Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

I've had a copy of this book around forever and finally picked it up to read because it's the next selection for the Cornflower Book Group. At under 200 pages, it's really more of a novella, which I finished quite quickly. I enjoyed the book, but it's not what I expected. Since, I'm not exactly sure what I expected, that's not really fair to say.

The book is set in Edinburgh beginning in the years before WWII and continues back and forth in time until 1939. Miss Jean Brodie is an eccentric school mistress at the traditional Marcia Blaine School for Girls. She doesn't associate with the other teachers in the junior school, and she is regarded with suspicion by most everyone at the school, including the head mistress. Miss Brodie ignores the structured curriculum taught by the other teachers and prefers to teach her girls about life, art, and culture mainly through stories about herself. Her ideas on everything from education to religion and sex clash with the majority of the people she comes into contact with.

The story is told in flashbacks and recounts the years of one particular set of her girls known as the Brodie set. Miss Brodie likes to have control over her girls and be involved with their lives inside and outside of school. In fact, it's almost as if she plays God in the girls' lives -- pronouncing who will succeed and who will fail. The girls are loyal to Miss Brodie and support her when she faces attack from the headmistress. However, one of the girls ends up 'betraying' Miss Brodie. At least that's the way Miss Brodie sees it at the time.

The book is humorous at times, and I'm anxious to see how everyone else feels about this book when the discussion takes place on July 12. If you're interested, come on over and join in the discussion.


Andrea said...

This sounds very interesting, I will have to put it on my TBR list. It actually sounds kind of familiar, but I don't think I've read it before!

Lisa said...

andrea, it's one of those books that I think we all hear about so often that we wonder if we've read it or not. There was also a movie version of it.

Danielle said...

The movie version was also very good. I've read this a couple of times and wanted to reread it for Cornflower's group, but I couldn't quite squeeze it in. Miss Brodie would have been a surplus woman after WWI when so many young men died in the war. It's an interesting book and an interesting look at the period!

Lisa said...

danielle, I thought about the fact of the 'surplus women' while reading this book. It's definitely an interesting period.