'The Brodie set: Muriel Spark’s "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie"' by Sally Grant

I don’t remember how old I was when I first saw the film version of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie . As a young girl growing up in north-east Scotland, I didn’t know that it had been adapted from a 1961 novel of the same name by a writer known for her keen observational skills and biting wit called Muriel Spark, or that the story had first appeared, almost word for word, in the pages of The New Yorker. Indeed, I highly doubt I had heard of that august publication, let alone understood the writerly prestige of having an issue of The New Yorker devoted to one story.

But I do remember that when the indomitable schoolteacher Miss Brodie, as channelled by the equally formidable Maggie Smith, said this to her pupils, in her distinctive Edinburgh burr, I was smitten:

Little girls, I am in the business of putting old heads on young shoulders, and all my pupils are the crème de la crème. Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life.

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Sally Grant

Sally Grant

Sally Grant is a freelance arts and culture writer based in New York. Born and raised in Scotland, a working holiday visa first brought her to Australia. She subsequently completed her undergraduate degree and PhD in Art History and Italian Studies at the University of Sydney. She is an Honorary Research Associate of the Australasian Centre for Italian Studies, where her scholarly research focuses on the art and experience of eighteenth-century Venice and the Veneto villa.