The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: A Novel

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: A Novel

by Muriel Spark


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Now in a special edition marking the 100th anniversary of the author’s birth, Muriel Spark’s classic novel, widely hailed as one of the 20th century’s best.

At the staid Marcia Blaine School for Girls, in Edinburgh, Scotland, teacher extraordinaire Miss Jean Brodie is unmistakably, and outspokenly, in her prime. She is passionate in the application of her unorthodox teaching methods, in her attraction to the married art master, Teddy Lloyd, in her affair with the bachelor music master, Gordon Lowther, and—most important—in her dedication to "her girls," the students she selects to be her crème de la crème. Fanatically devoted, each member of the Brodie set—Eunice, Jenny, Mary, Monica, Rose, and Sandy—is "famous for something," and Miss Brodie strives to bring out the best in each one. Determined to instill in them independence, passion, and ambition, Miss Brodie advises her girls, "Safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth, and Beauty come first. Follow me."

And they do. But one of them will betray her.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061711299
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/06/2018
Series: P.S. Series
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 81,954
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile: 1120L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Dame Muriel Spark (1918-2006) wrote more than twenty books, including Memento Mori, The Ballad of Peckham Rye, and Symposium.

Read an Excerpt

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

By Muriel Spark


Copyright © 1961 Copyright Administration Limited
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-4503-3


The boys, as they talked to the girls from Marcia Blaine School, stood on the far side of their bicycles holding the handlebars, which established a protective fence of bicycle between the sexes, and the impression that at any moment the boys were likely to be away.

The girls could not take off their panama hats because this was not far from the school gates and hatlessness was an offence. Certain departures from the proper set of the hat on the head were overlooked in the case of fourth-form girls and upwards so long as nobody wore their hat at an angle. But there were other subtle variants from the ordinary rule of wearing the brim turned up at the back and down at the front. The five girls, standing very close to each other because of the boys, wore their hats each with a definite difference.

These girls formed the Brodie set. That was what they had been called even before the headmistress had given them the name, in scorn, when they had moved from the Junior to the Senior school at the age of twelve. At that time they had been immediately recognisable as Miss Brodie's pupils, being vastly informed on a lot of subjects irrelevant to the authorised curriculum, as the headmistress said, and useless to the school as a school. These girls were discovered to have heard of the Buchmanites and Mussolini, the Italian Renaissance painters, the advantages to the skin of cleansing cream and witch-hazel over honest soap and water, and the word "menarche"; the interior decoration of the London house of the author of Winnie the Pooh had been described to them, as had the love lives of Charlotte Bronte and of Miss Brodie herself. They were aware of the existence of Einstein and the arguments of those who considered the Bible to be untrue. They knew the rudiments of astrology but not the date of the Battle of Flodden or the capital of Finland. All of the Brodie set, save one, counted on its fingers, as had Miss Brodie, with accurate results more or less.

By the time they were sixteen, and had reached the fourth form, and loitered beyond the gates after school, and had adapted themselves to the orthodox regime, they remained unmistakably Brodie, and were all famous in the school, which is to say they were held in suspicion and not much liking. They had no team spirit and very little in common with each other outside their continuing friendship with Jean Brodie. She still taught in the Junior department. She was held in great suspicion.

Marcia Blaine School for Girls was a day school which had been partially endowed in the middle of the nineteenth century by the wealthy widow of an Edinburgh book-binder. She had been an admirer of Garibaldi before she died. Her manly portrait hung in the great hall, and was honoured every Founder's Day by a bunch of hard-wearing flowers such as chrysanthemums or dahlias. These were placed in a vase beneath the portrait, upon a lectern which also held an open Bible with the text underlined in red ink, "O where shall I find a virtuous woman, for her price is above rubies."

The girls who loitered beneath the tree, shoulder to shoulder, very close to each other because of the boys, were all famous for something. Now, at sixteen, Monica Douglas was a prefect, famous mostly for mathematics which she could do in her brain, and for her anger which, when it was lively enough, drove her to slap out to right and left. She had a very red nose, winter and summer, long dark plaits, and fat, peglike legs. Since she had turned sixteen, Monica wore her panama hat rather higher on her head than normal, perched as if it were too small and as if she knew she looked grotesque in any case.

Rose Stanley was famous for sex. Her hat was placed quite unobtrusively on her blonde short hair, but she dented in the crown on either side.

Eunice Gardiner, small, neat and famous for her spritely gymnastics and glamorous swimming, had the brim of her hat turned up at the front and down at the back.

Sandy Stranger wore it turned up all round and as far back on her head as it could possibly go; to assist this, she had attached to her hat a strip of elastic which went under the chin. Sometimes Sandy chewed this elastic and when it was chewed down she sewed on a new piece. She was merely notorious for her small, almost nonexistent, eyes, but she was famous for her vowel sounds which, long ago in the long past, in the Junior school, had enraptured Miss Brodie. "Well, come and recite for us please, because it has been a tiring day."

She left the web, she left the loom, She made three paces thro' the room, She saw the water-lily bloom, She saw the helmet and the plume,

She look'd down to Camelot."It lifts one up," Miss Brodie usually said, passing her hand outward from her breast towards the class of ten-year-old girls who were listening for the bell which would release them. "Where there is no vision," Miss Brodie had assured them, "the people perish. Eunice, come and do a somersault in order that we may have comic relief."

But now, the boys with their bicycles were cheerfully insulting Jenny Gray about her way of speech which she had got from her elocution classes. She was going to be an actress. She was Sandy's best friend. She wore her hat with the front brim bent sharply downward; she was the prettiest and most graceful girl of the set, and this was her fame. "Don't be a lout, Andrew," she said with her uppish tone. There were three Andrews among the five boys; and these three Andrews now started mimicking Jenny: "Don't be a lout, Andrew," while the girls laughed beneath their bobbing panamas.

Along came Mary Macgregor, the last member of the set, whose fame rested on her being a silent lump, a nobody whom everybody could blame. With her was an outsider, Joyce Emily Hammond, the very rich girl, their delinquent, who had been recently sent to Blaine as a last hope, because no other school, no governess, could manage her. She still wore the green uniform of her old school. The others wore deep violet. The most she had done, so far, was to throw paper pellets sometimes at the singing master. She insisted on the use of her two names, Joyce Emily. This Joyce Emily was trying very hard to get into the famous set, and thought the two names might establish her as a something, but there was no chance of it and she could not see why.

Joyce Emily said, "There's a teacher coming out," and nodded towards the gates.

Two of the Andrews wheeled their bicycles out on to the road and departed. The other three boys remained defiantly, but looking the other way as if they might have stopped to admire the clouds on the Pentland Hills. The girls crowded round each other as if in discussion. "Good afternoon," said Miss Brodie when she approached the group. "I haven't seen you for some days. I think we won't detain these young men and their bicycles. Good afternoon, boys." The famous set moved off with her, and Joyce, the new delinquent, followed. "I think I haven't met this new girl," said Miss Brodie, looking closely at Joyce. And when they were introduced she said: "Well, we must be on our way, my dear."

Sandy looked back as Joyce Emily walked, and then skipped, leggy and uncontrolled for her age, in the opposite direction, and the Brodie set was left to their secret life as it had been six years ago in their childhood.

"I am putting old heads on your young shoulders," Miss Brodie had told them at that time, "and all my pupils are the crème de la crème."

Sandy looked with her little screwed-up eyes at Monica's very red nose and remembered this saying as she followed the set in the wake of Miss Brodie.

"I should like you girls to come to supper tomorrow night," Miss Brodie said. "Make sure you are free."

"The Dramatic Society ..." murmured Jenny.

"Send an excuse," said Miss Brodie. "I have to consult you about a new plot which is afoot to force me to resign. Needless to say, I shall not resign." She spoke calmly as she always did in spite of her forceful words.

Miss Brodie never discussed her affairs with the other members of the staff, but only with those former pupils whom she had trained up in her confidence. There had been previous plots to remove her from Blaine, which had been foiled.

"It has been suggested again that I should apply for a post at one of the progressive schools, where my methods would be more suited to the system than they are at Blaine. But I shall not apply for a post at a crank school. I shall remain at this education factory. There needs must be a leaven in the lump. Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life."

The Brodie set smiled in understanding of various kinds.

Miss Brodie forced her brown eyes to flash as a meaningful accompaniment to her quiet voice. She looked a mighty woman with her dark Roman profile in the sun. The Brodie set did not for a moment doubt that she would prevail. As soon expect Julius Caesar to apply for a job at a crank school as Miss Brodie. She would never resign. If the authorities wanted to get rid of her she would have to be assassinated.

"Who are the gang, this time?" said Rose, who was famous for sex-appeal.

"We shall discuss tomorrow night the persons who oppose me," said Miss Brodie. "But rest assured they shall not succeed."

"No," said everyone. "No, of course they won't."

"Not while I am in my prime," she said. "These years are still the years of my prime. It is important to recognise the years of one's prime, always remember that. Here is my tram car. I daresay I'll not get a seat. This is nineteen-thirty-six. The age of chivalry is past."

Six years previously, Miss Brodie had led her new class into the garden for a history lesson underneath the big elm. On the way through the school corridors they passed the headmistress's study. The door was wide open, the room was empty.

"Little girls," said Miss Brodie, "come and observe this."

They clustered round the open door while she pointed to a large poster pinned with drawing-pins on the opposite wall within the room. It depicted a man's big face. Underneath were the words "Safety First."

"This is Stanley Baldwin who got in as Prime Minister and got out again ere long," said Miss Brodie. "Miss Mackay retains him on the wall because she believes in the slogan 'Safety First.' But Safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth and Beauty come first. Follow me."

This was the first intimation, to the girls, of an odds between Miss Brodie and the rest of the teaching staff. Indeed, to some of them, it was the first time they had realised it was possible for people glued together in grown-up authority to differ at all. Taking inward note of this, and with the exhilarating feeling of being in on the faint smell of row, without being endangered by it, they followed dangerous Miss Brodie into the secure shade of the elm.

Often, that sunny autumn, when the weather permitted, the small girls took their lessons seated on three benches arranged about the elm.

"Hold up your books," said Miss Brodie quite often that autumn, "prop them up in your hands, in case of intruders. If there are any intruders, we are doing our history lesson ... our poetry ... English grammar."

The small girls held up their books with their eyes not on them, but on Miss Brodie.

"Meantime I will tell you about my last summer holiday in Egypt ... I will tell you about care of the skin, and of the hands ... about the Frenchman I met in the train to Biarritz ... and I must tell you about the Italian paintings I saw. Who is the greatest Italian painter?"

"Leonardo da Vinci, Miss Brodie."

"That is incorrect. The answer is Giotto, he is my favourite."

Some days it seemed to Sandy that Miss Brodie's chest was flat, no bulges at all, but straight as her back. On other days her chest was breast-shaped and large, very noticeable, something for Sandy to sit and peer at through her tiny eyes while Miss Brodie on a day of lessons indoors stood erect, with her brown head held high, staring out the window like Joan of Arc as she spoke.

"I have frequently told you, and the holidays just past have convinced me, that my prime has truly begun. One's prime is elusive. You little girls, when you grow up, must be on the alert to recognise your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur. You must then live it to the full. Mary, what have you got under your desk, what are you looking at?"

Mary sat lump-like and too stupid to invent something. She was too stupid ever to tell a lie, she didn't know how to cover up.

"A comic, Miss Brodie," she said.

"Do you mean a comedian, a droll?"

Everyone tittered.

"A comic paper," said Mary.

"A comic paper, forsooth. How old are you?"

"Ten, ma'am."

"You are too old for comic papers at ten. Give it to me."

Miss Brodie looked at the coloured sheets. "Tiger Tim's forsooth," she said, and threw it into the wastepaper basket. Perceiving all eyes upon it she lifted it out of the basket, tore it up beyond redemption and put it back again.

"Attend to me, girls. One's prime is the moment one was born for. Now that my prime has begun—Sandy, your attention is wandering. What have I been talking about?"

"Your prime, Miss Brodie."

"If anyone comes along," said Miss Brodie, "in the course of the following lesson, remember that it is the hour for English grammar. Meantime I will tell you a little of my life when I was younger than I am now, though six years older than the man himself."

She leaned against the elm. It was one of the last autumn days when the leaves were falling in little gusts. They fell on the children who were thankful for this excuse to wriggle and for the allowable movements in brushing the leaves from their hair and laps.

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. I was engaged to a young man at the beginning of the War but he fell on Flanders Field," said Miss Brodie. "Are you thinking, Sandy, of doing a day's washing?"

"No, Miss Brodie."

"Because you have got your sleeves rolled up. I won't have to do with girls who roll up the sleeves of their blouses, however fine the weather. Roll them down at once, we are civilized beings. He fell the week before Armistice was declared. He fell like an autumn leaf, although he was only twenty-two years of age. When we go indoors we shall look on the map at Flanders, and the spot where my lover was laid before you were born. He was poor. He came from Ayrshire, a countryman, but a hard-working and clever scholar. He said, when he asked me to marry him, 'We shall have to drink water and walk slow.' That was Hugh's country way of expressing that we would live quietly. We shall drink water and walk slow. What does the saying signify, Rose?"

"That you would live quietly, Miss Brodie," said Rose Stanley who six years later had a great reputation for sex.

The story of Miss Brodie's felled fiancé was well on its way when the headmistress, Miss Mackay, was seen to approach across the lawn. Tears had already started to drop from Sandy's little pig-like eyes and Sandy's tears now affected her friend Jenny, later famous in the school for her beauty, who gave a sob and groped up the leg of her knickers for her handkerchief. "Hugh was killed," said Miss Brodie, "a week before the Armistice. After that there was a general election and people were saying, 'Hang the Kaiser!' Hugh was one of the Flowers of the Forest, lying in his grave." Rose Stanley had now begun to weep. Sandy slid her wet eyes sideways, watching the advance of Miss Mackay, head and shoulders forward, across the lawn.

"I am come to see you and I have to be off," she said. "What are you little girls crying for?"

"They are moved by a story I have been telling them. We are having a history lesson," said Miss Brodie, catching a falling leaf neatly in her hand as she spoke.

"Crying over a story at ten years of age!" said Miss Mackay to the girls who had stragglingly risen from the benches, still dazed with Hugh the warrior. "I am only come to see you and I must be off. Well, girls, the new term has begun. I hope you all had a splendid summer holiday and I look forward to seeing your splendid essays on how you spent them. You shouldn't be crying over history at the age of ten. My word!"

"You did well," said Miss Brodie to the class, when Miss Mackay had gone, "not to answer the question put to you. It is well, when in difficulties, to say never a word, neither black nor white. Speech is silver but silence is golden. Mary, are you listening? What was I saying?"


Excerpted from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. Copyright © 1961 Copyright Administration Limited. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book all in one day while I was laying out on the lake. I made my friends read it, and they all loved it too. Some joked that I reminded them of Miss Jean Brodie!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sparks is a consumate writer and her descriptions of this English Teacher's life and that of her pupil's will touch your heart. She has truly captured English eccentricities that carry the novel into your memory. A must have for any Anglophile.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Miss Jean Brodie is a schoolteacher at a private girl's school in Edinburgh, Scotland. She has unusual teaching methods, and believes that science, mathematics and other items on the curriculum should take a back seat to teaching about beauty and culture. During class, she is perfectly capable of telling her students to open their math books in case the headmistress drops by and proceed to tell them all about her recent trip to Italy¿this is the 1930s and she is a fan of Mussolini's "Black Shirts¿¿and about her love life. The story is centred on "The Brodie Set", a group of six girls who've attended her classes in primary school and have kept in touch with Miss Brodie as they grew up, visiting her at home for tea our accompanying her to cultural outings. Each of the girls has a particular characteristic she is known for. For instance, when we are introduced to them, we find out that Jenny is famous for her beauty, Sandy is famous for her "small, almost nonexistent, eyes", Monica is famous for mathematics and her anger, and Rose is famous for Sex, and these descriptions are repeated throughout the novel to form a comic motif. The novel travels backward and forward in time, and we know early on that one of the girls eventually betrayed Miss Brodie¿the school has been trying to get rid of her for a long time, and the headmistress has questioned each of Miss Brodie's former students repeatedly to try to find something to pin on her, though of course we only find out who delivered the damning information toward the end, by which time we've learned how most of the characters have fared into their adult lives and the extent of the influence Miss Brodie exerted on them.I read this novel a couple of years ago and it was my first foray into Muriel Spark's writing. I can't say I liked it much back then. I could see there was humour here, but it failed to amuse me, and it probably didn't help that I didn't like Miss Brodie much¿no doubt her fascist leanings didn't help much. I was disappointed, as was expecting to love this book based on much of what I'd read about it. I decided to revisit it this year, on audio format this time, and while the narrator Miriam Margolyes did a fine job and I got a kick out of hearing the Scottish pronunciations (I'd forgotten that Edinburgh is pronounced "Edinborough"), I didn't get much more out of it than I did the first time. I wouldn't want to discourage others from reading this book, because it's got lots going for it, but if I were to recommend good places to start with Spark's writing based on my personal preferences so far, I'd sooner recommend Memento Mori or Loitering with Intent, which I both found excellent and very funny.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An entertaining story, and a simple escape for an evening's read. Spark's humor here is delicate, and her character studies here both remarkable and engrossing. Worth the wandering.
livrecache on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just finished this 1001 book, and I felt quite disappointed. I thought the writing was at times repetitive, and the characterisation poorly executed, overall. For me, Jean Brodie's character was simply foolish and pathetic, but I think my memory of the film where Maggie Smith plays that part has influenced my judgment, as she was quite compelling in the role. The narrative was written in an interesting manner, as TQD says, signalling the outcome for the various characters. This device can be at times extremely irritating, but in this instance it works, as a linear narrative would have made the tale quite dull.Having dissed the book, I must say that I was drawn in to it, despite my expectations not being met.
dazzyj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Intricately put together, but alienatingly mannered and lacking in narrative drive. One of the many books that make me wonder whether people who describe it as "humorous" are doing so in order to appear clever, rather than because while reading it they actually, well, laughed.
clfisha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Told in a mix of timelines and a whirlwind of delicious characters this is a funny, intelligent and exuberant story of the "Brodie Set". Miss Brodie is an unorthodox teacher at a girls school in the 1930s and she (as she likes to remind people) is in her Prime. Her favourite pupils are groomed to be the crème de la crème: the Brodie set. 'This is Stanley Baldwin who got in as Prime Minister and got out again ere long,' said Miss Brodie. 'Miss Mackay retains him on the wall because she believes in the slogan "Safety First". But Safety does not come first. Goodness, Trust and Beauty come first. Follow me.' It's a damn hard book to review, short and chaotic it's full of pitch perfect, intelligent and humorous writing. I cannot really find anything to pick out. From the intriguing and enticing way Spark introduces the Brodie set by narrowing them to a simple skill (Rose is famous for her sex appeal, Monica for her maths and her anger) to extra tension of the ominous betrayal and the bitter-sweet edge of future reality. It is a book of many layers and complexity but it is never confusing or tiresome and oddly, although very much of it's time it doesn't feel dated. "We shall discuss tomorrow night the persons who oppose me' said Miss Brodie. 'But rest assured they shall not succeed.''No,' said everyone. 'No, Of course they won't.''Not while I am in my prime. It is important to recognize the years of one's prime, always remember that,..' Highly recommended. It's my second attempt at Muriel Spark, I didn¿t quite gel with the character in [Drivers Seat] but I loved this.
Caitak on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like the way that the story gradually unfolds, you're aware of some of the events right from the beginning but it all comes together slowly to create one big picture.I think this would be my next choice for a Book Tree Book; I love the writing style, and there are some fantastic lines in it.I like the way it shows the girls growing up and the ways in which they change - by the end of the book you can really see Miss Brodie's influence on them. I wonder how things would have been different if they hadn't been part of her 'set'.
LynleyS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Muriel Sparks paints an evocative picture of a girls¿ school in the 1930s. Sparks herself was a teacher for a short time and Miss Jean Brodie is such a vivid portrait of an eccentric, unlikeable, self-absorbed woman that I can¿t help but wonder if she knew someone a bit like this in real life. There is plenty of humour, and perhaps the best thing about this very short novel is the dialogue, each phrase well chosen, and even better, well placed in a fast paced story which flits from the 1930s into the distant future, when Miss Jean Brodie passes away. All of these time jumps, and the seven years of The Brodie Girls are expertly performed by the author.
brenzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Miss Jean Brodie plies her unorthodox teaching methods at the sedate Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she is in her prime, ¿the moment one is born to.¿ In the 1930s, between-the-wars, she was not that different from other spinsters, teaching elsewhere in Scotland. But she just didn¿t fit in with the traditional concepts that prevailed at Marcia Blaine, and the head mistress is bound and determined to find a way to rid the school, and her chosen girls, otherwise known as the Brodie set, of Miss Brodie.But her set, her personally chosen crème de la crème consists of six girls who are completely devoted to their teacher. And yet one will betray her. Who? And how? Although the betrayal is revealed fairly early on in the narrative, Spark takes the reader back and forth in time, exposing events that lead up to the forced retirement of the instructor and the later resultant lives of the Brodie set. And why does the teacher reveal so much of her personal life to her young charges? It doesn¿t take long for one of her students to figure out that Miss Brodie has taken one teacher as a lover, while actually being in love with another teacher. She is at once both a sympathetic romantic but also has a dark, calculating, self-centered side.Spark¿s prose is divine throughout:¿Mary MacGregor, although she lived her twenty-fourth year, never quite realized that Jean Brodie¿s confidences were not shared with the rest of the staff and that her love story was given out only to her pupils. She had not thought much about Jean Brodie, certainly never disliked her, when, a year after the outbreak of the Second World War, she joined the Wrens, and was clumsy and incompetent, and was much blamed. On one occasion of real misery---when her first and last boyfriend, a corporal whom she had known for two weeks, deserted her by failing to show up at an appointed place and failing to come near her again---she thought back to see if she had ever really been happy in her life; it occurred to her then that the first years with Miss Brodie, sitting listening to all those stories and opinions which had nothing to do with the ordinary world, had been the happiest time of her life.¿ (Page 24)The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is full of dark satire, complex characters that are not necessarily likable, and intricate plotting. Highly recommended.
TheAmpersand on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful! A note-perfect, densely-woven little novel about an extraordinary, and extraordinarily strange, Scottish schoolmistress and the long-lasting effect she has on her favorite pupils. Candida McWilliams, who composed the introduction to my copy, writes, "So distinguished a technician is Muriel Spark that one may take practically any section of the book and it will provide metaphor for the entire book itself." She's absolutely right. For a book that lasts just one-hundred-and-thirty pages, "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" lends itself to a remarkable number of alternate readings. It's a portrait of its marvelously eccentric title character and a commentary on the shortcomings of a "woman's education" and a critique of twentieth century totalitarianism and a meditation on art and its uses and a love-letter to shabby-genteel Edinburgh and a smutty, funny sex comedy all at once. However, I particularly enjoyed sensitive Spark's depiction of adolescence, a time when everyone can, and maybe should, be "known for something" and the world more or less revolves around gossip and social gamesmanship. As lighthearted as "Miss Brodie" seems, though, I admire Spark for presenting her readers with a character like Miss Jean Brodie. From a certain perspective, this constitutes an absolutely enormous risk. Miss Brodie, who rejects conventional morality, considers herself cultured and extraordinarily perceptive, and years for artistically-induced ecstasy, seems, at times, to be a cruel caricature of a certain kind of female reader. Like John Kennedy O'Toole, whose Ignatius J. Riley lampooned self-styled intellectuals, Spark might be seeking to challenge her readers with a cartoonishly distorted personification of their own worst intellectual habits. That she manages to pull this high-wire act off without once deviating from her perfectly pitched high-camp tone is nothing short of amazing. "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" is highly recommended.
SirRoger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel is genius. It's short enough to enjoy in a couple of days (or one), and strikingly original in it's prose and conception.
Prop2gether on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Much more interesting than the play! The story flows forward and back and I was quite surprised by what roles as adults the Brodie girls chose for themselves. Recommended
miriamparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I listened to this as an audiobook last year and it was just the perfect thing. First, I love audiobooks with British narrators (check) and I love novels about boarding schools (check) and finally I love kind of understated British humor (check). And the writing is good! I should go back and read the book, but the audio experience was so lovely. I highly recommend it for your next solo road trip.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book that was on many people¿s recommended reads lists. Jean Brodie is a teacher at a girls¿ school with a following. She¿s sharp and well-read and clever, which goes against the grain of the educational institution, but she is also flawed and leads her students onto paths that do not always serve them or the world well. Why is it when we find someone we admire we seem to ignore the parts that don¿t work for us? A cautionary tale, in a sense, for me.
ccookie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First line:~ The boys, as they talked to the girls from Marcia Blaine School, stood on the far side of their bicycles holding the handlebars, which established a protective fence of bicycles between the sexes, and the impression that at any moment the boys were likely to be away ~This is a portrait of six young women coming of age and falling under the influence of a idolized teacher. And a portrait of the teacher, Miss Jean Brodie, who unduly and perhaps dangerously influences 'her girls' and tells them:'Little girls, I am in the business of putting old heads on young shoulders, and all my pupils are la crème de la crème. Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life.' She abandons the standard curriculum and tells her students of her personal love life, her travels and her opinions on politics, art, religion. Always with their math textbooks open on their desk and a math problem on the blackboard so if the head mistress came by she would `see¿ that they were studying what was expected. She focuses on a select few and lives her life vicariously through them and invites them to art museums, theatre, concerts etc. Her teaching methods meet with resistance and eventually she is forced to resign as she is seen as having influenced the politics of her students by encouraging and praising Fascism.This is a short, well written, well crafted book. Spark uses words as a painter uses the paint and canvas. She paints broad strokes first, so that we know right from the very beginning of the book that Miss Brodie is fired from her teaching position, that Mary McGregor died, that Sandy became a nun and wrote a significant psychology tome.Then Spark paints the details and we learn how all of this came to be.I could not help but see Maggie Smith in my mind¿s eye as I was reading this. She played Miss Brodie in the 1969 movie. I will always remember the way that she said (this is from the movie not the book) as she was being told to resign:I am a teacher! I am a teacher, first, last, always! Do you imagine that for one instant I will let that be taken from me without a fight? I have dedicated, sacrificed my life to this profession. And I will not stand by like an inky little slacker and watch you rob me of it and for what? For what reason? For jealousy! Because I have the gift of claiming girls for my own. It is true I am a strong influence on my girls. I am proud of it! I influence them to be aware of all the possibilities of life... of beauty, honor, courage. I do not, Miss Mackay, influence them to look for slime where it does not exist! I am going. When my class convenes, my pupils will find me composed and prepared to reveal to them the succession of the Stuarts. And on Sunday, I will go to Cramond to visit Mr. Lowther. We are accustomed, bachelor and spinster, to spend our Sundays together in sailing and walking the beaches and in the pursuit of music. Mr. Lowther is teaching me to play the mandolin. Good day, Miss MackayI would highly recommend this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though it has rather sinister implications.
craso on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Miss Jean Brodie teaches at a small Scottish day school for girls. She uses unusual teaching methods such as telling her impressionable prepubescent girls romantic stories and taking them on excursions to art galleries and plays. Her favorite pupils are referred to as the "Brodie set" a group of girls especially selected because of their parents love of Miss Brodie's methods or just indifference. She constantly reminds the girls how lucky they are to know her while she is "in her prime" and manipulates them to her own ends.When Miss Brodie continually reminds her girls that she is "in her prime" the author is alluding to her being a woman past marrying age that is trying to hold on to her influence and sex appeal. She is an egotistical spinster who uses her "Brodie set" as confidants and co- conspirators. They keep her secrets and help her to keep her job. She influences her students for the better or worse. She instills poise and confidence in some of her girls and they look back to there time with her with fondness. She also lets some of the girls down like the harassed Mary Macgregor and the misguided Joyce Emily.Miss Brodie is an idealistic admirer of the fascists. She feels persecuted by the head mistress of the school and she in turn persecutes one of her students, Mary Macgregor, by constantly blaming her for anything that goes wrong. Poor Mary is so dim that she takes the abuse. The other pupils copy the behavior and tease Mary to please their teacher.This is a very sexual novel. When we first meet the young pupils they are 10 or 11 years old and are both curious and naive about sex. The girls have conversations and write stories elaborating on the tales Miss Brodie tells of her past lover who died in World War I. Later Miss Brodie manipulates the girls into covering for her new affair and even encourages one pupil to start an affair with one of the teachers. This short novel is packed with meaning. I am impressed by Muriel Spark's economy of words, yet so much is said. By using repetition we learn so much about the characters personality and motives. This is a very well written novel and I look forward to reading more of her works in the future.
SharonGoforth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Muriel Spark is one of those authors that many readers/bloggers love.  This book in particular, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, seems to be a favorite.  I can understand why.  It is smart, funny, and sad, with a helping of  pathos for good measure.Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher at a girl's school in 1930's Edinburgh, Scotland, "in her prime".  She has what we would call "teacher's pets" in her class - girls that she hand picks because she sees something special in them, something that she can use to turn them  into the "creme de la creme" as she loves to call it.   She is an unconventional teacher, not teaching from the books but from her own life experiences.  She has no use for history, math or science - only the arts, music, dance, literature, and love.   She has constant run-ins with the head mistress and the other administrators who look for opportunities to have her dismissed but always seem to come up short.  The "Brodie set" (as they are referred to by everyone else at the school) consists of six girls with different strengths, abilities and interests:  one is known for her mathematical ability; one for her athletic ability, one for self awareness and confidence (and at a later age, sex).  Then there are the two best friends, Sandy and Jenny - Sandy is known for her small, beady eyes and perfect diction, and Jenny for her acting ability.  The 6th girl is Mary MacGregor who has no ability at all except to be the picked on by the rest of the group.Miss Brodie instructs the girls to focus on individualism.  She tells them they should not cultivate "team spirit" in such things as sporting activities for the school.  Instead, she takes them to cultural events and out for tea, hoping that in return she will win their loyalty.  Ironically, as the girls gain  the individuality Miss Brodie wanted them to have, their loyalty begins to erode.   When Miss Brodie is eventually betrayed, she cannot imagine it being caused by one of her girls.Sparks does a great job of  taking the reader into the minds of impressionable young girls as they try to assimilate life as presented to them by a vibrant but repressed woman.  I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more by her.
Talbin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark, is a wonderful little book about Miss Brodie, a teacher at a girl's school in 1930's Edinburgh, and her "set" - the group of five girls who Miss Brodie personally chose as her crème de la crème. Miss Brodie's teaching style is eccentric, with a focus on literature, art, music and stories about her personal life. As the girls mature, they speculate about Miss Brodie's personal life and eventually become embroiled in it. And in the end, one of Miss Brodie's set betrays her.The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is about the influence that a teacher can have on impressionable minds. All of the girls are shaped by Miss Brodie and bear that influence throughout their lives. Spark's tale is not so much plot-driven as character-driven. Throughout the book we learn about the tales the girls - especially Sandy - weave about their teacher and how those stories morph and change through the years. Personally, I love Spark's writing style - she is humorous and notes the tiniest details which help to define a person. She repeats certain phrases throughout the book, illuminating the way that individual details help make up our knowledge of a person.
birdy47 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Still not sure what I made of this. Mostly a bit disappointed as so many people seem to love the book and her style of writing, but I wasn't that keen. I found some parts amusing, mostly how she referred to people "Rosie, who was well known for sex" consistently throughout the book, but I found the characters shallow and really didn't warm to Jean Brodie at all.
wendyrey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I hated the film and television adaptions, expected to loathe the book but found it interesting clever and enjoyable. Miss Brodie is an evil fascist little madam who damages the lives of the girls she tries to make her own.Now what else has Muriel Spark written?
msjoanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Embarassingly for someone with a degree in women's studies, I'd never read this classic. Thanks to jury duty the past couple of days, I've now remedied this gap in my reading. I shall now need to see the classic film, which I've also missed. That background aside, I really enjoyed this book. Yes, not much happens in the novel. But the richness of the characters and the dialog make this very short book crackle with electricity and life. Miss Brodie "in her prime" becomes an idealized and nurturing teacher for certain selected students. At the same time, her humanness and flaws are all too clear -- she idealizes Hitler, Franco, and Mussolini; she repeatedly tells the girls their destinies as she sees them (and not always nicely); she encourages one to have an affair with a married man (with whom Miss Brodie is also involved). Highly recommended.
ablueidol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read it as a bitter-sweet tragedy of characters restricted by the realities of the 30's that we in the post 60's era barely understand. Nor do we perhaps appreciate the challenges that Jean is undertaking nor its limited application except for a privileged few say such as Muriel Spark herself...
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have grown to become quite the fan of Ms Spark's writing style. As far as the modern novel goes, and as far as poetic writing goes, this is what I love and no more (and no less).The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is the perfect example, and perhaps the most celebrated of Spark's works. Brodie is a girls school teacher in 1930s Edinburgh; she is unorthodox in a time when unorthodox practices have their place in modern schools rather than traditional, and instead of teaching her young students the curriculum she instead educates them about life.Though this sounds rather dry, Spark's wit and inventiveness keeps the tale of love and growing-up interesting and cool, by leaping around from one time to another almost in mid-sentence. The strangest, most surprising aspect is that it all works so well - I've read other authors who try such complicated maneuvres and fall flat on their face.It's almost a shame that this is only a couple of hours' entertainment, but at the same time I can't imagine how making it longer could make it better. The story grows with the children brought up by and around Miss Brodie, and as they outgrow her we begin to feel ready to move on ourselves.
samantha464 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Slightly more linear than some of Muriel Spark's other novels, this is still a really intense and off-kilter look at the world and the relationships between women. You never truly get into any character's heads, and even the narrator continues to surprise you up until the end. No characters are fully sympathetic, and you have to wonder who to trust throughout the novel. A great quick read.