When I was in grade seven, a million years ago, we watched The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie  on television. I have a clear memory of it.  I distinctly remember  Maggie Smith’s portrayal of the slightly aristocratic, strangely compelling school teacher, Jean Brodie. She’s remained in my memory just as the character herself remained in the memories of the students she taught, the creme de la creme.

Miss Jean Brodie’s class of twelve year olds are impressionable, inquisitive and sensitive.  The ‘Brodie set’ as they are known to the other students at the Marcia Blaine School are enjoying their final year with Miss Brodie before they move to the senior school. Miss Brodie is ‘shaping them’ and her notion of the curriculum isn’t exactly approved of by the other teachers of the school.

If anyone comes along in the course of the following lesson, remember that it is the hour of English grammar. Meantime I will tell you a little of my life when I was younger than I am now…

 Muriel Spark’s novella is interesting because Miss Brodie herself in interesting. Her girls were discovered to have

heard of the Buchmanites and Mussolini, the Italian Renaissance painters, the advantages to the skin of cleansing cream and witch-hazel over honest soap and water…

Of course, one begins to suspect that Miss Brodie might be a little bit of a fake and it is her complcated relationship with the girls who adore her and mock her in equal measure that makes up the bulk of this not altogether easy to read novella.