Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

As part of my continuing effort to ease into the new year, this is going to be a short and sweet post about what is now the third Muriel Spark novel I've read, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Of the two other Spark works I've read, I loved The Girls of Slender Means but found Symposium to be a little too creepy to wholeheartedly enjoy. For me, this novel fell somewhere between the two, combining satirical humor and an entertaining premise with some decidedly darker tones.

Spark's most well known, and arguably most beloved, novel follows Jean Brodie, a woman in the self-described "prime" of her life who teaches at a Scottish girls' school. Her teaching style incorporates everything from passionate lectures about art and history to passionate reminiscences about her love life. Although these unorthodox ways understandably raise the eyebrows of school administrators, they captivate Miss Brodie's "creme de la creme", a group of six girls who remain her devoted pupils even as they graduate and move out of her immediate class. As the girls age, they become more and more involved in the love triangle between Miss Brodie and two of the male teachers at the school, one of whom is married. In typical Spark style, the novel jumps between the present and the future, foreshadowing a time when one of the girls in the group will betray Miss Brodie. Revelations throughout the story both helped the puzzle to come together and increased my intrigue in reading on to find out what was going to happen. The darker tones I alluded to weren't necessarily any more sinister than what I've encountered so far in Spark's other works, just a little more unexpected. It seems to me that Spark always walks the line between satire and sinister and it was surprising, and at times unsettling, to see her dark humor applied to a group of young school girls. Compounding this was the way in which Spark's narrator is able to deal with the present and the future in the same breath, sometimes following a description about one of the young girls with a commentary about the kinds of adult women they turn into. This definitely isn't a typical boarding school novel, but it is an interesting read.

(It also just happens to be another book to cross off my Classics Club Challenge reading list.)

If any Spark fans out there have read Miss Brodie, I'd love to know what you thought of it.

1 comment:

  1. At first I liked this novel, because I liked Miss Brodie...until I realized what an dangerous influence she was on her girls. But, I don't believe Spark ever intended Brodie to be admirable, much less the heroine, and I was able to see some compelling writing, and insightful commentary on humanity. My review:



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