The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie
By Muriel Spark
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The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark ranked # 76 on The Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list as selected by its Board Members.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a novel by Muriel Spark, appearing first in The New Yorker and later published by J. B. Lippincott in 1962. By far the best-known of her books, the bizarre, unforgettable character of Miss Jean Brodie has helped make Spark a leading figure in modern Scottish literature. This novel has also been turned into a play, a well-known film starring Maggie Smith, and a TV series.
Like many of Spark's novels, the story centres around a relatively small cast of characters, with Miss Brodie at the centre. In her self-declared prime, Brodie has surrounded herself with six girls chosen to be her Brodie set. No doubt the most recognised of the cast is Brodie herself, a rich character whose persona is developed in every page. She is beautiful yet fierce, keen yet ignorant, intellectual yet deranged, passionate yet lacking a lover.
Spark unfolds her plots not sequentially, but piece by piece, jumping around the various years of the girls' lives. For example, the reader is aware early on that Miss Brodie is betrayed, though sequentially this happens at the end of their school years. Gradually Spark reveals the betrayer, and lastly all the details surrounding the event are told. Sparks develops her characters in this way, too: Joyce Emily is introduced right away as the girl who is rejected from the Brodie set. Only later does Spark reveal the circumstances around it, Joyce Emily's history, and her running away to the Spanish Civil War. With this technique, the narrator of the story is omniscient and timeless, relating the entire plot all at once, and gradually building up the detail. Spark also creates characters that share in our humanity, exhibiting both flaw and goodness, so that no one character can easily be called good or bad.
While the name of Jean Brodie may be taken from a real person, the character of Miss Brodie was based in part on Miss Christina Kay, the teacher Spark had for two years of her schooling.
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