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For those of you new to the Mystery Book Club, we are a group of readers and book lovers who are doing a group read and discussion of PD James' An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. It is our first book and you are more than welcome to grab a copy and join us. We expect to complete the book and discussion next Monday evening at 7:30pm eastern.

I promised a fuller recitation of PD James honors and awards, because they are so numerous that they would not fit into last week's diary. So direct from her Wikipedia page, here is Baroness James of Holland Park:

    •    Officer of the Order of the British Empire, 1983[13]
    •    Associate Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge, 1986
    •    Life peerage, Baroness James of Holland Park, of Southwold in the County of            Suffolk, 7 February 1991
    •    Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
    •    Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
    •    President of the Society of Authors 1997–

Honorary Doctorates
    •    University of Buckingham, 1992
    •    University of Hertfordshire, 1994
    •    University of Glasgow, 1995
    •    University of Essex, 1996
    •    University of Durham, 1998
    •    University of Portsmouth, 1999
    •    University of London, 1993

Honorary Fellowships
    •    St Hilda's College, Oxford, 1996
    •    Girton College, Cambridge, 2000
    •    Downing College, Cambridge, 2000
    •    Kellogg College, Oxford

    •    1971 Best Novel Award, Mystery Writers of America (runner-up): Shroud for a Nightingale
    •    1971 Crime Writers' Association (CWA) Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction: Shroud for a Nightingale
    •    1973 Best Novel Award, Mystery Writers of America (runner-up): An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
    •    1975 CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction: The Black Tower
    •    1986 CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction: A Taste for Death
    •    1986 Mystery Writers of America Best Novel Award (runner-up): A Taste for Death
    •    1987 CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger (lifetime achievement award)
    •    1992 Deo Gloria Award: The Children of Men
    •    1992 The Best Translated Crime Fiction of the Year in Japan, Kono Mystery ga Sugoi! 1992: Devices and Desires
    •    1999 Grandmaster Award, Mystery Writers of America
    •    2002 WH Smith Literary Award (shortlist): Death in Holy Orders
    •    2005 British Book Awards Crime Thriller of the Year (shortlist): The Murder Room
    •    2007 Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award (longlist): The Lighthouse
    •    2010 Nick Clarke Award for interview with Director-General of the BBC Mark Thompson whilst guest editor of the Today programme


Book cover of An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, by P.D. James
"A detective story can give a much truer picture of the society in which it's written than a more prestigious literature," James suggests. "If we want to know what it was like – actually like – to work in an office between the wars, we should go to Murder Must Advertise. It's all there: the people and personalities; the inter-departmental rivalry; the great excitement of having a flutter on the Grand National; right down to how much things cost and attitudes to sex and class. I wanted my books to do the same; to be unambiguously set in the present day, so that they give a picture of the life we're living. And if I'm lucky enough to be read in 50 years' time, I hope people will be able to point to them and say: that's what it was like."

A life in writing: PD James
by Sarah Crown, The Guardian

In addition to the questions below, do you think that over 40 years later, we can point to An Unsuitable Job for a Woman and say: "that's what it was like?"

From last week's diary:

I suggest we aim for a two week read since this novel is about 250 pages long. An internet search came up with the following book club discussion questions for AUJW (An Unsuitable Job for a Woman). Don't panic, there will be no quiz, but I thought it might be helpful to look at some possible discussion questions before reading the book.

This list will be republished again next Monday (March 24) and if you would like we can begin by discussing anything from Chapters One, Two and Three, which will take us to the halfway point in the book.

Book Discussion Questions for An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James
  1. What is a suitable job for a woman? Why is this not one in the 1970s? Is it one today? What is this novel saying about the place of women in society? How has the role of women in detective fiction changed since 1972?
  2. How is An Unsuitable Job old fashioned? How is it modern? How is it different from a book written by today’s mystery writers? What other books is this one similar to?
  3. This is one of James’ earlier novels. How did you like the writing style and organization of the book? Have you read others? How has her style changed?
  4. Did you figure out whodunit?
  5. James’ is described as a writer of cozies. Is this true? How does she transcend the subgenre’s confines?
  6. How is this story tied to its time and place? How would it be different set in another time or place?
  7. Were there too many or too few details? What did you still want to know after you closed the book?
  8. Who were your favorite characters? How did you not like? Do you relate to any of them? Did Cordelia Gray remind you of anyone?
  9. Family obligations is a big theme in this book. What do you think James is saying about the state of the British family?
  10. What is this novel saying about the education system in England?
  11. Was this novel believable? Why?
  12. Did you find this book uplifting or depressing?
  13. Was there any humor in this book?
  14. What are the book’s strengths? What about its weaknesses? What was your favorite part? What could you have done without?
  15. How did you feel about the novel’s ending? What will happen to Cordelia? Will she make it on her own?

Questions by Becky Spratford for the Berwyn (IL) Public Library 2/22/11
Used with permission

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