:Book Journey
Tuesday, July 5th:Life In Review
Wednesday, July 6th:Reading Through Life
Thursday, July 7th:Rundpinne
Monday, July 11th:Alison’s Book Marks
Tuesday, July 12th:The House of the Seven Tails
Wednesday, July 13th:Unabridged Chick


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

23 comments:

Suko said...

The description of this book sounds quite complex. Sorry it didn't work for you. Well-expressed review, as always.

Sandy Nawrot said...

It is nice to have an honest review. It sounded jumbled even before you called it that. Seems maybe it has an identity complex!

Kathy said...

I've been on the fence about this one. I was glad to read your excellent review. Think I'll move it farther down the TBR list.

Amy said...

Sorry to hear this didn't work for you. It sounds like a really interesting book... until you talk about why it didn't work for you and I agree it sounds rather frustrating. Great review!

TheBookGirl said...

Oh I'm so sorry to read that you didn't like this one. I just got it in the mail the other day, and with my resolve to read more books set in India this year, I thought perfect. I respect your opinion, and though I will still read it, I am going into it with lower expectations.

I had a similar experience with a book last year that was a hit with most bloggers, but just didn't do it for me.

Mrs. Q: Book Addict said...

I appreciate honest reviews. The story does sound interesting, I think i'll have to give this one a try.

Steph said...

Oh, I'm so glad you wrote this review! I am hosting it tomorrow on the TLC Tour and have yet to write my review because I have been feeling so lukewarm about this book... A real shame because I was really looking forward to it. Sounded like it had so much potential, and then it just seemed to not really go anywhere interesting for the most part. I kept feeling like I must have been missing something... Glad to know I'm not alone!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have given up on books with too many characters. It seems like the author has too many stories to tell and should write several books instead of just trying to cram them all into one!

Geosi said...

Sorry to read about your frustrations with this book. I doubt if I would go in for this. Wonderful review.

Robin McCormack said...

AT first the story sounded interesting, but your thoughts about it make me realize it isn't a book for me. Sounded like it was trying to be complex with so many characters, but just muddied the waters. Thanks for the honest review.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I'm about 150 pages into this one right now and still on the fence. I really appreciate your honesty though, as I did see one another super positive review of this. I'll just have to wait and see what I think when all is said and done! Great job with the balanced, fair, and honest review.

Anita said...

Wonderful review, one I think I can pass on. I also admit, books over 500 pages intimidate me in some way....I hate to admit it.

heathertlc said...

Darn, I'm sorry this one didn't turn out to be a good read for you. Still, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts for the tour! Hopefully your next read will be a better one.

bermudaonion said...

Sorry to see this didn't work for you, since I had such high hope for it. Too many characters just drives me crazy.

softdrink said...

512 pages is a lotta pages for no plot! That would frustrate me.

Nymeth said...

Sorry to hear this didn't work for you! It does sound a bit slow, especially for a book so long.

Aths said...

I was looking forward to this one for the same reasons as you - set in India, something light, a boarding school setting. But I can see that I'm going to be frustrated with this one! That's just too many pages to study a character. I can feel the exhaustion!

Vasilly said...

You gave a lot of great reasons why this book didn't work for you.I think books that are character studies only work when there's more to go on then just one significant event. Thanks for the honest review.

Aarti said...

It's a bummer this one didn't work out for you :-( It is rough to feel pressured to finish a book for a book tour, and then not even enjoy it!

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

It's hard for me as well to get into a book with to many underwritten characters.

Melissa said...

I've been drawn to this cover, but I don't think this one is for me. My book time is limited and I often forget what happened by the time I pick up my book again. I'm afraid all the characters and the length of this book would really do me in!

Amy said...

I read this book and am reviewing it Monday. I think you review is terrific and I really enjoy it! Although I liked the book more than you (and I'm not quite sure why I did!) I share many of your frustrations with it. I felt like there were 2 or 3 books in this one book. I also felt like, at times, the mystery was the point of the story while at other times Charu was the point. I liked Charu quite a bit, too.
I am interested to see what the author writes next...and how long it is!

Audra said...

Very thoughtful review -- I can completely see your points about the murder -- I'm of two minds about the middle part, with the school girls. That was the weakest part, I suppose, because it took me out of Charu's mind -- like you, I really connected with her. I enjoyed that middle part immensely but in some ways, we the reader didn't need it to understand the ending.

Post a Comment

 
Blogger Template by Delicious Design Studio