Cover image for The prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Title:
The prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Author:
Spark, Muriel.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First Perennial Classics edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Perennial Classics, 1999.

©1961
Physical Description:
150 pages ; 21 cm
Language:
English
Reading Level:
1120 Lexile.
Program Information:
Reading Counts RC High School 10 11 Quiz: 25749 Guided reading level: NR.
ISBN:
9780060931735
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

The elegantly styled classic story of a young, unorthodox teacher and her special--and ultimately dangerous--relationship with six of her students.


Author Notes

Muriel Spark has been called "our most chillingly comic writer since Evelyn Waugh" by the London Spectator, and the New Yorker praised her novel Memento Mori ri (1959) as "flawless." Her fiction is marked by its remarkable diversity, wit, and craftsmanship. "She happens to be, by some rare concatenation of grace and talent, an artist, a serious---and most accomplished---writer, a moralist engaged with the human predicament, wildly entertaining, and a joy to read" (SRSR). She became widely known in the United States when the New Yorker devoted almost an entire issue to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961). Set in Edinburgh in the 1930s, this is the story of a schoolteacher, her unorthodox approach to life, and its effect on her select group of adolescent girls. Though their idol turns out to have feet of clay, she leaves an indelible mark on their lives. The Girls of Slender Means (1963), also warmly praised, is a sardonic look at the vivacity of youth and the anxieties of young womanhood. Reviewing The Mandelbaum Gate (1965) for the New Republic, Honor Tracy wrote: "There is an abundance here of invention, humor, poetry, wit, perception, that all but takes the breath away. . . . The story, in fact, is pure adventure, with the suspense as artfully maintained as anywhere by Graham Greene, but this is only one ingredient. There are memorable descriptions of the Holy Land, fascinating insights into the jumble of intrigue and piety surrounding the Holy Places, and penetrating studies of Arabs. . . . In each of [Spark's] novels heretofore one of her qualities has tended to predominate over the others. Here for the first time they are all impressively marshaled side by side, resulting in her best work so far."

The daughter of an Englishwoman and a Scottish-Jewish father, Spark was born and educated in Edinburgh. After her marriage in 1938, she lived for some years in Central Africa, a period rarely reflected in her work. During World War II, she returned to Britain, where she worked in the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office after the breakup of her marriage. She has been a magazine editor and written poetry and literary criticism. Spark has lived in London's Camberwell section, the setting of The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960), but now makes her home in New York. Her novels reflect her conversion to Roman Catholicism.

(Bowker Author Biography) Writer Muriel Spark was born in Edinburgh on February 1, 1918. In 1934-1935 she took a course in commercial correspondence and précis writing at Heriot-Watt College. After her marriage in 1937, she lived for some years in Central Africa. During World War II, she returned to Britain, where she worked in the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office after the breakup of her marriage.

After the war, she began her literary career. She became General Secretary of the Poetry Society, worked as an editor and wrote studies of Mary Shelley, John Masefield and the Brontë sisters. Her first book of poetry, The Fanfarlo and Other Verse, was published in 1952 and her first novel, The Comforters, was published in 1957. She wrote over twenty books including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Finishing School. She won numerous awards and honors including the 1965 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Mandelbaum Gate, the 1992 U. S. Ingersoll Foundation T. S. Eliot Award, the 1997 David Cohen British Literature Prize for Lifetime Achievement, and in 1993 she became Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her services to literature. The Scottish Arts Council created the Muriel Spark International Fellowship in 2004. She died on April 13, 2006.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Excerpts

Excerpts

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Chapter One The boys, as they talked to the girls from Marcia Blaine School, stood on the far side of their bicycles holding the handlebars, which established a protective fence of bicycle between the sexes, and the impression that at any moment the boys were likely to be away. The girls could not take off their panama hats because this was not far from the school gates and hatlessness was an offence. Certain departures from the proper set of the hat on the head were overlooked in the case of fourth-form girls and upwards so long as nobody wore their hat at an angle. But there were other subtle variants from the ordinary rule of wearing the brim turned up at the back and down at the front. The five girls, standing very close to each other because of the boys, wore their hats each with a definite difference. These girls formed the Brodie set. That was what they had been called even before the headmistress had given them the name, in scorn, when they had moved from the junior to the Senior school at the age of twelve. At that time they had been immediately recognisable as Miss Brodie's pupils, being vastly informed on a lot of subjects irrelevant to the authorised curriculum, as the headmistress said, and useless to the school as a school. These girls were discovered to have heard of the Buchmanites and Mussolini, the Italian Renaissance painters, the advantages to the skin of cleansing cream and witch-hazel over honest soap and water, and the word "menarche"; the interior decoration of the London house of the author of Winnie the Pooh had been described to them, as had the love lives of Charlotte Bronte and of Miss Brodie herself. They were aware of the existence of Einstein and the arguments of those who considered the Bible to be untrue. They knew the rudiments of astrology but not the date of the Battle of Flodden or the capital of Finland. All of the Brodie set, save one, counted on its fingers, as had Miss Brodie, with accurate results more or less. By the time they were sixteen, and had reached the fourth form, and loitered beyond the gates after school, and had adapted themselves to the orthodox regime, they remained unmistakably Brodie, and were all famous in the school, which is to say they were held in suspicion and not much liking. They had no team spirit and very little in common with each other outside their continuing friendship with Jean Brodie. She still taught in the junior department. She was held in great suspicion. Marcia Blaine School for Girls was a day school which had been partially endowed in the middle of the nineteenth century by the wealthy widow of an Edinburgh book-binder. She had been an admirer of Garibaldi before she died. Her manly portrait hung in the great hall, and was honoured every Founder's Day by a bunch of hard-wearing flowers such as chrysanthemums or dahlias. These were placed in a vase beneath the portrait, upon a lectern which also held an open Bible with the text underlined in red ink, "0 where shall I find a virtuous woman, for her price is above rubies." The girls who loitered beneath the tree, shoulder to shoulder, very close to each other because of the boys, were all famous for something. Now, at sixteen, Monica Douglas was a prefect, famous mostly for mathematics which she could do in her brain, and for her anger which, when it was lively enough, drove her to slap out to right and left. She had a very red nose, winter and summer, long dark plaits, and fat, peglike legs. Since she had turned sixteen, Monica wore her panama hat rather higher on her head than normal, perched as if it were too small and as if she knew she looked grotesque in any case. Rose Stanley was famous for sex. Her hat was placed quite unobtrusively on her blonde short hair, but she dented in the crown on either side. Eunice Gardiner, small, neat and famous for her spritely gymnastics and glamorous swimming, had the brim of her hat turned up at the front and down at the back. Sandy Stranger wore it turned up all round and as far back on her head as it could possibly go; to assist this, she had attached to her hat a strip of elastic which went under the chin. Sometimes Sandy chewed this elastic and when it was chewed down she sewed on a new piece. She was merely notorious for her small, almost nonexistent, eyes, but she was famous for her vowel sounds which, long ago in the long past, in the junior school, had enraptured Miss Brodie. "Well, come and recite for us please, because it has been a tiring day." She left the web, she left the loom, She made three paces thro' the room, She saw the water-lily bloom, She saw the helmet and the plume, She look'd down to Camelot. "It lifts one up," Miss Brodie usually said, passing her hand outward from her breast towards the class of ten-year-old girls who were listening for the bell which would release them. "Where there is no vision," Miss Brodie had assured them, "the people perish. Eunice, come and do a somersault in order that we may have comic relief." But now, the boys with their bicycles were cheerfully insulting Jenny Gray about her way of speech which she had got from her elocution classes. She was going to be an actress. She was Sandy's best friend. She wore her hat with the front brim bent sharply downward; she was the prettiest and most graceful girl of the set, and this was her fame. "Don't be a lout, Andrew," she said with her uppish tone. There were three Andrews among the five boys, and these three Andrews now started mimicking Jenny: "Don't be a lout, Andrew," while the girls laughed beneath their bobbing panamas... The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie . Copyright © by Muriel Spark. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.