A Review of Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (by Jill)



If my review of All My Puny Sorrows was sparse on details, it’s nothing compared to how sparse this review is going to be. I read this book on vacation with my parents. My parents go to bed really early, so I got a lot of reading done, which was nice. Goodreads says I started this book on August 13th and finished it on August 14th. That is some fast reading, if I do say so myself, even though the book was pretty short. I read this book on my Kindle, and it was one of my Kindle Unlimited books, and I’m really excited to remove it from my Kindle when I’ve published this post.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was published in 1961 and takes place in and around an all-girls boarding school in the later 1920s and early 1930s. The titular Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher at said school and she takes six girls under her wing when they are ten, and she is “in her prime,” whatever that means. Miss Brodie is an aficionado of Mussolini in particular and fascism in general, which fascinates me, but then this novel takes place several years before World War II breaks out so things were kind of different back then, but it was still bizarre to read about this woman touting fascism as the future.

The six girls were pretty interchangeable while I was reading about them back in August, and they are even more so two months on. I remember one was very pretty, and one had very small eyes. Their names are Monica Douglas, Rose Stanley, Eunice Gardner, Sandy Stranger, Jenny Gray, and Mary Macgregor. Miss Brodie employs a different method of teaching than was standard back in the Twenties, or even today. She tells stories and gives advice, and that’s sort of all. I am not clear on whether or not she actually ever taught English to her students, though I know she talked about literature. Miss Jean Brodie also has two suitors, Teddy Lloyd, an artist and teacher at the school who is married, and Gordon Lowther, the school’s music teacher. There is much hullaballoo with this love triangle: Miss Brodie may love Teddy more, but she chooses Mr. Lowther because he is not married and seems to need her more, and I think he has an illness. At one point or another Miss Brodie decides that one of her girls needs to take Teddy as a lover, and that whole thing was really, really weird to me. If I could have not known about that, I would have liked this book more.

Despite this vague and miserable review, I really did like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Jean Brodie is a fascinating character, though I don’t really know that I knew her very well after reading this book. She is an enigma, that Jean Brodie. The novel is also really easy to read, it’s got that “effortless prose” we are so enamored with here at PfP. I would love to discuss Miss Brodie with someone one of these days; if anyone has any interest in doing so, please just comment on my post.  Also, if anyone has seen the movie with Maggie Smith, could you please let me know if it’s worth watching?  I just love Professor McGonagall.

This entry was posted in Fiction - general, Fiction - Historical, Fiction - literary, Muriel Spark, Reviews by Jill, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Review of Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (by Jill)

  1. lfpbe says:

    The British were enamored with Fascism in general, right up to the beginning of WW2. England and Germany were allies for centuries, usually against France, and the royal families of the two were closely related to one another. Some British monarchs in the 18th and 19th centuries, including Queen Victoria, spoke German as their native language and English as a second language, and the current royal family reluctantly changed its name to Windsor from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha because they didn’t want to seem too German (this seems as if it should have happened before WW1, but my memory says it was before WW2; not sure which is right). A lot of upper-class Brits privately remained loyal to Fascism even after WW2 began, basically because they were against Communism and they thought Fascism would defeat Communism. One of the Mitford sisters tried to commit suicide when Hitler turned down her romantic advances; she was a vegetable for the rest of her life.

  2. badkitty1016 says:

    That is fascinating. I had no idea.

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