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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)

by Muriel Spark

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,1721682,041 (3.71)578
A teacher at a girl's school in Edinburgh during the 1930s comes into conflict with school authorities because of her unorthodox teaching methods.
1960s (23)
Europe (76)
AP Lit (169)
Teens (17)
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» See also 578 mentions

English (161)  Italian (2)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (167)
Showing 1-5 of 161 (next | show all)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a well-known tale about a memorable boarding school instructress and her six young favorites, the "Brodie set." Miss Brodie, as she is almost always called, is devoted to her girls (her "crème de la crème"), but, as they must, they all grow up and leave her to embrace their own disparate fates.

Author Muriel Spark's technique of flashing forward in time could have made this an especially intriguing short novel. However, as other readers have commented, I found this work more tedious than expected. The writing is clever, but the events and characterizations are perplexing. Perhaps this novel should be read as a fable concerning Scottish Calvinism’s fixations on election and predestination.

I have long wanted to read this short novel, and, on balance, I am glad that I did. I'm not sure that I could recommend it to others, however. ( )
  akblanchard | Jan 5, 2024 |
I feel I read this in the wrong mood and if I'd been less off I'd have enjoyed it more. So maybe it's a 4 star idk. Anyway.

I did feel like... there was constantly something being communicated that was eluding me. I think what came across most for the first half is the sense that Miss Brodie is rather pathetic and she's only able to impress 10 year old girls. This is such a strong impression and I feel it has to be deliberate - she's treated something like a figure of fun with her ridiculous maxims and claims that aren't borne out. Indeed, a key part of the book is that none of her "set" lead lives anything like she wants them to. But you also pretty clearly get the sense that the narrator is not telling the whole story. Our understanding of her is entirely through what the girls know, and we see things mostly through children's eyes.

So it makes sense that for children who don't know any different, Miss Brodie DOES make a big impression because she's letting them into "adult" things. Although at the same time it's... hard to tell what's "normal" from that time period and what's actually weird. Obviously now a school teacher having a few girls around at her flat every Saturday would be unthinkable but also apparently it's not an issue enough for the headmistress to dismiss her. It's weird how she's looking for an issue for seemingly... 7 years? And never finding one until the very end. Which again suggests that something is going on that we're not getting a proper picture of. The movie version makes a big deal of the betrayal but in the book it's surprisingly fast and the incident is basically glossed over a rich girl who arrives for a term is convinced by Miss Brodie into going to Spain... to fight for the fascists. And then dies in a train crash before she gets there. Miss Brodie casually admits she encouraged this months later to Sandy, which leads to Sandy then saying to the headmistress that Miss Brodie is teaching fascism in class, which leads to her being fired. There's no deep explanation of her motives, no sign she particularly cares about fascism over anything else, the girl who died is barely a character again there feels like something there that I'm not quite grasping!

Like... there's definitely a lot of obvious good stuff in this book, I just felt something was flying past my head - that a decent chunk of what happened was maybe not strictly true (Sandy becoming a nun is mentioned right from the start, but then you wait the whole book for an explanation and again it sort of just... happens. And the scenes of her gripping at the bars are such strong imagery that it feels not "real" you know?) but that it was communicating something that I just never got. Which doesn't make it bad, just left me frustrated with myself for not understanding haha. It's a clever book. ( )
  tombomp | Oct 31, 2023 |
I read the book and watched the film before I played the part on stage at the Beckwith Theatre in Dowagiac, Michigan. ( )
  rebwaring | Aug 14, 2023 |
Recently read this funny, intelligent classic (first published in 1961). What a fun, surprising book, especially if you're reading it with a Scottish brogue as it's set in Edinburgh. ( )
  DonnaMarieMerritt | Jun 29, 2023 |
Readable and I'm glad I can understand references now. Certainly well-written, I'm just not in the mood for insight into this past, I guess. ( )
  Kiramke | Jun 27, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 161 (next | show all)
She writes with cool exactness, a firm voice (each tale has its own) and compassionate wit. In her new novel (originally published last fall, in shorter form, in The New Yorker), she deals with a violent woman whose romantic spirit is impatient with all but the Absolute.
 

» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Spark, Murielprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barbero, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blythe, GaryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cook, BerylIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dilé, LéoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
袁凤珠Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gripiõtēs, NikosTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gubler, AugustoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hager, HalAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hirata, GeniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kosturkov, ĬordanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Margolyes, MiriamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McWilliam, CandiaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mihăiță, GigiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Naujack, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Özgören, PürenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Omboni, IdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paz, MagdeleineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pedrolo, Manuel deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Periquito, MargaridaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, R. M.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosen, Ingeborg vonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, AlanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Uhrynowska-Hanasz, ZofiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whitlau, W.A.C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The boys, as they talked to the girls from Marcia Blaine School, stood on the far side of their bicycles holding the handlebars, which established a protective fence of bicycle between the sexes, and the impression that at any moment, the boys were likely to be away.
Quotations
'This is Stanley Baldwin who got in as Prime Minister and got out again ere long,' said Miss Brodie. 'Miss Mackay retains him on the wall because she believes in the slogan "Safety First". But Safety does not come first. Goodness, Trust and Beauty come first. Follow me.
"We shall discuss tomorrow night the persons who oppose me' said Miss Brodie. 'But rest assured they shall not succeed.''No,' said everyone. 'No, Of course they won't.''Not while I am in my prime. It is important to recognize the years of one's prime, always remember that,..'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
1961 novel. "La Vera Miss Brodie" is not the same work as "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie": it is an Italian article. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie = Gli anni in fiore della signorina Brodie (or Gli anni fulgenti di miss Brodie)
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A teacher at a girl's school in Edinburgh during the 1930s comes into conflict with school authorities because of her unorthodox teaching methods.

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Haiku summary
prewar Edinburgh;
six impressionable girls
schoolmistress primes
(GrettelTBR)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141181427, 0241956773

 

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