World Book Night Giveaway & Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

There’s something about Brodie! She is perhaps one of the most complex literary characters that I have come across; she is neither likeable (her admiration of Hitler and Mussolini assures this) nor unlikeable, both heroine and villain, controlling, and “held in great suspicion”. But she is also a woman celebrating her “prime”; she’s enchanting, glamorous, obsessed with romantic love and yet aware that “the age of chivalry is past”. “Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life”, says Brodie early on in the novel. It is this far-reaching and manipulative influence on her selected pupils, the Brodie set, the ‘creme de la creme’, which forms the basis for the story.

Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 1930’s, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie focuses on schoolmistress Jean Brodie and her Brodie set: Monica Douglas, “famous mostly for mathematics… and for her anger”; Rose Stanley, “famous for sex”; Eunice Gardiner, “famous for her spritely gymnastics and glamorous swimming”; Sandy Stranger, “notorious for her small, almost non-existent, eyes, but she was famous for her vowel sounds”; Jenny Gray, the “most graceful girl of the set”; and Mary Macgregor, “whose fame rested on her being a silent lump, a nobody whom everybody could blame”. World Boko Night

Admittedly, I didn’t fall in love with any of these characters, yet they all enthralled me. Their comic naivety is their redeeming feature (“Mr Lloyd had a baby last week. He must have committed sex with his wife.”), but they become increasingly more selfish, shrewd and cliquey under the tutelage of Miss Jean Brodie at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls. Brodie rebels against the standard curriculum and instead teaches her girls art, culture and lessons in life, indulging them with anecdotal insights into her love life. Her unconventional methods do not go undetected by headmistress Miss Mackay, who tries to oust her several times on the basis of sex, then successfully on the basis of politics, when Brodie is betrayed by one of her own girls.

What is most brilliant about The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is Muriel Spark’s writing; it is so typically Spark. The use of flash forwards in the narrative means that the novel shifts from present to future, with snippets of the girls’ fate revealed to us (similar to The Driver’s Seat), which tinges the story with tragedy. 

But there are plenty of other brilliant things about The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie! Using her poetic style, Spark creates an atmosphere that reminds me of my school days; tastes, smells, music rooms, bunsen burners and the things people say: “They say, make the most of our school days because you never know what lies ahead of you.” And it’s funny, really, REALLY funny. Thematically, the novel investigates religion, psychology and conformity amongst a host of others, and for such a short book, there really is a lot to say.

I’d be lying if I said that the book lived up to my expectations. Living in Scotland, people talk fondly of Miss Jean Brodie and many hold the book in high (almost unreachable) esteem, and deservedly so; but I don’t share that sentimentality. To me, it’s just a brilliant book by a brilliant author. It’s a book that demands to be read and re-read in order to fully appreciate its brilliance.

World Book Night

For World Book Night on 5th March, I’ll be giving away 48 copies of the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie! My giveaway plan is currently top secret, but all will be revealed soon.

In the meantime, to celebrate World Book Night you can win one of FIVE copies of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie AND a special Little Interpretations bookmark (these haven’t returned from the printers yet – but I’m hoping they’ll look awesome).

To be in with a chance of winning:

  •  Leave a coment on this post AND
  • If you haven’t already done so, subscribe to the blog OR follow me on Twitter.

I will choose the winners at random, and the winner will be announced at 6pm on World Book Night, Saturday 5th March 2011.

(I will post worldwide!)


42 thoughts on “World Book Night Giveaway & Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

  1. Another book for the never ending reading list :) I’m a bit obsessed with books about women ‘doing their own thing’ or going against the grain in there time. In some ways I wish I was more like them… then I wake up and realise I quite like having a more ‘normal’ life! x Thanks

  2. Good luck with World Book Night. You’re so lucky taking part. I would have loved to but I live in the Netherlands. Left England 6 years too early! :-)

    I didn’t know this book was by Muriel Spark, silly me. I heard about the book often enough. Would like to be in with a chance of winning. I follow on Twitter.

  3. If someone like Ms. Brodie lived near me I’m pretty sure we won’t be close friends, but I’d like to think we have some interesting conversations over afternoon tea.

    I love the idea of World Book Night, what a really clever idea. Enjoy!

  4. I’ve always meant to read Spark but never did. I’ve seen the film of Prime with Maggie Smith and I’d love to win a copy. I found you through a retweet on Twitter and added you to my Google reader too. I’m a book blogger as well. Thank you for entering me.

  5. Ah, awesome! I love this movie – haven’t yet read the book, though. Please do enter me, and thanks for the chance! I follow you on Twitter already (@RoofBeamReader).

  6. I watched the film version with Dame Maggie Smith playing Miss Jean Brodie just last summer. Your review depicts her exactly. You don’t know if you like her, love her, or hate her and want her to trip over something so she’s not so damn charming all the time! Thanks for posting the book review, I’ll have to add it to my list, and if I win, it’ll get bumped up to next in line!

    P.S. World Book Night sounds amazing! I’ll have to tell my local library about this!

  7. Pingback: World Book Night Giveaway & Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (via Little Interpretations) | The Calculable

  8. Saw the film at the cinema as a teenager and it was (and still is!) one of my favourites. Never read the book and would love to do so.Following your blog and on twitter @lucentegirl

  9. Hey Marie! Please enter me – am ashamed to say I have never read this OR watched the film and I will not be able to hold my head up proudly as a book blogger until I do :)

  10. Hi Marie: Thanks for following me on twitter. I’m following you too. Please enter me for the giveaway. I’ve had this book on my list for years.

  11. Hi Marie,
    I read this at school and remember thinking simultaneously that I was partly jealous and wish I was one of the ‘creme de la creme’ and partly highly relieved that I wasn’t.
    Who could forget the magnificent Maggie Smith in the film adaptation?
    Think it is time I revisited this book now I am in my forties. I enjoyed your review.

  12. Ooh i’d love a copy of this. I’ve never read it, but they were talking about it Faulks on Fiction the other week and it sounds awesome :-)

  13. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie has been on my huge wishlist forever! I would love to have a copy. I am a subscriber and a twitter follower (Misha_1989)’


  14. I have a feeling that Muriel Spark and I are destined to be bosom friends, despite my failure (until now) to actually read any of her books. Would love a chance of winning Jean Brodie!

  15. Great! I’ve never read this book and would love to enter the giveaway.
    I found your blog through amused, bemused and confused; I’ll explore at leisure once the whole hype of WBN is passed (I’m still writing notes in my books).
    I also have a giveaway on my blog if you want to take part…

  16. For a year now I have regretted the fact that I read Prime of Miss Jean Brodie as a library book rather than purchasing a copy. I keep meaning to get one, but there’s always another book I *haven’t* read that’s begging for the little money I can set aside for books.

    WBN is amazing. I’m an Anglophile American and it makes me wish even more that I lived in Britain.


  17. New to your blog and following

    I have read a few of the books on the WBN list and this one is on my wishlist.

    Would like the opportunity to receive this book.
    many thanks

  18. This book has been on my wishlist for ages but that’s as far as I’ve got. I’d love to be entered for this.
    I’m new to your blog, but already I love it. Have added it to my Google Reader and followed you on twitter.
    Have a fun night!

  19. I’m giving away The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, too. I’m in Brixton, south London and I got some great reactions when I gave away the book last night. I have more to give away to an exiled writers’ group I mentor through the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture (info on my blog ). I love the way the ‘giving’ isn’t prescriptive – you just have to pass on the book and hope the recipient will pass it on afterwards.

    All the best

  20. Pingback: World Book Night 2011: The ups & the downs « Little Interpretations

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  23. I just received one of the copies of this book you sent out as part of World Book Night. Looks like it’s still bouncing around. Can’t wait to read it!

  24. I just read Muriel Spark’s “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” in preparation for my A-levels in the following year (I’m a German student).
    After reading the first pages I had to realize that this book would not turn out to be quite thrilling. So I continued reading the book rather disappointing.
    I think it is so different from all books I have ever readbut what struck me most was that the story was entirely boring to me. Actually I have expected something else…
    Before reading the book, a classmate has already told me that the novel is not very thrilling, so I was not quite enthusiastic to start reading it.
    Afterwards I hoped that I could at least analyse it, but I just cannot understand what made a woman write such a book.
    Her intention is really incomprehensible for me.
    When I like a book, I feel very enhusiastic and a kind of intelligent after reading it, but I’m afraid I cannot say this in this case.
    What do you think of “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”?
    What was Muriel Spark’s intention?


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