For those who like that sort of thing

Cynthia Nixon (far right) fails to command as Miss Jean Brodie in a new stage version of Muriel Spark’s masterpiece. (Image credit: Sara Krulwich.)

Nixon is slight rather than imposing, flirtatious rather than steely, and, were it not for the cast of Brigadoon, she might very well take the award for most ridiculous Scottish accent ever to be affected in the theater district. Even so, as the character’s impulses turn increasingly manipulative and finally fascistic, Nixon breathes enough life into the twisted schoolteacher that Jay Presson Allan’s fine adaptation (which I saw thanks to my drama critic friend) drew me in.

This iteration of the story gets by largely on the strength of the Brodie set girls — Zoe Kazan’s (above, center) wise and cynical Sandy, in particular. Here, in case you haven’t had the pleasure, is Spark’s description of the “crème de la crème,” the pupils singled out for special attention by Miss Brodie, in her prime.

These girls formed the Brodie set. That was what they had been called even before the headmistress had given them the name, in scorn, when they had moved from the Junior to the Senior school at the age of twelve. At that time they had been immediately recognisable as Miss Brodies pupils, being vastly informed on a lot of subjects irrelevant to the authorized curriculum, as the headmistress said, and usless to the school as a school. These girls were discovered to have hears of the Buchanites and Mussolini, the Italian Renaissance painters, the advantages to the skin of cleansing cream and witch hazel over honest soap and water, and the word “menarche”; the interior decoration of the house of the author of Winnie the Pooh had been described to them, as had the love lives of Charlotte Brontë and Miss Brodie herself. They were aware of the existence of Einstein and the arguments of those who considered the Bible to be untrue. They knew the rudiments of astrology but not the date of the Battle of Flodden or the capital of Finland. All of the Brodie set, save one, counted on its fingers, as had Miss Brodie, with accurate results more or less.

By the time they were sixteen and had reached the fourth form, and loitered beyond the gates after school, and had adapted themselves to the orthodox regime, they remained unmistakably Brodie, and were all famous in the school, which is to say that they were held in suspicion and not much liking. They had no team spirit and very little in common with each other outside their continuing friendship with Miss Brodie. She still taught in the Junior department. She was held in great suspicion.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.