Today the weather was cold and wet. For Jackie this meant continuing her planting between frequent showers. For me it meant ironing and finishing reading Muriel Spark’s classic gem, ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’. Even the World Cup cricket match between South Africa and the West Indies was rained off.
The short novel tells the story of a progressive, idiosyncratic, and rebellious teacher at odds with the ethos and management of a traditional girls’ school of the 1930s. Her style is spare, insightful, and elegantly simple. Ms Spark favours lean, lucid, language, lightly telling her tale. In case there is anyone who has neither read the book nor, like me, seen the 1969 film starring Maggie Smith, I will reveal no more of the story.
My copy is the 1998 Folio Society version with illustrations by the late Beryl Cook. The cloth-bound covers feature a design by Peter Forster.
Despite being a great fan of the artist and her particular comic style I have my doubts about the choice of her to illustrate this work. Miss Brodie is as romantic as she is zany, as ultimately tragic as she is stimulating.
The last pair of these illustrations is what in a different kind of publication may be termed a centrefold.
Cook has, of course captured the exuberantly comic nature of the book, but, I think, neither the author’s lightness of touch nor her sensitivity to her characters.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s spicy pasta arrabbiata and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cabernet Sauvignon.