the prime of miss jean brodie

Title :: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Author :: Muriel Spark
Completed :: Apr 01 2008
Challenges :: Novella : 1001 Books
Rating :: 4/5

Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life.

So says Miss Jean Brodie, a woman and teacher in her prime willing to lead her girls out in an attempt to make them the crème de la crème. I like that phrase 'to lead out' as a definition of the word education, which Miss Brodie insists that based on its latin roots (and I can't argue since I have yet to learn latin) education means to lead out, as in to bring out what a person already knows. She is adamantly against the headmistress Miss MacKay's idea of education, which is is to put in or as Miss Brodie views it, an intrusion.

Instead of spending their school days learning history, geography, arithmetic and all those other important subjects, Miss Brodie shares with her students tales of her love life, her admiration for Mussolini and art. Because above all she loves art, and she loves the art teacher, Mr. Lloyd. But as he is married he is not perfectly suited for a paramour and so Miss Brodie turns to the music teacher, Mr. Lowther. While carrying on an affair with Lowther and keeping him well fed she begins planning an affair between Mr. Lloyd and Rose, one of the Brodie Set. Rose is a girl known for sex, although I think they mean here sex appeal because she was never described as a hussy running around the town. Rose spends the summer posing for Mr. Lloyd who begins painting a series featuring her, although it is Miss Brodie's profile that graces each frame. Sandy however, another of the Brodie Set sees through these paintings and ends up shocking Miss Brodie when it is she that instigates an affair with Mr. Lloyd. For Miss Brodie was sure that while Rose had the instinct to start an affair it was Sandy that had insight to avoid one.

From the very beginning the reader is aware that at one point Miss Brodie had been betrayed by one of the girls in her set. Miss MacKay was constantly cornering the girls in an attempt to get them to spill some gossip or confession about Miss Brodie that would give her the opportunity to sack her. When that information finally becomes available Miss MacKay confesses to Miss Brodie that it was indeed one of her girls that gave her up. Miss Brodie is shocked but believes that it could have been no other than Mary who was slightly dim-witted and was often used as a scapegoat. But was it she?

I liked how the book was written in a series of flash forwards (sort of like Lost this season) where the reader is aware of the future but is given back history to make sense of the whole picture with bits from the future being revealed here and there. It was nice to know where the girls of the Brodie Set ended up in their adulthood and I have to wonder if they really did become the crème de la crème. I think of all the girls it was probably Sandy that reached that level. She was really 'led out' devoting herself to her religion, becoming a nun and using what knowledge she learned from Miss Brodie to write a book on psychology and psychoanalysis. And yet I still got the feeling that she in the end Sandy was trapped.

I can't help but wonder now if being in one's prime is obvious to a person at the moment it's happening or is it only something you realize once it's regrettably over? Miss Brodie was certain she was in hers, but was she?

Other Thoughts ::
: you're next - reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link!

. listening . emotional drought . chevelle . this type of thinking could do us in .


posted by Ashleigh @ 22:55,


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    ashleigh (ash'lė) n.
    1: egyptologist; currently living in the uk attempting to obtain a phd in egyptology, hoping in the end there will be a job.
    2: literary; reading to escape reality, to improve conversation, for inspiration.
    3: crafter; crocheting and needlework, creating heirlooms, keeping the world warm.
    4: dreamer; head in the clouds, full of fantasies, wishing to be someone else, somewhere else.
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