Miss Jean Brodie isn’t just another teacher at Marcia Blaine School for Girls. She is unconventional and subversive in her teaching methods and in what she teaches. Most importantly, Miss Jean Brodie is in her prime. It is because she is in her prime that her Brodie set, consisting of 10-year-olds Sandy, Rose, Mary, Jenny, Monica, and Eunice, have the opportunity of their lives. Of all the girls in the school, they have the opportunity to become the crème de la crème. All the while the Brodie set was directly under her influence and as they moved on in their education at the school, the headmistress, Miss Mackay, is looking for a reason to remove Miss Brodie from her teaching position. In the end, it is because one of her own set betrays her that Jean Brodie is removed from her position before she was ready.
The story of Miss Jean Brodie, her life, her lovers, her politics, and her set is not told in chronological order. From the beginning of the story, the narrator discusses Miss Brodie’s ultimate betrayal and the outcome of each of the Brodie set. These facts, such as Mary’s death in a fire while running back and forth down the halllway, are also repeated throughout the novel. There were times While the reader isn’t told exactly how Miss Brodie is betrayed, the betrayer is identified well before the end. This structure kept me at arm’s length from the characters. Discovering exactly how Miss Brodie was betrayed was not enough to keep me interested in the story.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie didn’t work for me. I was expecting for something much darker. I found the repetiton in the narrative irritating. Every time it was mentioned that Miss Brodie was in her prime or that one or more of the Brodie set had the potential to be the crème de la crème, I was frustrated because I could not figure out what was so special about Miss Brodie’s prime or any one of the chosen girls in her set. My experience with this book is similar to that of my viewing of “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Just as Roger Ebert highly recommended that movie, The Guardian‘s James Wood, who writes an essay that is included in HarperCollins‘ edition, chose The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie as one of the best books since 1945. In both cases, I couldn’t understand the appeal. Unlike with “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” I didn’t regret the time I spent with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I simply came away from the novel wondering what it was that I had missed.
- JAMES WOOD’S BEST BOOKS SINCE 1945 (Circa 1994) (marksarvas.blogs.com)
- James Wood on Muriel Spark (The Guardian)
- 100 novels everyone should read (telegraph.co.uk)
- The Movie: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Care’s Online Book Club)
- Wherever the fates lead us let us follow (Bibiolatry)
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