Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

I have to admit that for the first 20-30 pages of the book, my mind was halfway occupied with the question of whether or not I'd auditioned for a production of the play of this book at some point, and when I remembered my struggles with the Scottish accent, moved on to what role I'd been auditioning for.

I didn't get a part, though.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a tantalizing glimpse of human dynamics at work, at group dynamics, about the impact of a strong figure in early childhood, and, specifically, the impact of spinsterhood on single women in early 20th century Scotland.

Miss Brodie is a slightly maddening creature, pro-Fascist, controlling, and self-obsessed, but yet enriching and enlivening for the students she selects as her set. Over time, the set grows and changes, some get away, some are guided by her, one will betray her.

One of the best parts of the book for me was the way that Spark would give us little pieces of information about the future of each character while we were still in the midst of this emotional morass, allowing to see how what happened affected or didn't affect the eventual choices of each character.

A very short book, this was well worth the read. It eschews easy answers, and raises questions about human nature that are not easily answered.

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