Time to be in Earnest : A Fragment of Autobiography, Paperback

Time to be in Earnest : A Fragment of Autobiography Paperback

5 out of 5 (1 rating)


In this intriguing and very personal book, part diary, part memoir, P.D.

James considers the twelve months of her life between her 77th and 78th birthdays, 'a time to be in earnest', as Dr Johnson said at the comparable moment of his very different life two centuries ago.

In recording the events, thoughts and reflections of her present, Baroness James has found herself simultaneously remembering the past of her remarkable career.

She recalls what it was like to be a schoolgirl in the 1920s and 1930s in Cambridge, then giving birth to her second daughter during the worst of the Doodlebug bombardment in London during the war, working as an administrator in the National Health Service, entering the Home Office in the forensic and criminal justice departments, serving as a Governor of the BBC, an influential member of the British Council, the Arts Council and the Society of Authors, and eventually entering the House of Lords.

Along the way she deals with her burgeoning reputation as a novelist, starting with Cover Her Face in 1962, and with the craft of the classical detective story. During this busy year she also published one of her most intriguing and carefully researched books, A Certain Justice.

This record of twelve months in a life of creativity and public service, told with honesty and perception, will enthral aficionados of detective fiction.

It will also appeal to those who themselves have lived through the turbulent years of the twentieth century.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304 pages, 16pp b&w photographs
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Autobiography: general
  • ISBN: 9780571203963



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An original format - explicitly a diary of a year in P.D. James's life in her 70's. But she takes this starting off point to range widely, to reveal parts of her life, and to digress on matters that interest her. Her energy and enthusiasm is awe-inspiring, for any age. A bright, positive, intelligent thinker, it's not surprising Phyllis is so much in demand for book-signings and talks.James was less revealing about being married to someone with a mental illness. In part I admired her - especially in these 'tell-all times' for her reticence, but then she was dismayed by society's misunderstanding - and so surely this should have been a wonderful opportunity to open the door to reveal what it's like to be connected to someone with mental problems and how society could impact positively.Small gripe, this was a wonderful, uplifting book, by a very special woman.