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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: A Novel Paperback – February 10, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


''Surprises are systematically reduced until there is only one left, and it is like the stab of a stiletto.'' --Spectator --This text refers to the Audio CD Library Binding edition.

About the Author

Dame Muriel Spark (1918-2006) wrote more than twenty books, including Memento Mori, The Ballad of Peckham Rye, and Symposium.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; 1.11.2009 edition (February 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061711292
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061711299
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Muriel Spark (1918-2006) was a prolific Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet whose darkly comedic voice made her one of the most distinctive writers of the twentieth century. Spark grew up in Edinburgh and worked as a department store secretary, writer for trade magazines, and literary editor before publishing her first novel in 1957. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), considered her masterpiece, was made into a stage play, a TV series, and a film. Spark became a Dame of the British Empire in 1993.

Customer Reviews

I would have put it down after the fist 50 pages, but had to read it for book club so struggled thru it to the end.
While the movie is presented from Jean Brodie's point of view, the book gets more into the feelings of one of Miss Brodie's girls, Sandy Stranger.
F. Orion Pozo
In fact, Muriel Spark's novel is ultimately a very dark and depressing one, in spite of its seemingly lighthearted tone and loads of irony.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

146 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
My first encounter with Jean Brodie came via Maggie Smith's very memorable performance in the 1960s film of the same name--a very fine film indeed. But those who come to Muriel Sparks' novel through the film are in for quite a surprise: although the basic characters and the story itself are recognizable, the tone is quite different and the novel works to a greatly different point.

In a general sense, THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE is a portrait of a place, Edinburgh of the 1930s, a particular time, an era in which women were dominated by strict codes of behavior. Those who did not conform these codes were on a collision course with society, and so it is with Miss Jean Brodie, school teacher at the conservative Marsha Blaine School For Girls. A pseudo-intellectual with a sensual disposition, Miss Brodie sets out to visit her own ambitions on the next generation--and with very mixed results.

The next generation in question is a particular group of girls who fall into Miss Brodie's hands through the school, a group that quickly becomes known as "the Brodie set" and are noted for their excessive loyalty to her and to her romantically inclined attitudes to life. But Miss Brodie has erred: for all her claim to special insight, she is largely oblivious to the true nature of their characters, and while she has an undeniable impact on their lives it is not precisely the impact she seeks or expects.

There are no suddenly plot twists, no great turns in the novel in any dramatic sense; instead, the book is about the revelation of character that can only occur with time. Miss Brodie first appears as a fascinating figure, but as her students grow to maturity and perceive her in new and different lights our own impression of her changes.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By DAVID BRYSON VINE VOICE on October 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
By now I'm sure that Miss Jean Brodie and her prime are better known from the film than from the original novel. The film, and the absolutely wonderful stage production that preceded it in London with Vanessa Redgrave as the first Brodie, caught one side, the caricature side, of Muriel Spark's immortal creation, but the story is a more complex matter altogether, short though the book is.

Any story by Muriel Spark is complex up to a point - her way of thinking is devious and unstraightforward and her characters tend to inhabit the moral and motivational lowlands. Insofar as they seem like real people at all rather than clever animations, her attitude towards them is usually ambivalent. Indeed it's almost fair to say that she makes her feelings for her own creations clearest, and expresses them most strongly, when those feelings consist most of repugnance, as with Patrick Seton and Father Socket in The Bachelors. Nevertheless she always seems to distance herself successfully from their general squalor through her quick wits and the dazzling speed at which she keeps rearranging the scenery.

This book has a lot of the familiar Spark `feel' to it, but it's a bit different in some ways too. It's short, but it doesn't come across to me as a lightweight effort like The Abbess of Crewe. The cast of characters is not as large as in The Bachelors or The Ballad of Peckham Rye, but it's large enough. What makes it simpler is that it consists largely of a group of juveniles on the one hand, and on the other it is absolutely dominated by one single outsize personality, maybe the nearest to a true heroine or hero that Spark ever allowed herself. Jean Brodie is a silly woman but not a mean or corrupt one and that, in a novel by Muriel Spark, is quite something not to be.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Joanna K Bratten on January 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
Students who are forced to read this slender but pithy novel in high school or university classes often dismiss it was being 'about nothing', or just a dead bore. Which is a shame, as this powerful novel from Muriel Spark is one that needs to be appreciated and taken seriously - and enjoyed - by all readers, whether those in high school or those who lecture on it to classrooms of bored university students. Perhaps the lack of appreciation for this novel by students is the lack of interest with which teachers approach it. Perhaps it hits too close to the bone for many teachers, who, like Miss Brodie, endeavour to shape and form their 'set' and who, perhaps unwittingly, manipulate their students in the worst ways.
Whatever the reason, this text is one that should be read and taught ethusiastically, for it packs into its 150-odd pages a deeply comic yet troubling bunch of themes: betrayal, fitting-in, the power of imagination, adultery, and most importantly, the transfiguration of the commonplace. In a way the book is at the same time a paeon to and a curse of the imagination, demonstrating how it can enrich life (such as in the antics of Sandy and Jenny) yet also how it can damage others (such as Miss Brodie's false and manipulative ideas about love, sex, Teddy, Rose and so forth).
Muriel Spark writes about things she knows well, in this case teaching, Edinburgh, girls schools, sex and betrayal. A book not only worth reading, but well worth teaching, and an excellent introduction to the works of Spark, whose other works are equally compelling and astute.
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