Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

 We began arriving early because none of us could remember if we had said we'd meet at 12:30 or our usual 1:00 time.  Everyone was early but some of us were so early that the subsequent arrivals looked startled and asked, Am I late?  It was nice to be early, have the food area set up and then just sit down together and shoot the breeze.

Today was a unique book club meeting.  For the first time we combined a book and a movie and what a book and movie we chose. Not everyone had seen the movie so that helped us evaluate the book relative to the film.  It did follow the book closely though the playwright had combined a couple of the girls for the sake of simplicity, so that there were only four instead of eight. Mary MacGregor isn't the student who died fighting for Franco.  She died in a hotel fire at the age of 23, too "stupid" to select an exit and thus ended up running up and down the hall until the fire consumed her.  The ending was the greatest deviation.  The movie ends with Miss Brodie's dismissal, whereas in the book she lived a few more years and died of cancer.  We know this from Sandy who had become a nun, visited yearly the other Brodie girls.

Joann asked an interesting question.  Were there other Brodie girls like this clique?  Did she form a clique with each class in subsequent years?  Our answer was conjecture - we didn't know.  It was mentioned that in the movie, during the emotional slide show scene, all the girls adoring eyes were turned to her. 

Carolyn asked if Hugh was a real love or a fabrication.  It appeared that she embellished the story with each retelling.  Carolyn read from the book where her first love appears she was 14 and in love with an older man.  This lead to the conjecture that she was replicating her own experience by denying her love for the art teacher and trying to substitute one of her students in his bed.  Kareen said that at this point she was done with Miss Brodie, a blot on the face of education.  Muriel Sparks brilliant writing seemed to be reeling us in, along with Sandy who also determined at this point that she was a danger to her students.

Unfortunately, due to an inner ear infection, I am denied the benefits of caffeine and wasn't feeling like the sharpest knife in the dish washer.  No matter, the discussion went on.  We were affixed by the strangeness of Jean Brodie and her complete selfishness, however she thought of herself as a teacher first. Joann called her a hypocrite and Peggy reminded us of her statement that traditional education was a form of putting in, but she believed that education was a form of letting out.  Joann said, you see what I mean?  She was stuffing their brains.

Maggie Smith's portrayal of Miss Brodie brought her walking right out of the pages and onto the Oscar stage.  Several of the ladies are rewatching Downton Abby, getting ready for season three in January.  They reminded us of how similar her performance of Miss Brodie is to the Dowager Countess of Grantham.  Maureen laughed and said - she IS Maggie Smith.  That was so much fun.  We talked about trying to find another book and movie combo in the future.  Put on your thinking caps.