Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:

At the staid Marcia Blaine School for Girls, in Edinburgh, Scotland, teacher extraordinaire Miss Jean Brodie is unmistakably, and outspokenly, in her prime. She is passionate in the application of her unorthodox teaching methods, in her attraction to the married art master, Teddy Lloyd, in her affair with the bachelor music master, Gordon Lowther, and—most important—in her dedication to "her girls," the students she selects to be her crème de la crème. Fanatically devoted, each member of the Brodie set—Eunice, Jenny, Mary, Monica, Rose, and Sandy—is "famous for something," and Miss Brodie strives to bring out the best in each one. Determined to instill in them independence, passion, and ambition, Miss Brodie advises her girls, "Safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth, and Beauty come first. Follow me." 

And they do. But one of them will betray her.

My Review:
I have been wanting to read this book for quite some time, and just this last year it was chosen as a book club selection with my group.  I have heard many glowing reviews of this novel and now that I have read it, the reviews have me confused.  I am not part of the crowd that found enjoyment from this book.

For the most part, this book was boring for me.  When it wasn't boring, I think it actually made me angry.  As a teacher in a girls school she would hand-pick a group of girls to be her prodigies.   All the girls in school wanted to be a part of the "Brodie set", so you can imagine the status given to the girls that are selected.  This part of the book made me angry, that these girls were thought of as being better than the rest.  Since when is it ok for a teacher to cultivate dividing lines among students?

Once the girls are chosen, Miss Brodie would meet with them during the schooldays.  These meeting should have been full of teaching instruction and lessons, but they were everything but that.  Contrary to the summary above, it didn't seem to me she was bringing out the best in them, as much as flaunting her own good fortune of love and beauty.

I had a hard time with the dialogue and timelines in this book.  Many times the book would be a flashback from present time and there were not always clear indicators of this change.  This book was hard for me to read and understand, and most of my book club agreed.  If you are one of the people that loved this book, I would love to know what, exactly, you find inspiring.

With themes of love, deception, and beauty, maybe you would like this book more than I did.  I know many people found more enjoyment from this novel than me.

My Rating:  2/5

Disclosure:  I borrowed this book from the local library and read as a book club selection.


bermudaonion said...

I've heard a lot about this story too. After reading your review, I don't think it's for me.

Visit Site said...

Having first read this 50 years ago in college, I was anxious to see how it would hold up in the light of life experience. I appreciate every polished and perfect sentence. She can suspend a sentence like no one else! I see far more depth now beneath the quirky, ironic surface. It's full of the ambiguities of life!

Spiritual Religious Broadcasting said...

Funny, upsetting and thoroughly delightful. The characters interesting, especially Miss Jean Brodie, a true original. Read the book then see the movie.

Highly recommended Injury Lawyer KRW said...

After reading the one and two star reviews on Amazon, I think that people don't realize that this is a book about ethics/morals. Miss Brodie looks admirable, but in the end she does harm to her students by teaching her own fantasies as facts. It just is not true that this is a book without plot.