So Many Books, So Little Time

How to start off 2013? New Year’s Resolutions everyone knows you’ll never keep or a feeling of self-loathing as you shovel down even more Quality Streets left over from Christmas while promising that the diet would start tomorrow? I’ve vowed that in this New Year I will take part in a reading challenge, set by myself, to read over 100 or more classic books and decided that on the 1st of January, 2013 I would start and finish on the 31st of December. I would read all of them, cover to cover in that time while also posting reviews of them all each time I’d finish. Seemed easy enough. What could go wrong?

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12. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

“The word 'education' comes from the root e from ex, out, and duco, I lead. It means a leading out. To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil's soul. To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education, I call it intrusion, from the Latin root prefix in meaning in and the stem trudo, I thrust.”

Rating: 8/10

School- it’s probable that most of us can picture busy corridors, the harsh din of the morning bell, the great halls in which assembly would take place. Love it or loathe it, education has always been a vital and much-needed aspect of modern life and with the urgent need for education would be the urgent need for schools. And the urgent need for pupils to fill these schools. And the urgent need for people to teach these pupils, to educate them. The urgent need for teachers… We can all probably visualise the place in which we were taught, but all the more vividly would we remember the people who taught us. Their might be a favourite teacher, a least favourite teacher, that very creepy teacher who sits in the teachers’ lounge at break time sniffing garments from the lost and found box (c’mon, we’ve all had one). But sometimes, very rarely, there is a teacher who comes along and changes everything. The way we think, feel, behave, perceive the world around us. Ones who don’t sniff sweaty P.E socks in their spare time. Miss Jean Brodie is one such teacher, and after her ‘unique’ method of education the girls of Marcia Blaine School will never be the same again.

   In Edinburgh 1930, a group of ten year old girls who are taught by the unbridled school ma’am Jean Brodie (in her prime) comprise the Brodie set- the ‘crème de la crème’- and are the bane of headmistress Miss Mackay’s conventional school. Knowledgeable not on the curriculum, they can confidently speak of astrology, Renaissance paintings and are able to use the word ‘menarche’ in passing conversation. The elite, select lot are separated from the rest of the school and are devoutly faithful to their influential teacher, though it transpires that one of them will betray the woman by whom they are governed. Fascism, sexual congress, the instilling of Miss Brodie’s personal views regarding education… it is clear that she is much more than any normal educator, which might just turn out to rule against her. Sandy, with the small eyes and Miss Brodie’s confidante; Rose, famous for sex; Monica, famous for mathematics and her tempestuous nature; Jenny, famous for her beauty; Eunice, famous for gymnastics and swimming; and Mary Macgregor, the dim-witted scapegoat of the Brodie set. Together, they grow up from being young girls into blossoming young women but Miss Jean Brodie in her prime will have an indelible effect on them long beyond the classroom.

   Told through flashbacks, the author seems to draw on her own experiences in similar circumstances and in particular the legend of Jean Brodie. She, with her affairs with singing master Gordon Lowther and (married) art master Teddy Lloyd, swathes through the hallowed institute and leaving in her wake a lasting impressions on all those she teaches. Her chilling statement that if she is given a girl at a young age then that girl is hers for life strongly proves the essence of the novel. Yes, Miss Jean Brodie is a silly, dangerous, preposterous, impetuous, manipulative woman, a spinster of the post- Great War generation. But she is also passionate, emotive, calm, clever, loving woman despite her myriad of shortcomings. She feels as we do. She is as we are, though at the same time she is not. But, most importantly, she is Miss Jean Brodie and she is in her prime.

 

‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ is available on Amazon in paperback (£6.29) and is not currently available on Kindle.

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