Time to Be in Earnest

P. D. James’s extraordinary memoir of her early life and time starting out as a novelist, as well as diaries recording her in old age.

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, and looks back on her earlier life.

With all her familiar skills as a writer she recalls what it was like to be a schoolgirl in the 1920s and 1930s in Cambridge, and then giving birth during a bombing raid. It follows her work, starting out as an administrator in the National Health Service, then on to the Home Office in the forensic and criminal justice departments. She later served as a Governor of the BBC, an influential member of the British Council, the Arts Council and the Society of Authors, and eventually entered the House of Lords.

Along the way, this diary and personal memoir deals with her burgeoning reputation as a novelist, starting with Cover Her Face in 1962 and the craft of the classical detective story. She also details the writing of one of her most intriguing and carefully researched books, A Certain Justice. This wonderful memoir will enthral aficionados of detective fiction, and will also appeal to anyone who lived through those turbulent years of the twentieth century.

‘She has served up a feast of a book.’ Penelope Lively

‘A wonderful read and as such will give pleasure to all P. D. James fans.’ Antonia Fraser, Mail on Sunday

‘Like all the best diaries hers allows the reader to share in the small pleasures and domestic dramas of her days.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘A wonderfully vivid evocation of a lower-middle-class childhood of oil lamps and gas mantles, water heated up on a coke boiler for the weekly bath, liberty bodices, prickly combinations, a father severely remote from his three children and a long-suffering mother.’ Francis King, The Oldie

Book details

Series: Non-fiction

First published: 1999

Faber & Faber