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Monday, February 22, 2010

BPL Book Discussion: Questions for An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

Today at the BPL we will be discussing An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James. This is from her Cordelia Gray series and was originally published in 1972.

There are no prepared discussion questions for An Unsuitable Job available on the Internet, however, I wrote my own using this Fiction-L post as a guide. In general this post is a great resource to create your own questions. I often refer to this list even if I have questions to make sure that the questions I do have hit at every major issue in the book.

In case there are other groups out there interested in discussing this novel, here are the questions I wrote and will be using to lead the discussion at 2 pm (cst) this afternoon. Please feel free to use them for your group, just credit this blog post. And check back here for what we discussed at the BPL in a few days.

Book Discussion Questions for An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James 
Questions by Becky Spratford for the Berwyn (IL) Public Library 2/22/11

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?
  1. What is An Unsuitable Job saying about the detective novel? “As a Mystery writer James is primarily interested in working within the conventions of the classic British Mystery novels she herself grew up reading. From her first book many of these conventions are present, including the use of a closed circle of suspects, the idea that the crime is a puzzle to be solved, and other elements such as the country house setting, or some variation of it, frequently used by Golden Age Mystery writers. The skillful inclusion of these classic ingredients in most of James' books is one reason she remains a favorite with readers who prefer traditional Mysteries.”  (quote from NoveList Read Alike for James by John Charles)
3.    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?
4.    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?
5.    Did you figure out whodunit?
6.    James’ is described as a writer of cozies. Is this true? How does she transcend the subgenre’s confines?
7.    How is this story tied to its time and place? How would it be different set in another time or place?
8.    Were there too many or too few details? What did you still want to know after you closed the book?
9.    Who were your favorite characters? How did you not like? Do you relate to any of them? Did Cordelia Gray remind you of anyone?
10.  Family obligations is a big theme in this book. What do you think James is saying about the state of the British family?
11. What is this novel saying about the education system in England? 
12. Was this novel believable? Why?
13. Did you find this book uplifting or depressing?
14. Was there any humor in this book?
15. What are the book’s strengths? What about its weaknesses? What was your favorite part? What could you have done without?
16. How did you feel about the novel’s ending? What will happen to Cordelia? Will she make is on her own?
17. This book/series have been made into TV movies? Have you seen them? Did you enjoy them? Why do you think there are more movies than books in this series? Why has James not returned to Gray in almost 30 years?

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