Time to be in Earnest: A Fragment of Autobiography

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Knopf, 2000 - Biography & Autobiography - 269 pages
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In 1997, P. D. James, the much loved and internationally acclaimed author of mysteries, turned seventy-seven. Taking to heart Dr. Johnson's advice that at seventy-seven it is "time to be in earnest," she decided to undertake a book unlike any she had written before: a personal memoir in the form of a diary. This enchanting and highly original volume is the result. Structured as the diary of a single year, it roams back and forth through time, illuminating James's extraordinary, sometimes painful and sometimes joyful life.
Here, interwoven with reflections on her writing career and the craft of crime novels, are vivid accounts of episodes in her own past -- of school days in 1920s and 1930s Cambridge . . . of the war and the tragedy of her husband's madness . . . of her determined struggle to support a family alone. She tells about the birth of her second daughter in the midst of a German buzz-bomb attack; about becoming a civil servant (and laying the groundwork for her writing career by working in the criminal justice system); about her years of public service on such bodies as the Arts Council and the BBC's Board of Governors, culminating in entry to the House of Lords. Along the way, with warmth and authority, she offers views on everything from author tours to the problems of television adaptations, from book reviewing to her obsession with Jane Austen.
Written with exceptional grace, this "fragment of autobiography" has already been received with enthusiasm by British reviewers and readers. The thousands of Americans who have enjoyed P. D. James's novels will be equally charmed. Diary or memoir or both, Time to Be in Earnest is a delight.

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User Review  - jennybeast - LibraryThing

A slow-paced, out of date, reluctant autobiography by the somewhat cantankerous British Mystery Icon. I found it completely fascinating. I wish she'd do it again, now that she's added another 15 years to her already long and interesting life. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - cstebbins - LibraryThing

When I first read this book, some years ago, I was disappointed. I suppose I had hoped to find an eloquent crusader for the truths of Christian orthodoxy and against the adulteration of the Prayer ... Read full review

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About the author (2000)

P. D. James is the author of fifteen books. Her most recent novel, A Certain Justice, was published in 1997. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Divisions of the Home Office, and has served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. In 1991, she was created Baroness James of Holland Park. P. D. James lives in London and Oxford.

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