Time to Be in Earnest : A Fragment of Autobiography

James, P.D.

Published by Knopf, 2000
ISBN 10: 037541066X / ISBN 13: 9780375410666
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Synopsis: 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.

Review: "At seventy-seven it is time to be in earnest," wrote Samuel Johnson, and bestselling crime writer P.D. James took this maxim as a challenge, setting out to record "one year that otherwise might be lost." The result is a fascinating and reflective account, part diary and part memoir, of one very full year of Baroness James's life, interspersed with her memories and intelligent analysis of "what it was like to be born two years after the end of the First World War and to live for seventy-eight years in this tumultuous century." P.D. James grew up in Cambridge, England, between the wars and worked in the home office of the forensic and criminal justice departments, which sparked her interest in that area, though she did not become a published novelist until 1962 with Cover Her Face. She began to write full-time after her "retirement" in 1979, and along the way became a governor of the BBC before taking a seat in the House of Lords in 1991. Time to Be in Earnest is a lucid and penetrative work by one of the most influential figures currently involved with the arts in Britain. James reveals her vast scope for enjoyment, interest, and simply getting on with life (her husband, Connor White, died at the age of 44 in 1964 after years of mental illness), whether it be spending time with her children and grandchildren, musing on the hideous British architectural mistakes of the 1960s, or giving her view of the controversies continually surrounding the running of the BBC. At an age when many people would be considering slowing down, James seems constantly on the move, recording her day-to-day existence and her past with an alert and judicious eye. "I am sustained by the magnificent irrationality of faith," she states. "I inhabit a different body, but I can reach back over nearly 70 years and recognise her as myself. Then I walked in hope--and I do so still." --Catherine Taylor, Amazon.co.uk

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Title: Time to Be in Earnest : A Fragment of ...
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Fine
Edition: 1st Edition

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