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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

(26 Posts)
nevermindthecrocodiles Thu 28-Feb-13 10:24:45

Come hither and discuss, lovely MN-ers! (I still have some copies left if anyone wants one?)
So I will start with: what does everyone think of the use of prolepsis narrative <smarty pants> instead of sequential narrative? Also, does anyone else think Spark is sometimes a bit sadistic in her treatment of her characters?

CrispyHedgeHog Thu 28-Feb-13 10:29:08

I've never read the book but I loved the film. Haven't seen it in years tho sad

ThePathanKhansAmnesiac Thu 28-Feb-13 10:33:05

I,d love a copy please nevermind.

I,ve never read the book, or indeed anything by MSpark blush.
I loved the film, all the hidden layers and undertones.
Have you enjoyed reading it?

CrispyHedgeHog Thu 28-Feb-13 10:34:59

ohh if you were serious about spare copies I'd love one too please

nevermindthecrocodiles Thu 28-Feb-13 10:44:13

PM me your addresses and I'll post copies this weekend smile
It's one of my favourite books - I love it. Think it especially resonates as I went to an all girls school and there were a few similarities!

BlackStiltonBoots Thu 28-Feb-13 10:46:31

Just marking my place! I'm still reading- am finding it really interesting and somewhat surprising so far.

CrispyHedgeHog Thu 28-Feb-13 10:50:57

You're a star, thanks so much smile

Cantdothisagain Thu 28-Feb-13 21:38:59

Do you still have copies? This was my favourite book for years when I was a teenager. I don't have it anymore. Would love to discuss it, prolepsis, fascism and all!

nevermindthecrocodiles Thu 28-Feb-13 22:40:16

Of course! Just pm me your address & I'll post you a copy this weekend smile

Samu2 Fri 01-Mar-13 08:39:54

I would love a copy if you still have any left. Thank you smile

nevermindthecrocodiles Fri 01-Mar-13 10:47:41

Yup - pm me your address!

iseenodust Fri 01-Mar-13 12:21:38

I read this on holiday in Scotland having spotted it in a charity shop. My problem was I could hear Maggie Smith's voice throughout, as watching the film years before had left such a great impression.

Worksitoutwithapencil Fri 01-Mar-13 17:35:54

I received my copy on Wednesday - thank you crocodiles thanks
I am going to start reading it this evening and will be back to update soon smile

CheeseStrawWars Fri 01-Mar-13 19:09:33

I have got, and read, my book - thanks so much! thanks

I really enjoyed it, it didn't go the way I expected at all...

*Spoiler alert*

I agree there are certainly aspects of sadism in the way the characters are treated. One could argue that with Mary MacGregor, there is something of the martyr in the way that she accepts her role as a scapegoat - she suffers uncomplainingly, nobly perhaps, with no resentment or malice in her character - but the constant contemptuous scorn with which she, and her death, is treated/described is utterly lacking in compassion. Mary is described as "stupid" countless times, "too stupid to lie", "habitual slow bewilderment", always "a lump", "lumpy" , lump-like", and that's by the omniscient narrator.

The way her death is described by the other girls is "tragic" but the way Sparks describes her death, and the way it is foreshadowed in the lab - "hither and thither she ran in a panic between the two benches" [between two flames] - it is as if Sparks thinks Mary was too stupid to live, and deserved her fate. It feels like victim-blaming, as if she deserved to be bullied. But if Miss Brodie hadn't been engineering/enforcing the dynamic, then Sandy certainly would have modified her behaviour to be more kindly towards Mary.

If you draw parallels between Miss Brodie's beloved fascists and the way she sees herself as a leader of girls, then taking on Mary as the scapegoat in order to draw the rest closer makes sense. But the way Mary is treated by the narrator/author - in particular her ultimate fate - sits uncomfortably when viewed with that lens. I would've expected a bit more sympathy/compassion directed toward her.

RemusLupinsBiggestGroupie Sat 02-Mar-13 16:09:38

Haven't read this for years. I remember really liking it but can recall little about it.

Have I missed the spare copies?

minsmum Sun 03-Mar-13 12:37:53

I remember the series on tv vaguely but I have never read the book. Would love a copy if you have any left

nevermindthecrocodiles Sun 03-Mar-13 17:51:08

If you pm me your addresses I will send some copies smile

minsmum Mon 04-Mar-13 09:08:30

I have done and its the first one I have ever sent so I hope that you get it

BlackStiltonBoots Tue 05-Mar-13 11:02:29

I finished reading it a few days ago, think I'm going to give it another read through so I can think about it all a bit more.

I will be back with searing, insightful analysis...or maybe not! grin Here are a few of my initial thoughts... beware spoilers.

I agree with CheeseStrawWars, her comments about the treatment of Mary are spot on. I found the callousness surrounding her death quite chilling actually. It was almost gleeful in a way, the description of Mary running hither and thither like a headless chicken, too stupid to escape. I wonder why Sparks chose to take that tone, as it was the narrative voice rather than the thoughts of a character. It did seem sadistic to me as well.

One thing I picked up on was the constant references to Sandy's small, piggy eyes. Miss Brodie even suggests Sandy is short-sighted at one point, yet Sandy sees things much more clearly than any other character, and is quite insightful.

I like Sandy's inner life as well.

I think Miss Brodie was well past her prime and hankering for her youth, living vicariously through the younger girls (who probably were in their prime).

Look forward to reading all your thoughts. Will add more when I have re-read.

Ashoething Tue 05-Mar-13 15:54:43

I havent read it in years but I remember I really disliked a lot of the characters-including jean brodie. I much prefer The girls of slender means-any one want to discuss that?grin

Worksitoutwithapencil Sat 09-Mar-13 22:12:32

Thanks again for the book. I have just finished - it took me a week to read which is quite a long time considering the length of the book.
I liked the style of the narrative, the way it flowed backwards and forwards in a similar way to the thoughts in your head. I also like the casual way that big events were dropped into the narrative. Although this effected the story - which is usual what I read a book for and what keeps me reading as I want to find out what happened next.


As i normally read books mainly for the story a lot of the suble details and intentions probably went straight over my head.
I don't really understand why Sandy betrayed Miss Brodie so would be interested to hear other people's thoughts on that.

Miss Brodie is not really a likeable character - it is not a very sympathetic portrayal of a lonely woman who invests so much energy in her set as she does not really have anything else to do.

It might be a bit of an obvious comment but I can't think of another book that is so obsessed with and full of sex as this one. Is that to do with the age of the girls (puberty and sexual awakening) or more to do with Miss Brodie's sexual frustration?

Would definitely be interested in hearing other people's thought and opinions as I do feel a little bit like I have missed the point.

AgentProvocateur Thu 21-Mar-13 08:35:30

I started my copy on Monday and finished it yesterday. I loved it, but wasn't particularly keen on MJB as a character in the book - the Maggie Smith film version is far more sympathetic. From the film, I don't remember the girls being quite so young when she "picked" them. Or in fact MJB being so young - 39, did it say in the book?

One of the things I like about our (Scottish) education system, is that there are many teachers - primary and secondary - who teach to a wider curriculum than their subject, and impart their knowledge about a wide range if topics, a la MJB. I don't think she was as unique as she believed.

Thanks so much for sending the book. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

TheSmallClanger Thu 21-Mar-13 13:45:33

I love this book, although I haven't read it for a while.

It's quite a standard Muriel Spark thing to have an anti-hero as the protagonist. Several of her books have deeply flawed and quite dislikeable individuals as main characters. They are hard to identify with, but there is sometimes a foil, against which they are played.

I love the way that Spark gets into the mindset of a teenage girl herself, although it isn't one of the girls who narrates the story. There is something quite teenagerish and naive about MJB, I think - she has the black-and-white thinking and rigid, ferociously-held convictions of an intelligent teen, and some of her more bullying behaviours, such as her encouragement of the girls' ill-treatment of Mary, are distinctly juvenile, although highly-developed and more subtle than those of a genuine schoolgirl.


Sandy betrayed her because, despite her posturing and fantasising, she was actually rather a sensible girl who realised what was going on re the behaviour with Teddy Lloyd.

FarleyD Tue 02-Apr-13 23:02:29

Just finished reading this, thanks again Nevermind. Don't really know what I think - I've never read any Muriel Sparks before, and only have a vague recollection of the tv series. MJB seemed a highly unsympathetic character to me, cold and manipulative, without much true insight into the workings of her girls' minds. Self-obsessed too. Are those fair comments to make about her?

Thought the headmistress was portrayed well, desperate as she was to get something on MJB.

Whole book makes me think of how impressionable I was at that age, and what power teachers can have.

mercibucket Tue 02-Apr-13 23:07:47

oooh i will re read this. i love this book. so observant of the all girls school environment.

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