The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means, The Driver's Seat, The Only Problem (Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics)
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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means, The Driver's Seat, The Only Problem (Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics)

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  1,395 ratings  ·  91 reviews
The brevity of Muriel Spark's novels is equaled only by their brilliance. These four novels, each a miniature masterpiece, illustrate her development over four decades. Despite the seriousness of their themes, all four are fantastic comedies of manners, bristling with wit.

Spark's most celebrated novel, THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE, tells the story of a charismatic schoolt...more
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published May 6th 2004 by Random House (first published January 1st 1999)
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Mariel
Dec 06, 2010 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: hot for teacher
Recommended to Mariel by: teacher's pet
The embarrassing admission first: I read Muriel Spark's books because her name is close to my own. (I really hate it when people call me Muriel, though. I dislike being called Ariel only slightly less.) Other people might have heard of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie because of the famous film starring Maggie Smith. All are good reasons to stumble onto a gem. It's really cool when you can find some cool thing by surprise. Like having a cool teacher to tell you about something great...
It's a great...more
Molly
"The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" is a charming and unsettling book, and in that sense, it is definitely emblematic of the rest of Spark's deceptively-simple oeuvre. Part of the novel's apparent simplicity stems from its form. It's a kind third-person retrospective that recounts the unconventional teaching methods of Miss Jean Brodie, her relationships with a particular group of her students, and their relationship with a married art teacher (with whom Miss Brodie is in love). But the story is als...more
Christine
Read it because it's on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list.

There were some things that I enjoyed about it - I really liked the way the narrative tracked the way the girls were negatively influenced by the overbearing nature of Miss Brodie, and how everything eventually fell apart. I also liked how the book carefully laid out Miss Brodie's personality, her quirks, and her flaws. It was really easy to see her descent, her fall from grace, and her ultimate demise.

Yet there wasn't real...more
Demisty Bellinger
Jun 23, 2008 Demisty Bellinger rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone, especially lit aficinados and teachers of upper-level hs or lower level college
Recommended to Demisty by: Brock Clarke during a writing conference
This is now one of my new favorite short novels. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is an exquisitely written novel set pre-World War II. It constantly creeps in a little more information as to who betrayed Miss Brodie. This book, with calculated suspense, intrigue, and just plain good writing, would be perfect for a freshman or sophomore English course, or a semi-intellectual day at the beach.

It was somewhat reminiscent of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, although done well before it (what is reminisc...more
Ginny
I read this book because it takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland. Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher at a girls school. She has her favorites and they are different than the other students. Early on the reader knows that Miss Jean Brodie will have to retire because one of her students betrayed her.
lucke1984
It is difficult to write about a book that has been so thoroughly overshadowed by it cinematic counterpart. The movie rests so firmly in my mind that though I know the construction of the book is at times wildly different, I do not recall how.
Corinna
I was obsessed with Maggie Smith's Miss Jean Brodie when I was a kid, and finally got around to reading it (along with the three other novellas in this tome). I loved the book just as much as I remember loving the movie.

The Girls of Slender Means had nothing by way of plot and I slogged through it because I don't like leaving books unfinished. I really should have skipped it once I realized I was not going to enjoy it. The characters seemed to be a cast of Sparks' unaffiliated extras wandering...more
Katie
Nov 25, 2008 Katie added it
I'm not sure WHY I love this book. Many who've read it think I'm crazy. Most of the characters are somewhat despicable and yet I'm drawn into the precocious world they have created.
Laurie
This book was really interesting. I choose that word, general as it is because it is really the best way to describe it: It creates and hold a great amount of interest.

This is the story of a set of five chosen girls to be apart of a very charming and unorthodox teacher in a junior school, who become entangled in each others lives one of which ends in her undoing.

The narration of this story is where it really shines, being that Spark is constantly telling you what will happen before it does, bu...more
Jen3n
Well written (of course) and pretty damn dark given the time in which it was written and the subject matter.

Essentially, and not to give anything away, this book is about a teacher at a Scottish girl's school and her relationship with six of the girls specifically.

This book has a great deal to say about faith, trust, lust, jealousy, curiosity, and strength. It was presented to me as a work of feminist literature, but I've never really understood exactly what people mean when they say things like...more
Helynne
I have somehwere some publishing company's list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was somewhere in the middle of the list, and since I also knew the novel was made into a film with an acclaimed performance by Maggie Smith (long before she was Professor McGonegal of Hogwarts), I gave the book a go. I hope I'm not just dense, but I really couldn't see why this book received such a superlative rating from that company. It's the story of a kind English teacher...more
Kelly
May 04, 2008 Kelly added it
This was perhaps the most influential book on my life, even before I actually read it. When I was thirteen years old, the BBC series of the book staring Geraldine McEwan as Miss Brodie was shown on television. Miss Brodie efforts to instill gentility into her students had a great effect on me and along with them, I determined to make myself the "crème de la crème". I followed her instruction in all ways from walking with a book on my head to practicing proper skin care and credit what poise and...more
Adelaide
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris
Sandy's tiny eyes, Sandy's tiny eyes, Sandy's tiny eyes, Sandy's tiny little screwed-up eyes. Despite the book's habit of repeating its chosen character details with maddening frequency, I still enjoyed its deftness and wit. But I read it because it was on both the Modern Library and TIME Best-of lists, and I hoped I was getting my hands on my favorite kind of book -- the "lost" classic. Instead I read it wondering "is this all this is about?" and hoping for a final revelation that was, as the q...more
Bianca
Jul 11, 2008 Bianca rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone, I guess, it's quick/easy enough to read
Recommended to Bianca by: book club choice
Eh...I liked it okay, it was an interesting short read and clearly the author was years ahead of her time with her writing but none of the characters were overly "likeable" and I was really hoping for some kind of great ending but the ending was just like the rest of the book; repetative and a little bland. If this book was a lot longer and still contained the same content I would be angry that I wasted so much time on it. I have to admit, reading the parts about the girls' later school life jus...more
Jail
I find it interesting how British Roman Catholics used to be the best satire/humor writers. Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark. The girls of slender Means I read a while ago and is my favorite by Spark thus far, a light breezy and despairing book. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was good but I liked the Girls of Slender Means better, Currently I am in the middle of the driver's seat. Generally Spark is unclear in a pleasant way about what's going on but which can leave one a little confused but adds to th...more
Simmy
Never read this book before or seen the film so I was pleasantly surprised by it.

The story is about a spinster teacher in the 30's in Edinburgh and about her attitude toawards teaching (anti filling the pupils heads with dead knowledge) and how she creams of six of them to be 'her set'.

She was ahead of her time but I found her sad and lonely and seemingly living her life through her pupils. She also had an unhealthy hold on the girls and in the end is betrayed by one of them.

Would definately rec...more
Allison
Maggie Smith won Best Actress for the film adaptation (1961?), which beautifully mirrors the novel. Miss Brodie is a brilliant, flawed, passionate character - inspiring even in her madness. Fascinating from a feminist perspective as well - is she the embodiment of fulfilled independence or a shining beacon of warning against extremes? And, in the end, still couldn't ever fully decide with whom my sympathies lied - Miss Brodie, her pupils, her superiors, or her lovers.

Recommend the book first, th...more
Marlena
I just read the first two. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was more interesting to me. I want to like Muriel Spark . . . I feel like there's something there and it's intriguing and her character descriptions are sharp and psychologically insightful, but I came away from both stories not really connecting to any of the characters. Maybe they're just a little too sharply drawn? But fascinating all the same. I love her way of getting at all the little nuances of personality with such spare language.
Eric
Read over the course of several months, a mistake perhaps. But great stuff nonetheless. Spark's insight, whether into a teacher in her "prime," young ladies navigating the end of WW II or a singular office worker on her way to madness/suicide, and her ability to convey it, is remarkable. For example: "And it never really occurred to her that literary men, if they like women at all, do not want literary women, but girls." Masterful use of repetition. Not quite as sure about the Job story.
Denis
Muriel Spark's wit, intelligence, style and insight into the human psyche shine in this short novel that has become a classic - and a famous movie. The character of Jean Brodie is brilliantly complex, she is in turn touching, admirable, dangerous, pathetic, horrifying. Difficult to read the book without thinking of Maggie Smith indelibile performance. Yet Spark's prose is uniquely her own and makes the book a great reading experience, even if you've already seen the film.
Mark
This is a pleasant enough book. I especially like the use of prolepsis, or fast forward, in the narrative. The story, however, seems slight. After reading it, I am surprised that the book is so beloved and that it was made into a successful movie. There just is not that much to the story. The story of an enigmatic teacher influencing a group of students seems to have been an influence on Special Topics in Calamity Physics, one of my favorite books of the past five years.
Kath
I read this back in Jr. High School, when I was digging through plays in search of monologues. Didn't understand the subject matter fully then, but I loved the characters and the language.

When I re-read it, as an adult, I decided I really did enjoy it, and the story of a teacher and the students she influences during the course of their days was both real and of interest. It's a great book for character study ... if that's what you're into. And I am.
Julie
I, like others, had seen the movie for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie before reading the novel. The film was very firmly entrenched in my mind and I could not read the book without picturing the actors as the characters. I'm glad I read it, but I really wish I had read it before watching the film.

I find all of the works included in here to be both amusing and tragic at the same time. But there is something about Spark's narration that I find irresistable.
Jean
Reviewing another book made me remember how much I enjoyed Muriel Spark, and especially this book. I think this book was way ahead of its time in its depiction of a strong, smart woman in control (though she does come a cropper) alongside its depiction of the smart young girl student who observes and memorializes Miss Brodie. Makes you want to cheer as Miss Brodie sails along and inculcates subversive good sense and freedom of thought in her students.
Jamie
Edward recommended this book to me, and we hunted it in the Tattered Cover but could not find a cheap copy. Oh well, I found it in the Oxford public library!

All that being said, the book is extremely odd. It suffers from a lack of characters who are likable on any level, but the descriptions are wonderful and there is a definite dry humour too it. The book, despite having been written a long time ago, is full of sex, and hilarious sex at that.
Erin
I was in this play in high school, so I'd always been curious to read the book. Honestly, it seems like the characters had stronger personalities in the play than in the novel. And while I understand what the author was trying to when she kept repeating the same phrases over and over, it really got tedious and boring. I felt like throwing the book when I had to keep reading "She was a woman in her prime" or "I wonder who betrayed me...."
Alexis
I enjoyed Sparks' Loitering with Intent but despite expecting to very much enjoy The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie I found myself disliking the characters and the premise so much that I could not make myself continue. Often when I find this I speak to someone else who has read it and am able to find encouragement from him/her to continue. I was unable to find anyone that had read this novel and would recommend it.
Malini Sridharan
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Girls of Slender Means are fantastic. The Driver's Seat was a bit too predictable-- I think that caused the suspense to suffer-- but I loved how the overall feeling was so surrealistic and disjointed when the prose was so plain and straightforward. The Only Problem was a little boring. So 4 overall, 5 for the first two, 3 for the last two.
Jenny
I'm glad I read this; I wish I'd read it right after I'd seen the movie though. There are some differences of course but both were quite wonderful (the movie was more dramatic; Maggie Smith was fantastic). It's really impressive the way Spark "gives away" the ending very early on, yet it's still a compelling read all the way through.
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Dame Muriel Spark, DBE (1918–2006) was a prolific Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet whose darkly comedic voice made her one of the most distinctive writers of the twentieth century. Spark grew up in Edinburgh and worked as a department store secretary, writer for trade magazines, and literary editor before publishing her first novel in 1957. A few years earlier, in 1954, she converte...more
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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie The Girls of Slender Means A Far Cry from Kensington Memento Mori The Driver's Seat

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