The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

(Image from Goodreads as I forgot to take a pictiure in my holiday rush)

I’ve heard others discussing how much they loved this book, so I was pleased to hear that it was one of the latest releases in the Popular Penguins series. A short novella, I thought this would be a perfect short read before I went on holidays. Well, I’ve returned from my holidays and I still can’t really work this one out.

Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher at an Edinburgh school. She picks some of the girls from her class to be part of her set- some intelligent, some pretty and some neither. She is not a traditional teacher, telling them long stories about her ‘prime’- loves and losses. She is somewhat controversial- having an affair with a fellow teacher and suggesting that a schoolgirl should become the lover of one of her former lovers. Her ‘girls’ idolise her, even going so far to make up romantic fiction stories about her. The book follows her ‘girls’ to adulthood, until she is betrayed by one of them and forced to retire from teaching.

I’m not really sure what the fuss is about. Certainly teachers shouldn’t act like that in any time period and Miss Brodie is ahead of her time- rather a feminist, having affairs and travelling alone in the 1930s, not to mention idolising Mussolini! It is well written and the characters are well drawn. I’m not one to deeply analyse what I read for pleasure (I leave that to students) but while it’s enjoyable, it’s not life changing literature.

6.5 out of 10.

5 thoughts on “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

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  1. Pretty cover, is that the new edition? I really enjoyed this book, I loved the layers of the characters. And I saw the girls and this whole crème de la crème thing as sarcastic. But it’s also of course not as radical as it was in its own time.

    1. I’m not sure which edition the cover is- it was just the one I liked best!
      I see what you mean about the group being sarcastic- I wondered how Miss Brodie chose them, they were so diverse. I guess I was a little hung up having too many teachers in the family and hearing all their (horror) stories…

  2. Thanks for reviewing this. I have been looking for a Muriel Sparks book to being reading but I guess this won’t be the one – have you read anything else by her?

    1. I haven’t read anything else by Muriel Sparks yet, but if you’re interested, please don’t dismiss it on my words alone! It’s a very quick read and very cheap if you can get a Popular Penguin copy in Australia.
      P.S. I love The Crimson Petal and The White too- one of those books that stays with you.

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