Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the movie, I fell in love with Miss Jean Brodie (or was it Maggie Smith as Jean Brodie?) in the first half of the movie, and grew disillusioned along with the intellectually maturing girls of her set as the story drew on. As a classic I had heard of but not previously seen, I felt confused. Are we supposed to adore her? Pity her? Find her politically shallow and self absorbed? Is she a feminist ahead of her time or a crazy lady you hope your kids won’t get as a teacher?

In the book, Spark draws a Miss Brodie who is, initially, less sympathetic than the movie version. This is in spite of the fact that the movie writers drew a more direct line from her to her students’ troubles than does the book.

Favorite part of all this so far:
We’ve recently begun watching Monarch of the Glen and we had a great laugh catching the references to being ‘in one’s prime!’

It was very interesting to see the differences between the movie and book. Time was compressed, girls were merged and mixed, terrible consequences directly dropped at Miss Brodie’s feet in the movie were less clearly her fault in the book. In both, she was politically very odd, possibly naive and bizarrely confused. It’s hard to tell, because we see her in what feels like only the same way the girls do. She doesn’t reveal to us her inside thoughts or motivations. In the book, it seemed clear that she wanted to live independently and not be married. In the movie, the choice is made to show her as devastated when Mr. Loewther gets engaged. Both versions were good.

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