* 1001 Books Book
Spark, M. (1999). The prime of Miss Jean Brodie. New York: Perennial Classics.
When reading another book recently, I saw a reference to Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. My interest piqued, I looked up some information on it and found that this read was less than 200 pages. That and the teacher narrative caught my attention.
Miss Jean Brodie teaches at a girls’ private school, Marcia Blaine, in 1930s Edinburgh, Scotland. She works at the Junior School where she handpicks six girls to be what will become known as “The Brodie Set” or “The Brodie Girls.” They are Monica, Rose, Eunice, Sandy, Jenny, and Mary. With these girls in particular, Miss Brodie discusses her travels and politics as well as her amorous relationships with Mr. Lloyd, the school’s Art Master, and Mr. Lowther, the Singing Master of Marcia Blaine. She fawns over Il Duce and constantly reminds her students that she is in “her prime” and they shall benefit. Most of her coworkers and the headmistress, Miss Mackay, detest her. Using the prolepsis (flashfoward) technique, Spark definitely shows the reader that Miss Brodie leaves her mark on her students. Yet has she scarred them for life?
After finishing the book, I watched the movie with Dame Maggie Smith. While I found the performances amazing, I felt the film didn’t pack the wallup which I found in the book. The prolepsis was not in the film (this was pre-Lost days) and this left me disappointed. The flash forwards offered much into the psyche of Miss Brodie and her students. Seeing how these six girls landed as women was huge in the book.
In addition, the book was scarier. Themes from The Wave must have come from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Much of the Brodie technique falls under mind control and manipulation. The dangers of letting others do all of the thinking are huge here.
I also think Spark borrowed a little from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. For fear of spoiling the story, even one chock full of flash forwards, I will leave that for readers to decide.
All in all, on level of prolepsis and precautionary tale, I give this 3 out of 5 pearls.