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An Unsuitable job for a woman by P.D. James
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An Unsuitable job for a woman (original 1972; edition 1989)

by P.D. James

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1,611244,514 (3.72)34
Member:Robynnlee
Title:An Unsuitable job for a woman
Authors:P.D. James
Info:Penguin
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:British crime/Adam Dalgliesh/Cordelia Gray

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An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P. D. James (1972)

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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
I wanted to like this more than I did...James is a trailblazer, the book's title proudly calling the world out on its bullshit. I thought a lot about why it never really grabbed me--have I become immune to narrative that isn't hyper-adrenalized, has the genre so completely cannibalized James that I've just read this book a hundred times already, does it lack an essential luridness that I need to become truly interested? I think perhaps all of these things are true, but mainly there was never much chance that the people--the characters--were going to impact one another in any significant way. Nothing was ever really going to happen in the book. I mean, the mystery would be solved but the real mystery is what would happen to the main character along the way. And nothing was going to happen. Cordelia is in a bubble through out. There's no chance she will fail or learn anything about herself. It's just an obstacle course, no real risk for her or the reader. I liked the sections best when she was with the rich, spoiled Cambridge kids. The chance she might get sucked into their current brought energy to the book. It remained me of so many books in those moments--The Talented Mr.Ripley, The Secret History, The Likeness...a million horror films. There's something spooky about a group of priveldged, young beauties apparently. Narrative loves to stare at them. Anyway, I hope I remember what left me flat here and can learn from it. ( )
  wordlikeabell | Nov 20, 2013 |
Odd characters with weird motivations, plus a plot that took unexpected and disturbing turns, made this book sit not quite right with me.

Favorite lines:

I have never thought of romantic love being characterized like this: "'If you mean, did we explore our own identities through the personality of the other, then I suppose we were in love or thought we were.'"

"'What do you mean by love? That human beings must learn to live together with a decent concern for each other's welfare? The law enforces that....But perhaps you prefer a more feminine, more individual definition; love as a passionate commitment to another's personality. Intense personal commitment always ends in jealousy and enslavement. Love is more destructive than hate...'"

"'Beauty is intellectually confusing; it sabotages common sense...I thought that any woman as beautiful as she must have an instinct about life, access to some secret wisdom which is beyond cleverness. Every time she opened that delicious mouth I was expecting her to illumine life. I think I could have spent all my life just looking at her and waiting for the oracle. And all she could talk about was clothes.'" ( )
  librarianarpita | Oct 2, 2013 |
This Cordelia Grey mystery may deserve 4 stars but I find myself increasingly disliking crime novels in which the guilty go uncaught or unpunished. One could argue that, since Sir Ronald Callender, Lunn, and Miss Leaming all end up dead, this isn't such a novel. However Cordelia's willingness to conceal Miss Leaming's act bothers me. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 26, 2013 |
Reading this book was a pleasure. However it did expose my lack of acute concentration, if not my imagining. There was one place in the book where I could do with some exactitude, that is the detective in the well part. Unlike many cozy, and English mystery books, there are quite some prurient quips lying about. Many of the physical traits of the supporting cast are confidently described. P.D. James is some writer.

This book is one of the least domestic crime books I've ever read. The heroine lives, during her investigation, in a decrepit so called cottage. But the author comes into her own element when describing Cambridge. The libraries, the churches, one graveyard, the University; all of them highly etched prosaically. The story is padded with a lot of description, but this treatment doesn't feel like butter spread too thinly on bread. It would be, had the mystery lasted 400 pages. But that's not the case. Pun unintended.

The two things P.D. James laid emphasis on were smells, and the deduction from people's eyes. Most of the characters are presented, or hinted, as intelligent. Some are not clever enough. But even the Pilbean lady who is branded as stupid had the voice of an oracle herself. The richness of the prose forces admiration from me and, I'm sure, others too. Conversely, the author knows how to turn the style on and off. During passages of tangy urgency, she loses the descriptions, and action is shown rather than told.

The main victim, Mark Callender, is a character that can be liked by some and disliked by others. I still don't know how generous, forgiving, or intelligent he was. The fact that he left his study sealed in fate. His death is pitiable, more so in its dressing and undressing. Even death here is seen differently from the characters at various points in the narrative.

I have come to new words here, like "censorious"(3 times), "prurient", "theurgy", and "deletrious". I was interested to know how the author would hide her hand. Since we are seeing the plot unravel from Cordelia's view, the solution to the problem must occur at once and not in stages. I'm glad to say that almost nothing is held from the reader. That is more admirable considering the paucity of witnesses and suspects. The truth of the case was as startling as reading this book proved to be. My first P.D. James novel; excellent. ( )
  Jiraiya | Jun 18, 2013 |
Enjoyable, if weirdly conservative in its underpinnings (beware radicals!). I always get a little thrill from interconnected novels (in a series or otherwise). 13 ways of looking at Adam Dalgliesh. ( )
  anderlawlor | Apr 9, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
P. D. Jamesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Capriolo, EttoreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rantanen, AulisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Jane and Peter who kindly allowed two of my characters to live at 57 Norwich Street.
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On the morning of Bernie Pryde's death - or it may have been the morning after, since Bernie died at his own convenience, nor did he think of the estimated time of his departure worth recording - Cordelia was caught in a breakdown of the Bakerloo Line outside Lambeth North and was half an hour late at the office.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743219554, Paperback)

Handsome Cambridge dropout Mark Callender died hanging by the neck with a faint trace of lipstick on his mouth. When the official verdict is suicide, his wealthy father hires fledgling private investigator Cordelia Gray to find out what led him to self-destruction. What she discovers instead is a twisting trail of secrets and sins, and the strong scent of murder.

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman introduces P. D. James's courageous but vulnerable young detective, Cordelia Gray, in a "top-rated puzzle of peril that holds you all the way" (The New York Times).

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:07 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Left alone by her partner's suicide, Cordelia Gray struggles to manage the private detective agency they once shared.

(summary from another edition)

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