Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Book 24 of 2013: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

This book holds a very special place in my heart. It's right up there as one of my very favourite books and as such is one that I have to revisit fairly regularly, but it hasn't always been that way. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie follows the lives of the girls who form 'the Brodie set' at the Marcia Blaine Academy in Edinburgh. Miss Brodie is a rather unconventional teacher and the book shows how she helps to shape the lives of the girls in her care, and how they have an impact on her life as well.

I selected this as my book for World Book Night the first year that they did it, and I love the cover on that edition, but the picture above is the version that I read this time around. It's the edition I read when I first encountered it at school. I vividly remember when Mr Logan gave it to my small class (there were only three of us). We all read it very quickly. And hated it.

I remember we stood outside his class waiting for him that day discussing how awful we found the book. We couldn't understand why he'd thought it was such a good book. He'd always told us that if we didn't enjoy a book we'd find an alternative one to study, so we were determined that we didn't want to study this book.

During the course of that lesson we talked about it and talked and talked some more. Gradually our opinions began to change and we all agreed to reread it and give it another chance. I did and this time I fell in love with it. I'm so glad that Mr Logan took the time to talk to us about it and helped us to see things from a different perspective. It's also significant because that was my last ever lesson with him so as you can imagine, this book holds a special place in my heart for more than one reason.

I've lost count of just how many times I've reread this book, but I'm at the stage with it now where I've got favourite bits and quotes which I can't help but find myself looking forward to. Some of the things that the girls say and do when they're younger are just magic because I'm sure that I probably thought or did similar things when I was that age.

I love the way that the girls grow and develop as they age. Sandy tends to be the focus of the book, so things are sort of filtered through her eyes. She has a fantastic over-active imagination, which I think I relate to well also. I always used to be away in a world of my own making when I was younger, constructing elaborate fantasies based on the books I was reading or the programmes I was watching.

I also like the way that you know what happens to all of girls right from the beginning. I think that was something we disliked on our first read; the fact that it told you who was going to die young and who was going to be beautiful. I guess at the time it felt like we might as well not bother with the story because we knew how it was going to end; but you don't really. Everything comes together with references to the past and future; it's truly a brilliant story and I always love revisiting it now.

I really can't think what it was that I hated so much about it on that first read, but in a way I'm glad that I didn't like it. If I'd liked it from the word go we wouldn't have had that wonderful final lesson with Mr L where he completely changed our point of view and helped us to see things from a different perspective. I don't think I would have loved it so much if I hadn't disliked it in the beginning.

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