This book was selected by Morag, who explained that it had made a big impact on her in her youth. One formidable teacher had actually used the phrase 'Creme de la Creme' to her and her A-stream classmates, and she suspected the teacher identified with the book. Morag said, interestingly, that she was more shocked now at the things Jean Brodie said to her pupils than she had been on reading it in the sixties. This perhaps illustrates a change in our culture - the Sixties was about experiment, rebellion and the pushing of moral boundaries. In the 2010s we are steeped in caution and procedure to the point of paranoia about what kind of behaviour is appropriate towards children.
What struck all the members was the interesting way Muriel Spark's narrative jumped back and forth in time. Another writer may have kept the revelation of which girl betrayed Jean Brodie as a climax, but we thought the curious structure was because she wanted to concentrate on the characters more than the plot.
My favourite bits of Jean Brodie are always her imperious, deliciously snooty, put-downs and remarks. I think there are a few similarities with Notes on a Scandal, one of my all-time favourite books. As the story progesses she becomes a less and less likeable character, manipulative and living life vicariously through her girls, but you still rather admire her, up until she starts to show her weaknesses and becomes rather an object of pity. Her treatment of Mary is cruel - its seems she picked her as one of the set merely as she thought it useful to have a 'whipping b0y' in the group.
We admired Jean Brodie's individualism, and her encouragement of her girls to dare to be different, but this was in marked contrast to her admiration of fascism. Frances pointed out that she admired merely the shallow glamour of fascism, and that in many ways she was all about style over substance.
There were many themes and characters to discuss: the excellent protrayal of Edinburgh, the love affairs, jealousies and subterfuge and the varied paths of all the girls. It did indeed seem like a much longer story. Finely honed writing at it's best, packing a fascinating and enduring story into 100 pages.