The boys, as they talked to the girls from Marcia Blaine School, stood on the far side of their bicycles holding the handlebars, which established a protective fence of bicycle between the sexes, and the impression that at any moment the boys were likely to be away.
–Muriel Spark - The prime of Miss Jean Brodie - c.1961,2015
A year or so ago I caught The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie starring Maggie Smith on the telly. It was a very good film, I’d highly recommend it, and so wanted, at some point, to read the book it was based on. I finally got around to reading it this week, but unfortunately the book was not for me.
Set in the 1930s it tells the story of a collection of girls at a school in Edinburgh and how they are brought together by a teacher, Miss Jean Brodie, and become the “Brodie set”. Jean Brodie is an unconventional teacher, that is part of what sets her and her girls apart from the rest of the school. She has different ideas in how education should be undertaken than the rest of the school, especially the headmistress.
As I said, this book is not my cup of tea, it is a smart, knowing book. But I felt that there was a remove, a distance between me as a reader and the characters. Everything is related by a third person narrator, we never really get to know any of the characters as well as I would have liked. Certainly there are hints and depths there, but the method of telling the story just didn’t work for me.
This is one of those books were the film adaptation is the version I preferred.