June Book of the Month: “Miss Timmins’ School for Girls” by Nayana Currimbhoy

Miss Timmins School for Girls, by Nayana Currimbhoy. 512 pages. Harper Paperbacks. June 21, 2011. ISBN: 0061997749. List price: $14.99.

Miss Timmins School for Girls, by Nayana Currimbhoy. 512 pages. Harper Paperbacks. June 21, 2011. ISBN: 0061997749. List price: $14.99.

A good movie will suck you in, allowing you to walk side-by-side with its characters and to be privy to their most private moments. “Miss Timmins’ School for Girls,” the shocking first novel from newcomer Nayana Currimbhoy, is that and more. While a movie lets you hear everything going on in front of you, Currimbhoy presents her tale in surround sound.

Take it from someone who is generally unimpressed by whodunits, “Miss Timmins’” is a mystery worth tackling. Presented from different perspectives and with unexpected flashbacks, the plot is sophisticated in its complexity. As the rarely true adage goes: You think you know, but you have no idea.

The incredible thing about this narrative is how Currimbhoy makes in-your-face social commentary feel subtle. From gender, race and familial relations to religion and sexuality, there are few stones left unturned. The magic, then, is in how the reader never feels like he or she is reading yet another feminist manifesto. Rather, “Miss Timmins’” feels, through and through, like a mystery whose characters are nearby but whose solution is just out of reach.

For a novel covering so many heavy topics, not least of which is murder, I commend Currimbhoy on leaving the reader undisturbed. Yes, there are shocking and distasteful elements (depending on your comfort level with drugs, sex and killing people) but nothing to leave you haunted.

Reading without expectations can be beautiful, and I urge those who approach this book to do so without knowing the plot details. That it’s a controversial mystery should be enough to get you in. Just let the twists and search for truth coax you through the rest.

Amina Elahi is Divanee.com’s Managing Editor. She maintains a Tumblr called Fontastic.