Thursday, 13 June 2013

Book #36 The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie

Length Of Time In Possession : 6 years

What an odd thing this book is. It is the story of one Jean Brodie who teaches 10 year old girls, she elects to turn a group of 6 of them : Sandy, Jenny, Rose, Mary, Monica and Eunice into her "set" a group of petted favourites to whom she extends her influence, and becomes involved with on a personal level turning them into friends and confidantes at an impressionable age, winning both their minds and their hearts. As they age into the Senior School, the headmistress, wary of Brodie attempts to break the girls bond and uncover a reason to dismiss the eccentric schoolteacher.

Certain stylistic approaches irritate, we are repetitively told that Jean Brodie was in her prime or at least considered herself to be, we are repetitively told that Rose became "famous for sex"  etc, and in what is quite a short book it proves annoying.

As far as the plot itself goes I found Jean Brodie to be an alarming even sociopathic character : I was thoroughly unsurprised that the Headmistress wanted to oust her. Whilst every parent hopes that their child will find a inspirational teacher who is willing to light up their child's mind and deviate from the "rules"; Brodie is more like a spider to whom the girls are flies, that she manipulates, controls, and puppeteers at her own whim. Mary, as an example, seems to have only been included in the "set" to serve as its whipping boy, an example for Brodie to criticise for the benefit of the other girls.

As the girls age, Brodie manipulates their burgeoning sexual blooming to her own ends and in one instance is indirectly responsible for a child's death. Finally seeing through her, one of her own set betrays her, but which one, and why?    

This is a really strong if very strange book about the alarming power to influence children adults hold because even in old age the girl who finally turned on her cites her as her greatest influence. Interesting and thought provoking if not always excellently written.

Verdict : 7.5/10

Destination : Charity Shop

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