Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark

"Gold Biscuits" were one of my junior batches would loved to identify themselves trying to establish their association with a rather nutty professor we had. Every professor would have his favorite batch in College. Typically, it would be the batch he or she is entrusted with in his initial years. They are typically known as his pet team. The team, continue to identify themselves around the same group nearly after 20 years. The most known work of Muriel Spark is around the same theme. 1930s  Miss Jean Brodie, came to the Edinburgh school to take care of a batch of young girls. She was responsible for their early leaning for nearly 2 years. But the 'Brodie gang' remained a group beyond those two years and came to identify themselves as Brodie set. Its a different fact that it is one of them who became a traitor and was responsible for her ouster from the school.

Miss Brodie, who claim to be at 'her prime' was different from the rest of the teachers. She is known for her open nature and trying to bring out fresh thinking to her pupils. She was sympathetic to Hitler and had a liking for Mussolini's men. She had returned to Scotland after her stint in Italy, a sight of the marching of the Soldiers she cherish even now.  Her stories of her travel during vacation, her love affairs and her rebellious nature of living was a great influence on the young girls. As the girls grew, the bonding continue through occasional meeting at Miss Brodie's place.  The gossip around her affairs with the one handed art teacher, and the music teacher added to the overall mystic nature of the lady. The others weren't in agreement with Miss Brodie, especially the young Principal of the school, who waited for a reason to remove her foe. It had to be one of the members who betray their beloved teacher.

The character of Miss Brodie is said to be based on Christina Kay, a teacher of Spark for two years at James Gillespie High School for Girls. Miss Kay supposed to be a conn osier of renaissance paintings and a fan of Mussolini's fascist Army. I haven't read any other book of Spark , hence can not comment on her style. To me it was a simple straight forward read. She has a way with her narration which eases into you. If you read it from a feminine writing angle, I guess this as more relevance in the 30s. A character which rebel against the set norms of the social structure, some one who is open and try to inculcate the similar nature of thinking in the girls. As you see, some of the girls later develop their own identity ( "Rose famous for sex, Jenny Grey famous for her beauty, Sandy with small eye, Eunice famous for her gymnastics) as they grow old. This is done in a curious flash-forward technique, Mary McGregor , At the age of 23 she dies in a hotel fire, etc.

Nice little novella, with certain significance in the time it is released and is  considered to be one among the best of 100 English novels. To me, this was a nice little fast read, but will probably look for a couple more of her works to get a feel of her style.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1962)

Muriel Spark

Harper Perennial

150 Pages
Guardian, Wiki

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