Miss Brodie is beloved by her pupils, decried by her colleagues. Her unconventional teaching methods and unusually close relationships with her pupils worry some. As for the chosen few, the Brodie set, they at first revel in their distinction. But they soon learn their loyalty may be misguided.
This is a short novel, easily read in a day, but it’s length doesn’t make it any the less absorbing or impacting.
Miss Brodie is narcissistic, kind, selfish, considerate, moody and happy all at the same time. The line quoted at the beginning of the synopsis says it all. She wants these girls to adore her, to be malleable, to bend to her will. She needs them as an extension of herself, and to live out missed dreams of her own.
The reader is allowed access to the elusive and exclusive Brodie set, those girls chosen by Miss Brodie to be nurtured and educated the Brodie way. She is deliberately careless with their education, openly going against convention. In her chosen few it is as if she is trying to manipulate them to her will, to adore her during her prime, to reinforce her ideals about herself and to justify her actions. She is open in her affair, a rebound to a lost love. The ramifications of this affect not just her and her lover but the girls in different ways.
The girls themselves are a wonderful mixture of characters. Muriel Spark shows them as both adolescents and as adults. The fact that Miss Brodie has access to them at a time when they are most impressionable is perhaps the greatest danger, and this is shown in the story. The effects of being part of the Brodie set are seen in the future, though surprisingly with some positive results.
There is some intrigue throughout the story as it becomes apparent that one of the set betrays Miss Brodie to her employer, who is keen to see the rebellious teacher ousted.
Jean Brodie talks through the majority of the book of this time at school being her prime, and that the girls are lucky and honoured to be able to share her prime with her. Viewing her actions there are a range of emotions elicited. Annoyance that she manipulates the set to her own advantage, to make herself feel better, to justify her prime. There’s also sadness that she shows, sometimes all too clearly, that she is desperate to hold on to her youth, to her vitality and to the position which defines her. She is at heart a lonely woman, unable to express it in way that is not without narcissism.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a novel that is read quickly but which stays with the reader for much longer. More emerges from it as time goes by since reading. This was my first Muriel Spark novel, it won’t be my last.
This book was so damned dark and bleak... Grimdark? Oh my GAWD, it was freaking grim and dark to the nth degree!
Now I have no problem with grimdark fantasy. I like characters with flaws and who aren't goodie-goodies. This post on Fantasy Hive by Cameron Johnston, published just yesterday, reflects many of my own thoughts on the genre. Needless to say, I don't believe that The Court of Broken Knives succeeds in any of it. There is nothing of hope, of love, of humour, or of anything other than death, blood, violence, sadness and hate. Nothing redeeming at all! I couldn't help but think that the author must have a couple of hundred tons of demons to work out on the page.
Now, the writing is a bit different, it's somewhat odd. For instance, there are a couple of 1st person POV chapters thrown into the 60 chapters of the book. Why? I'm not sure, but it didn't bother me. It must have worked on whatever level the author was hoping it would. And that's just one instance of something 'different' in the writing style. I appreciated the difference though. Wasn't a problem one bit. In fact it's one of the reasons I was able to finish the book, I think. That, and the fact that it was a Christmas present and I always want to finish those.
But the characters... OMG... the characters.... not a single one left standing that I cared for. And all the ones I thought I might get to like... eviscerated, burned up, squished, beheaded... you name it...
So in the end... far too dark and irredeemable for me. Depressing. Not a story that enthralled me - it more appalled me.
Not a fan.
I recently finished reading the last of the books in the Feyguard series by Anthea Sharp - Marny. I first encountered the books about the magic world Feyland on Wattpad. Since I loved the first book, I wanted to read the rest of the series. Eventually, I bought both the first series - Feyland, then the second one too - Feyguard.
Basically both series are set in the (near?) future. There are computer games that you can enter, like Star Trek's Holodeck. Throughout the books you get to know several people and in the first book it's Jennet and Tam. At the beginning of the first book (later a sort of prequel) Jennet finds out that the game Feyland is connected to a real Fairyland, but not a cute Disneyland type of faerie, a really dark world where you can end up injured or even dead. And your injuries sustained in game can carry over to the real world. In the 'real' Feyland the main characters encounter various magical creatures, need to complete quests etc, rather like in a computer game, but of course here, the stakes are higher.
I liked the whole Feyland world. The 'real' world is very well done too. I also liked all the characters but I think my favorite was Marny. In the end, she gets her own book (book 3 of Feyguard).
The plot is fairly straightforward, but not in any way dull. If you don't like YA books you might not like this series, but it's a well written, well researched series of books and it's not too dark. If you like YA fantasy I think you'll like these two series. You can still read some of the books for free on Wattpad, so if you're there you might want to take a look.
If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work ... the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp ... The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.
I am trying to get to know Muriel Spark's work a little better before going to an event celebrating her work at the end of this month, so I am reading up on a few of her works because the only one I had known was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
A few books into this little project and I have a new book to use as a benchmark of her work: A Far Cry From Kensington.
It took me a while to get into the book. I even re-read the beginning a couple of times because I just could not make out what she was going on about. Was this a serious book or not?
Once I set every expectation aside and just let the story unfold, it became pretty clear that not much in the book was what it seemed. Advice given by the MC, was not meant to be serious advice. On the contrary, it was mockery. The whole idea of our larger than life protagonist being singled out and put on show by any of the characters in the novel was a mockery, a spoof, and most of all an exercise in exorcism as little by little our MC finds the confidence in her own voice and her own pursuit of life to stand up to the curses that have tried to bring her down.
This will probably remain my favourite Spark for quite some time. It was a suspenseful little story told expertly with a lot of wit. Yet, there was also some warmth to it, which was not something I have seen in Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means, or Memento Mori.