Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Boop's Bookshelf: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie checks off 'A book set in high school' in my 2015 reading challenge

The Author

Muriel Spark was a award winning Scottish novelist. She wrote several short stories, plays, poems, novels and biographies. She had several titles and honors awarded to her through her lifetime. She has written pieces for the BBC, and lived in several countries through her life. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is the best known of Spark's works.


This short story centers around a Miss Jean Brodie and her exclusively selected group of students at the school she teaches at. The relationship between her and her students is a special one - though that may not be a good thing. Miss Brodie is in the prime of her life and she shares her experiences with her students, while subtly shaping them into miniature versions of herself. Brodie's teaching methods are looked down on by the school's headmistress, who invariably tries to intervene with Brodies' 'set' and gain a reason to dismiss Miss Brodie. Through a love triangle and increasingly manipulative behaviour, one of the girls eventually betrays Brodie to the headmistress, handing her the tools to bring her down. However, Miss Brodie never finds out who that was.

My Thoughts

While reading this, it was difficult to keep track of which girl was which. This was exacerbated by the chapters jumping around in time through the time that the girls knew Miss Brodie. At the beginning I felt that Miss Brodie was a forward-thinking, liberal teacher who is being stifled by the traditionalist headmistress. However, as the story progressed and the power Brodie holds over the girls is abused, I felt that she was much more ominous and her views more dangerous. I mean...I hate to lay down a spoiler, but at one point she says that she was in Germany and she thinks Hitler's regime is a good thing...

She was more than a little obsessed with fascism and she pushed that onto her 'set'. She more or less turns these girls into her very own fascist group, and they hung from her every word. She specifically chose the girls in her set because their parents were disinterested or too naive to intervene in her relationship with them. All a bit ominous and it made me feel a little uncomfortable.

On the positive side of that, my reaction to the manipulative Miss Brodie is the result of good writing. I felt genuine emotion towards Miss Brodie, even if the feelings weren't all positive. It is a well written novel, however I didn't particularly enjoy the story. Then again that could just be because there was a lot about fascism that I didn't understand...

My Rating:
3 stars

Good writing, didn't like the story quite so much...