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Time to Be in Earnest

Phyllis D. James

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Description

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

03 April 2000 – James's fans will eagerly devour every word of this insightful and witty account of a year in the life of the master mystery author In the diary she began on her 77th birthday, in August 1997, James comfortably segues from daily activities into reminiscences about her childhood, early forays into writing and her career as a civil servant in Britain. She also weighs in on a variety of subjects, including the movie Titanic (the "usual Hollywood anti-British bias" irritated her), the publishing industry (promising novels are "promoted, packaged, and sold like a new perfume") and London's Millennial Dome, which inspired her "Dome Pome" (which begins, "O Dome Gigantic, Dome immense/ Built in defiance of common sense"). James reveals herself to be proper, dignified and reserved, but she doesn't reveal much more: readers expecting a traditional diary or spilled secrets are bound to be dissatisfied, though they can't say they weren't warned; in her prologue, James announces that she'll neither rehash painful memories nor record "the events of every day." The painful memories no doubt relate to her late husband's long battle with mental illness, which she mentions often but never fully explores. It's just as well she sticks to the latter promise, for while many of her activities will interest a wide range of readers, there are times when her musings do little to contradict her claim that she is simply "an elderly grandmother who writes traditional English detective fiction." 16 pages of photos not seen by PW. 50,000 first printing.
Time to Be in Earnest
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  • 12,99 €
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biography
  • Published: 27 February 2001
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Print Length: 306 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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