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Publisher's Summary

"You girls are my vocation... I am dedicated to you in my prime."

So says Miss Jean Brodie, a teacher unlike any other. She is proud and cultured. A romantic, with progressive, sometimes shocking ideas and aspirations for the girls in her charge. When she decides to transform a select group of pupils into the 'crème de la crème' at the Marcia Blaine School they become the Brodie set. In exchange for their undivided loyalty, the girls earn a special place of honour and privilege within the school. Yet they are also introduced to a startling new world of adult games and intrigues, and as boundaries are crossed so the difficulties start to unfold.

Miriam Margolyes, one of Britain's finest character actors, gives a highly accomplished performance; rediscover this classic on the 100th anniversary of Muriel Spark's birth.

©1961 Copyright Administration Ltd (P)2011 Canongate Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 09-12-17

Primed for Classics

"I shall remain at this education factory where my duty lies. There needs must be a leaven in the lump. Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life. The gang who oppose me shall not succeed."
- Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Published in 1961 and set in a Scottish girl's school in the pre-World War II period (1930s) when Fascism was favorable (among those in their Prime) and on the rise, 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' tells the story of an unconventional teacher and her influence on a group or six girls (more probably, but the story focuses on six). It isn't original to say this, but it does read a bit like a female version of Dead Poet's Society, or perhaps A Separate Peace, but no not quite Lord of the Flies. Emotionally, the book resonates like Madame Bovary. Perhaps, one of the reasons the book vibrated so strongly with me is one of the pupils of Miss Brodie in her Prime reminds me of how I imagine my wife was in her tweens (Sandy).

A couple things sold me on this book. I loved its style and prose, and was enraptured by Miss Brodie with her unconventional, romantic, and desperate need to matter, to influence, to be something. As fallible as she is, and as amoral as methods (both in love and politics) become, there is something VERY human about her. The other character I loved was Sandy. Influenced by Miss Brodie, in her Prime, but just not in the way Miss Brodie intended, Sandy's romantic view of life mirrors in some ways Miss Brodie. But I loved the 10-year old Sandy with her wild fantasies about Alan Breck (see Kidnapped) or Mr. Rochester (see Jane EyreJane Eyre). Later her fantasy turns its full attention on Miss Brodie and her lovers. It is perfect.

Anyway, I read this because my natural man tends to gravitate more towards books written by men (just the statistics of classical books would do this), so when I think about it, I try and read a book I would normally pass over. I'm glad I found the radical Miss Jean Brodie while I was in my prime.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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You’ve seen the play/movie...now this

A jaw dropping masterpiece, so much more layered, nuanced, and interesting (and hilarious) than the play/movie. A genius performance by Margolyes is the icing!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Miriam and Muriel in their prime!

Miriam brilliantly conveys the sinister sincerity of Miss Brodie. Her portrayal of the lives of the Brodie girls has a rare theatrical resonance.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent story and outstanding reader.

This classic story really comes to life as read by Miriam Margolyes, with her beautiful accent and the way she is able to help create each character in your mind with the voices she gives them. I was sorry when this audiobook was over.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • DMC
  • Chicago and Lakeport, CA
  • 03-29-16

SUPERB

A wonderfully written, intellectually complex, and insightful book. 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' is a cautionary tale about what it is to teach and what it is to learn. Unfortunately for those who would teach, our best pupils may understand and apply what we teach more than we realize or welcome.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

it's only possible to betray where loyalty is due'


Of Mussolini,
Don't Preach,
To the Teenies
Where You Teach

"it's only possible to betray where loyalty is due"

Sandy, now Sister Helena of the Transfiguration, is the omniscient narrator of the story looking back at her time in the 1930s at a Catholic grade school in Edinburgh, Scotland, time spent as part of the set of six girls who their teacher Miss Brodie called her "creme de la creme." Ms. Sparks used a number of flash-forwards to most effectively and methodically convey the ultimate betrayal of Miss Jean Brodie by one of set, which ruined Miss Brodie's teaching career. Miss Brodie died the year after the end of World War I without knowing which girl did the deed, though the mystery obviously bothered her during the decade prior to her death.

Ms. Brodie was smart, snod, unconventional and a bit daft, holding potentially harmful sway over the set who she taught off and on from their tenth year to their sixteenth, providing lessons on her love life, her travels particularly to Italy, a great deal of art history and on fascism and her smite with Benito Mussolini. Ironically, it wasn't her questionable methods outside the classroom (such as providing a place for one girl then 13 to pose nude for a male artist to paint her, then suggesting the same girl at 16 have an affair with a married teacher as a sort of surrogate to requite Ms. Brodie's love for him) that led to Ms. Brodie's fall, but the pro-fascist views she espoused.

While I found the book had a certain charm and I understand the reasons for its popularity upon its publication in 1961, I think this is among those books whose literary force has been somewhat dulled by the novel being dated.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Adrienne
  • 12-23-12

Sharp wit that doesn't date

Maggie Smith's representation of Miss Jean Brodie in the film from the fifties, made me want to read this text. It didn't disappoint. The language is crisp and dry and unforgiving and the reader moves through a series of responses towards the flawed protagonist. None of the girls is painted as a likeable character and therefore our sympathy for them at the hands of this fascist, misguided, arrogant educator is limited.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • gunnel
  • 04-28-14

Not Jean Brodie at all

How did the narrator detract from the book?

This is an interesting book about a charismatic teacher who dominates and manipulates the girls who make up her "set". In the book, Miss Brodie is described as a contralto with a dark Roman face. She inspires passion in both her pupils and her male colleagues and they are almost obsessed by her. Unfortunately, the narrator makes her sound like a silly and ridiculous old lady with a falsetto voice. It's difficult to believe that anybody could be taken in by her.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Jenny Murphy
  • 09-03-15

great

loved it. layers of meaning and words of wisdom. i always feel muriel spark gives us her life experiences wrapped in a tasty package

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Patricia
  • 10-21-14

So much more to the story than I remembered

I read this book at least 40 years ago when I was a schoolgirl myself. It is interesting to revisit this book as there is so much more to it than I gleaned from it as a teenager. I would say it is worth a second or even third listen or read. Miriam Margolyes narrated this book brilliantly.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mr. B. Martin
  • 03-24-13

Wonderful to have an audio version of this

Great unabridged recording of this classic novel. If would be good to have the other versions here too, one read by the wonderful Nadia May, which I have not heard yet and the other by the incomparable Geraldine McEwan, which I have. Miss McEwan (who also played Jean Brodie in the newly released TV series on DVD) reads this with a touch of genius but never goes over-the-top. I hope her version will be available at some point as ISIS Audio no longer have the rights to it and it would be a great loss to the listening public if another publisher did not acquire them.



Bruce Martin

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • A G R
  • 02-03-13

Very enjoyable

Beautifully read - this text was brought to life and was a joy to listen to.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • James
  • 06-11-12

So Good

I've lost count of the times I have read this remarkable novel - so short, so profound, so dense with meaning, so lightly written, witty and original to its very bones: a miracle. In truth, there is, out there somewhere, an unabridged reading by Geraldine MacEwan that is alive to every word and comma - a virtuoso performance - but the present reader is no slouch either.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Margaret
  • 05-13-18

Magical performance

I was a fan of this book as a teenager, seeing it from the perspective of youth. Now I am a lady of a certain age, I decided to revisit and when I learned of the reader’s identity it went straight to the top of my list. It’s still a fabulous study of “what you see depends upon your point of view” exploring the impact of life experience, but the magical voice performance truly brought each of the characters to life. It felt as though every word was a drop of the elixir of life, a perfect fusion of author and actor, like a breathtaking dance across so many emotions.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Lindsay Kay Caddy
  • 12-09-12

Interesting story

I bought this book as I remembered watching the film as a child although I couldn't remember the plot. Interesting characters and good voices. A lovely description of what life is like in an all girls school during puberty. I left an all girls grammar school 10 years ago and even though the book was written some time ago it still evoked memories of my very traditional school life. I didn't feel like I could give it more than 3 stars though because despite its quirkiness and charm it wasn't that interesting, I felt there could have been further plot development and I feel the ending was rather abrupt.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
  • trish1400
  • 02-01-13

Do not understand what the fuss is about

I completely fail to see why this is considered to be a classic. It was dull, dull, dull. For such a short book, I found it exceedingly tiresome and I was very relieved when it ended. I'm sick of Miss Jean Brodie and her "prime". The way the story is told with it's extensive use of flash forward / back is the only thing it has going for it. None of the characters are likeable and didn't feel I related to any of them. However, the narration was excellent.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-15-18

crème de la crème

It was lovely to rediscover this book which I read first in the late 60's.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-03-15

Wonderfully sharp and witty

What a great story superbly read! Loved the caustic wit and unexpected twists of the plot

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  • Angela
  • 04-04-15

fantastic reading thank you

I loved the tv series and I love the book...thank you I look forward to more reading the classics