Wednesday, April 25, 2012

BOOK: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, 128 pages

Muriel Spark Reading Week

Not at all what I was expecting! I thought it would be like Dead Poet's Society, with the inspirational teacher, who changes the lives of her students, teaching them to think for themselves, challenge the societal norms. This was not Dead Poet's Society.

Beginning in 1930, the 'Brodie set', a group of eleven year old girls fall under Jean Brodie's influence at a day school in Edinburgh. Again, Spark begins the story, and you think you know where this is headed, and then Bam! She drops a sentence that makes you look at the story in a new way, looking for more clues because this story has taken a turn to the sinister.

The story flips back and forth, from the 1930s to after the war when the girls have grown up. I loved how Spark reliably attached the information about each girl, each time their name was mentioned. "Eunice Gardiner, small, neat, and famous for her spritely gymnastics and glamorous swimming," would be repeated almost every time Eunice reappeared in the story. Gradually, a few of the girls started to stand out as they grabbed a bigger part of the story. Most shocking to me was how terrible of a character Miss Jean Brodie was. She was manipulative, of questionable politics, and down right mean to some of the students.

I'm beginning to gather some impressions about Muriel Spark and her writing, but I'll need a few more stories to make generalizations. So far, I've got sinister undertones, 'satire' and making comments about society in an obtuse way, layers upon layers of meaning, and one sentence that jumps out and changes the path of the story.

Next up this week: The Driver's Seat and find more Muriel Spark reviews at Stuck in a Book.