Book Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

When I heard about World Book Night, I was so jealous! The British were having a wonderful giveaway of great books while me, in the next country, could only sit and watch the BBC’s World Book Night programme, or read on various blogs how bloggers had been giving away 48 books each.

So when I came across a giveaway by Little Interpretations of a World Book Night book, I was interested straight away. Especially when the book turned out to be The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. I had heard a lot about it, and was keen to read it. And then I won the giveaway!

As this book is meant to be shared, I will give it away during the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop at the end of June. If you want to be part of this blog hop as a giver, check out this post.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: What it is about

Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher at Marcia Blaine girls’ school. She is different from the other teachers in the way she teaches her pupils. In particular, she has formed a small group of girls around her that she takes out to the theatre or invites over for tea, in order to draw them close to her, and to shape them in her own way.

The “Brodie set” are six girls who stay befriended with her from their 11th year until about 17, when they are about to leave school. The head teacher, Miss Mackay, is looking for an excuse to throw Miss Brodie out, but is finding this hard to do, as the girls won’t speak a bad word about her.

Miss Brodie is in her prime and this means that her time is now and not later. She’s unattached although in love with one man and in a relationship with another. At the time the novel takes place, the 1930s, this is frowned upon. Miss Brodie teaches her pupils art and life lessons, mainly, but has instructed the children to keep proper course work at the ready, in case Miss Mackay happens to enter the class room.

Slowly we find out more about Miss Jean Brodie, and although she seems like a prim teacher at first, it turns out she is  a more complex character than that and full of her own intrigues.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: What I thought

The book was quite funny, in a quiet sort of way. There were no real jokes, but the situations were amusing and the further I got into the book, the more it dawned upon me that the Miss Brodie as we first meet her, is not all she seems.

The book went back and forward in time, often even in the same paragraph. I found that very confusing, but also a brilliant way of putting the story into perspective.

The girls were rather indistinguishable to me. Only Sandy, who played a larger role, stood out. Unfortunately, I never cared much about the girls, nor about Miss Brodie.

The writing was very good, very literary, which made for a slow, but beautiful read. I think this book of 125 pages took me as long to read as the average 350 page novel of lesser literary quality.

I appreciate the cleverness of Muriel Spark in writing this little novel, but I wasn’t enthralled with it. It’s especially suitable for people that like classic literary fiction.

Rating: 3.5/5

I got this book: from a giveaway by Marie from Little Interpretations

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 128

First published: 1961

Genre: literary fiction, classic


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

18 Responses to Book Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

  1. Cindy says:

    I really loved – and still love – this book 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Didn’t know you read this Cindy (but then, how would I). It’s a lovely book. I think I should try more by Muriel Spark because it’s worth the time.

  2. Ellie says:

    I really need to re-read this one at some point. I don’t think I was really old enough to appreciate the humour the first time around! Have you tried the movie, with Maggie Smith as Miss Brodie? I thought it brought her – and the girls – to life in a way the book didn’t, it was brilliant!

  3. Iris says:

    This sounds like the book I would love. Just as I suspected. And I have a copy! Now I can’t wait for Dutch lit month to be over so I can read it 😉

  4. Sounds like you enjoyed this one a bit more than I did. I was bored to tears!!

  5. Mystica says:

    I have heard so much about this book and never got around to reading it. Maybe its now time to do so.

  6. nymfaux says:

    I haven’t read the book, not sure I even knew there was one–But I saw the movie a long time ago, and I can see what you mean about the layers and complexities–I just remember a mix of being shocked and intrigued and disturbed by the movie, all at once. And I still feel those emotions when I think about it today.

    Thanks for the review–I think you said it very well, and not having read the book, I can’t say how well the two compare, but I do think your review captures a lot of my feelings about the movie. Definitely was a very interesting watch.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Thanks for your comment, Nymfaux. When I read the book, I wasn’t aware that it was made into a movie. It sounds like it’s worth watching. You may want to try the book sometime!

  7. Although it is many years since I read this is, it is a title that I have always remembered enjoying, although I do not recall it as being so short. I certainly recommend you read more Muriel Spark.

    • Leeswammes says:

      LindyLou, I guess the book is short, but doesn’t feel short, because it takes a (relatively) long time to read.

      I will read more Spark. Promise!

  8. Alley says:

    That’s so fun that you got this book through World Book Night as well! This is a great way to read new books. I’m a bit intimidated when you say it jumps backwards and forward in time, even in one paragraph, but still, it sounds good!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Well, Alley, it’s not an easy read so don’t let the size of the book fool you. But I do enjoy a certain amount of literary fiction, and this was definitely literary.


  9. Hi Judith,

    Thanks for reviewing and passing along – it’s so nice to see!


  10. Pingback: Observations on The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark | Iris on Books

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