School’s out. Thank goodness!

jeanbrodie

I really wanted to like this book more based on the description and the reviews. But overall the book left me feeling rather flat and I was glad to move on to a more compelling story. The story follows the lives of Jean Brodie, a teacher in a private girls school and her six students known as “The Brodie Set” whom Miss Brodie mentors through their school years.

Miss Brodie seems like a pretty lousy teacher from the outset and eschews things like math and science lessons for lecturing the girls about what she considers “classical learning” which mostly consist her telling them about her travels or the great love of her life who was killed in The Great War (the book takes place in the 1930 in Scotland). Miss Brodie is manipulative, a fan of Mussolini and carries on an affair with the schools music teacher. None of her students are particularly compelling. It seems the reason Miss Brodie chose them is that they were easily led.

Given the high praise for this novel I almost wonder if I missed something. It really didn’t appeal to me all that much and I was glad that the book was only a brief 120 pages.

“But are they the right sort of peo…” zzzzz

a room with a vew

 

I should start out by saying I am NOT a fan of Jane Austen or the whole “comedy of manners” oeuvre. The only book in that genre that I’ve ever really liked is The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton which takes a decidedly darker turn than Austen or Forster. Needless to say that this book, while only about 150 pages long felt like a slog through a War and Peace sized book. But instead of the Napoleonic wars, I got some silly girl’s search for a husband.

I think my main complaint about this book is that I just couldn’t be bothered to care about any of the main characters. The ones that weren’t downright awful were shallowly written. Our protagonist, Lucy Honeychurch, was raised to be a proper girl with a proper husband but seems to long for something more and sees beauty and things that aren’t conventionally beautiful. That’s nice but we don’t get anything beyond that. Her love interest, George Emerson is a middle class (gasp!) young man who seems sad and feels out of place in society. I suppose it’s a spoiler to say they both find their way to each other in the end despite the relatively minor obstacles put in their way but it seems pretty obvious from the beginning that the book was heading there.

Perhaps if you’re into a more Austen-y type read, this is a book for you but it was definitely not my Edwardian cup of tea.

I still wouldn’t have married him, but I get it.

american wife

 

My actual rating is somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. Sometimes I really liked this book and I really liked the main character, Alice. Other times, mostly toward the end, I wanted to yell “We got it! Fame is hard!” I added this book after reading that Alice was inspired by Laura Bush. Obviously I’m not the first person to look at this quiet, thoughtful, former librarian wind up with George W. Bush of all people. American Wife closely mirrors the events of the former first lady’s life from childhood until her husband’s second term in office. Most of her decisions in adulthood, revolve around a tragic accident during her teen years, in which a boy she was enamored with was killed.

I have to say I often found this book uncomfortable to read. Mainly because I found myself relating to the character of Alice quite a lot. So even when she was making decisions that I wouldn’t necessarily have made, I understood them. Needless to say this was rather jarring for a dyed-in-the-wool liberal to find herself relating to a character’s decision to marry the literary incarnation of GWB. Toward the end of book, which details their years in the White House, I found Alice’s ruminations on fame to be a little tedious. I only need to be told so many times how few people you can really trust and how people think they own you because you are famous. I got it. Otherwise, I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who’s willing to accept that people with other political views are just people and not the actual devil.