The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

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I'm a huge fan of non-linear narrative and delayed decoding, and Spark's book is a gem. I love the way she circles around, building the characters through repetition and variation. Even Miss Brodie's speech has this circular quality as she hops from general principles or life lessons to associations or corrections in the present moment. There is an incredible build toward the final, unexpected twist.

I'm looking forward to seeing the Maggie Smith movie, but I'm very glad I read the book first. Absolutely brilliant.

There are delightfully clever lines, like the description of Miss Brodie's nemesis, Miss Mackay, "a sharp-minded woman, who smelt her prey very near and yet saw it very far." And I adore Sandy's imaginary conversations with literary figures, especially her exchange as Miss Brodie recites Tennyson's The Lady of Shallot, which is priceless:

     Down she came and found a boat
     Beneath a willow left afloat,
     And round about the prows she wrote
     The Lady of Shalott.

     "By what means did your Ladyship write these words?" Sandy enquired in her mind with her lips shut tight.
     "There was a pot of white paint and brush which happened to be standing upon the grassy verge," replied the Lady of Shalott graciously. "It was left there no doubt by some heedless member of the Unemployed."