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The story of Miss Brodie and her ‘crème de la crème’ group of pupils has become a classic of Scottish literature. It is funny and tragic, sharp and unexpected, and it is set in one of the greatest cities in the world. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is arguably Muriel Spark’s best novel and certainly her most celebrated.
Her own Edinburgh childhood, and the feeling that she was something of an outsider because of her heritage, also contributed to the book. As a girl, she wanted to learn about sex, she wanted to break free from Scottish Calvinism, she wanted to wear bright colours and travel. These longings went into the creation of her famous character. Her struggles over religion influenced the introduction of religion as a theme in the book, though I personally doubt that this is a novel that would encourage anybody to turn Catholic!
First published in 1961, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie brought Muriel Spark international fame. Time magazine chose it in 2005 as one of the 100 best novels in English from 1923 to the present, and the Modern Library ranked it 76th in its ‘100 Best Novels of the 20thC’.
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