Jessica Mann

Importunate Biographers Well Kept at Bay

Time to be in Earnest: A Fragment of Autobiography

By

Faber & Faber 224pp £20 order from our bookshop

Some years ago, in a non-fiction study (titled Deadlier than the Male), I attempted to find out why respectable English women novelists were and still are so good at writing about crime. I concluded that those who choose the genre have several shared characteristics, including an extreme reluctance to make any public exposure of their personal feelings and desires. P D James proves typically reticent, prefacing this ‘fragment of autobiography’ with the disclaimer: ‘There is much that I remember but which is painful to dwell upon. I see no need to write about these things.’

Follow Literary Review on Twitter