The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark: Book Review

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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark Book Cover
Title: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

My Synopsis:

Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher at Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburgh. She’s a romantic and a free-thinker. Teachers who encounter her students in later years find them to be singularly lacking in concrete skills but full of an intangible…something. They stick together as a “set” and spend much of their free time in Miss Brodie’s company. All is well in the Brodie circle until one of her students betrays her. In a story that moves back and forth through time, the reader learns more about the dynamics of this group and what led to the infamous betrayal.

My Review:

This was a short, accessible classic but it packed a punch. I would love to discuss it with a book group. I looked around to find out if it’s ever been banned (references to “sexual intercourse” in a book published in the 1960s seems like a recipe for a challenge) but if it has, I can’t find evidence of it.

The group of six students seemed interchangeable at first and I was worried that I would never keep them straight but there are really only two or three who are important. One poor girl is at the bottom of the pecking order, largely because Miss Brodie relentlessly treats her as an idiot. The girls blindly follow suit, as they do in so much of life.

I don’t generally follow audiobooks quite as well as I do print books so I was a little worried when I realized how much the story shifts around in time. I shouldn’t have worried though; there were plenty of unobtrusive clues in the text to help me follow along.

Speaking of audiobooks, I truly enjoyed Miriam Margolyes’s narration. She voiced her characters with subtle differences that were pitch perfect. Miss Brodie sounded high-minded and a bit silly, Mary sounded dull-witted, Monica sounds angry, etc. I would happily listen to her read more books.

There’s an old movie starring Maggie Smith (Yes, Minerva McGonagall) as Miss Brodie. I may have to search that one out. I have utter faith in Dame Smith’s acting ability but she looks like such an intelligent woman, I just can’t imagine how she portrayed flighty Jean Brodie.

Most readers won’t love these characters and not a lot actually happens. Nevertheless, I would recommend it for readers who are interested in a short yet complex character study.

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  1. I read this one years ago and I remember really enjoying it but unfortunately the details are now really fuzzy in my mind. I would love to watch the film version. Let us know if you end up watching it and recommend it

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