Monday, May 9, 2016

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparks
Published 1961 by McMillan
Source: my audiobook was purchased at my local library book sale
Narrator: Nadia May

Summary From
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."
The many covers of
The Prime of Miss
Jean Brodie

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

My Thoughts:
I've been aware of the movie adaptation of The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie for as long as I can remember (in no small part because it stars Maggie Smith) but have never seen it and wasn't even aware of it being a book until several years ago. Maybe Maggie Smith played a part in my deciding to "read" this one; after all, if it was something she thought was good enough to be a part of, then it must be something worthwhile. It was.

Maggie Smith as Miss Jean Brodie
Miss Brodie thinks quite a lot of herself as a teacher but the reader quickly picks up on the fact (as her girls eventually do) that Miss Brodie's avocation is less about bringing out the best in each of "the Brodie set," and more about making them into her mirror images.

As young girls, Miss Brodie's girls fix on her every word but as they get older they begin to see that Miss Brodie's stories seem to take on the characteristics of whatever is her current fancy and they begin to question both Miss Brodie and the things they have learned. While she has, commendably, exposed her girls far more to the arts and beauty than is strictly within the school's curriculum, she has also extolled the fascism. It will be her undoing as one of her girls will use it, eventually, to have her removed from her teaching position. That betrayal will haunt her to the end of her life.

Miss Brodie is an unusually interesting character, inspired by one of Sparks' own teachers. She is a woman driven by her belief that her fate is predestined, leaving her the ability to live her life with her own set of morals. "Watching" her girls learn from her, grow away from her, then, eventually, recognize her influence on their lives was truly enjoyable. Nadia May does a terrific job of narrating; I'll definitely be looking for more books narrated by her.

Now to watch the movie! It appears, from the trailer I watched, that Miss Brodie may come off as slightly less self-absorbed. I wonder if I will enjoy her quite as much?

On a side note, you know how when you pull up a book on the Barnes and Noble website it shows you other books you might be interested if you're interested in the one you pulled up? For this book, they assume you'll also be interested in an Amy Tan book, The Light Between Oceans, The Baker's Daughter, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Mrs. Dalloway, and A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Yep. If I haven't read them (and I have read most of them), they are already on my wish list. Looks like the Barnes and Noble algorithm is working!


  1. I saw this movie for the first time just last month, but the book is still on my TBR list, and has been for decades. Not the usual way I do things. From the sound of your summary, the movie sticks pretty closely to the over-arching theme of the book. Of course, it never has the nuances. Maggie Smith was - well, use any positive superlative you choose. Brilliant.

    1. Maggie Smith alone is reason enough to watch the movie!

  2. I have heard of the book but not the movie! It does sound good and Miss Brodie sounds like a character worth knowing. Great review. I had no idea there was a movie and much less that Maggie Smith is in it!

    1. I've been aware of the movie for, literally, decades (I'm old!) but only aware of the book much more recently. Still, the only reason I read the book before the movie was because I just happened to find it on audio. Which, did I mention, was so great!

  3. Actually, the movie is A.W.E.S.O.M.E. When I was huge in my read-book-see-movie phase and was in a bookstore looking for titles, some beatnik hippie store guy recommended I read Prime so I did. I don't want to influence you but he told me that the movie was 'better than the book' - and we all know that comes with heavy heavy weights, amirite? Not to turn down a challenge... Maggie Smith is brilliant. The costumes alone make it worth it! Enjoy

    1. I'm about to look for it on Netflix right after I catch up on comments!