Book Review- Heart of Darkness and Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

I wasn’t sure I had much to say on these books, and they were pretty short, so I thought I’d stick ’em both together, even though they are totally different.

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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is a short story set in the Congo (Africa) that was turned into the film Apocalypse Now (set in Vietnam).  I haven’t seen AN so can’t really comment on that but I don’t really understand how the book became the film…

Conrad was a Polish/English writer and used his personal experiences in the French and British Merchant Navies.  Heart of Darkness, from 1899, tells the story of Marlow traveling up the Congo and encountering an obsessive ivory collector, Kurtz.

All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz; and by-and-by I learned that, most appropriately, the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had entrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance.

The story raises questions around Imperial racism, well I should say raised questions as I hope we’re all kind of on the same page now… As much as Marlow is disgusted by the half starved locals, he still uses much racist terminology.

Anyway, for the good people of 1899, it showed the civilised colonial powers to be acting rather more savage than the savages, putting heads on pikes for example.

And for something completely different…The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  I’m not sure how I feel about this one.  I read it in a day on a long bus ride to and from the dentist, so it was more fun than the dentist and was very readable but…

The book is about a unconventional teacher, Brodie, who teaches at the Marcia Blaine Academy in the 1930’s.  She tells her pet students, ‘The Brodie Set’, about her past love affairs and Italian art rather than algebra.  I found her more irritating than inspirational though, and spent most of the book trying to decide if that was intentional.

She, and the book, are quite mean to one of the girls who is often describe as stupid and told to shut up.  She also constantly talks about being in ‘her prime’ which just makes her sound like an idiot. She also thinks Mussolini is doing a great job sorting out unemployment in Italy, which lends itself to my theory that the book knows Brodie to be the out of touch fool that I felt she was.

I have frequently told you, and the holidays just past have convinced me, that my prime has truly begun.  One’s prime is elusive.

The book flashes forward in time many years later, after Brodie has been ‘betrayed’ by one of her set and forced to leave the school. It held my attention, as I did want to finish it and see what exactly had gone down but I was left wondering why it is such a highly rated book.