Book Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Title: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Author: Muriel Spark

Genre: Classic Fiction

Number of Pages: 150

Rating: B-

Recommended?: Yes

This is probably one of the best-known of Muriel Spark’s books but it wasn’t one of my favorites that I read by her. Like all her books, it was well-written but it lacked the outlandish dark humor of books like The Finishing School and Aiding & Abetting and I found the characters (except Jean Brodie herself, who was a total bitch but was interesting) a little dull.

The book is about a charismatic teacher named (you guessed it) Miss Jean Brodie and her toxic relationships with a group of girls she calls her ‘favorite’ students, the crème de le crème. The story focuses on how their complex feelings towards Miss Brodie shape their formative years and stick with them long after they’ve become adults.

Like the other books I’ve read by this author, this novel is misanthropic and has a rather deadpan sensibility. Muriel Spark doesn’t seem to like her own characters much and likewise doesn’t seem to expect her readers to feel much sympathy for them. Miss Brodie is a iconoclast and free spirit but she’s also narcissistic and a Nazi sympathizer.

One thing I didn’t like about this novel was that most of the girl students had just one or two character traits and Spark reminded the reader of them over and over. I was so sick of hearing about Sandy’s ‘small pig-like’ eyes every single time she showed up. One of the girls, Mary, is a little on the slow side and the narrative constantly reminds us of how stupid she is.

I felt like Muriel Spark was kind of beating the dead horse with her character descriptions. Even though it wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be, I did enjoy this book for the most part and I’m looking forward to watching the film adaptation with Maggie Smith.


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