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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Penguin Modern Classics)The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life.”

Meet the ‘Brodie Bunch’; a group of precocious school girls vying to be the amanuensis of the glamorous and eccentric Jean Brodie. Miss Brodie is unlike other school tutors. She’s witty, worldy and imparts more knowledge on extra-curricular activities than other teachers at the Marcia Blaine school.

This unconventional, magpie-ish tutor is the rare (but not unheard of) type that is into selectivism of sorts. In a short space of time Miss Brodie’s keen hawk-eye spots the malleable, underloved and Lolita-esque among her brood. This forms the foundation of her ‘set’, which in the long run adopt her selfish, childish and manipulative ways, often to their ruin.

Spark manages to place a finger on the pulse of a very precise and ‘real’ part of girlhood. The passage to becoming a young woman is not always easy; adopting a role-model is central in this transformation,but what happens when impressionable young girls (some who are not even aware of their development)are coaxed across this bridge full of a very different set of ideas? Having said that, this is a fairly short book and not a lot happens in the novel. But Spark has a refined way of insinuating just how close some of the girl’s get to making some irreversible mistakes.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the dialogue, which is rare to find. There were also some arresting moments, where the descriptions were so good, it not only took me back to my own school days but also triggered all sorts of smells (and even tastes) of years gone by. Whoever said little girls were ‘made of sugar and spice and all things nice’ are a bit off. Girls can have deviant minds too just the same as boys, especially in their formative years, and I am glad to have read a book where the fairer sex is depicted with a more healthier helping of it.

The slightly high-brow language (a bit haughty, which I think Spark might have used for effect) juxtaposed nicely with the content of the novel. A bit more meat to this short novella would have made it more pleasurable to read.

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