Those in their prime do not need spoilers. However…

Who wrote this book and when?

Muriel Spark wrote this in 1962.

Has there been a movie made of it?
It was first made into a play, then the play was adapted into a movie. It starred Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall for the uncultured…) as Jean Brodie and she won an Oscar for the role in 1969. It was also a musical…which I found kind of…odd. The book also inspired a TV series which most people agree should be forgotten.

Who are the main characters?
Miss Jean Brodie – a schoolteacher at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls in the 1930’s. She has unconventional teaching methods, supports Mussolini, and is in her prime.
Monica Douglass – famous for being able to do complex math in her head and for having anger management issues: part of the Brodie set
Rose Stanley – famous for sex: part of the Brodie set
Eunice Gardiner – famous for being athletic and a very talented gymnast and swimmer: part of the Brodie set
Jenny Gray – famous for being beautiful: part of the Brodie set
Sandy Stranger – famous for her lovely vowel enunciations and her small eyes: part of the Brodie set
Mary MacGregor – famous for being an uninteresting lump who takes blame for everything: part of the Brodie set
Gordon Lowthier – the singing master
Teddy Lloyd – the art teacher

What’s it about?
This is the story of the betrayal of Miss Jean Brodie by one of her own special proteges (sp?) – the Brodie set. Miss Brodie is a teacher at Marcia Blaine School for Girls. She is unmarried and considers herself in her “prime.” She teaches the ten year olds at the school, and selects a certain group of girls to pay particular attention to. And even within this set, she chooses two girls to be favorites and one to be her particular companion.

Miss Brodie talks to these girls about nearly everything. She travels frequently and loves Mussolini. She approves of his organization of Italy and directs the girls in developing into socially perfect ladies. Ironically, she often comes under attack from the school principal for her non-kosher teaching methods.

Throughout the book, we hear how the girls were manipulated by Miss Brodie. They think a lot about sex in their younger years – since no one will explain it to them. We also are given snippets of information about what happened to the girls as they grew up.

Why is this book a classic?
Muriel Spark accurately describes the type of single woman which emerged after World War One. Miss Brodie exemplifies the socially aware and politically involved woman who characterized the younger but not “young” singles of the era. Single women in Britain in the 30’s traveled a lot, were aware of political movements throughout the world and were more educated in world culture than women had been in centuries.

Why should I read this book?
It has great psychology – although you don’t realize it. Spark captures the minds of adolescent girls in the Brodie set. It’s not only humorous, but sobering when you realize just how influential this age group is. Eesh, now I sound like my mother…

Has this book won any awards?
No, but the movie of it has. See above.

Favorite quotes:
“It was time for Jenny to go home with her mother, all the way in the tram car through the haunted November twilight of Edinburgh across the Dean Bridge. Sandy waved from the window, and wondered if Jenny, too, had the feeling of leading a double life, fraught with problems that even a millionaire did not have to face. It was well known that millionaires led double lives. The evening paper rattle-snaked its way through the letter box and there was suddenly a six-o’clock feeling in the house.” – p 32

“All heads turned to look at the reproduction which Miss Brodie had brought back from her travels and pinned on the wall. Mona Lisa in her prime smiled in steady composure even though she had just come from the dentist and her lower jaw was swollen. ‘She is older than the rocks on which she sits. Would that I had been given charge of you girls when you were seven. I sometimes fear it’s too late, now. If you had been mine when you were seven you would have been the cr�me de la cr�me. Sandy, come and read some stanzas and let us hear your vowel sounds. ‘” – p 34

Anything else?
This is supposed to be Muriel Sparks’ best work along with a novel called “Girls of Slender Means.” Spark also will only write her novels out longhand in special notebooks she gets from a vendor and will not write with a pen anyone else has touched.

Personal thoughts:
I enjoyed reading this book. Although, at first glance it may seem like a fairly pointless book…I could relate to it. The girls in the Brodie set thought exactly the same way I did when I was their age. I’m not sure if that says good or poor things about me. I also appreciated it’s not entirely linear style.

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