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Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth…

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (1971)

by Elizabeth Taylor

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7204019,437 (4.09)2 / 291

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Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
What strikes me is the loneliness of Mrs. Palfrey. She delights at small errands she can run as it helps her to pass the time, and she forms an unlikely friendship with a young man, Ludovic, who is a poor budding writer. She doesn't know that Ludovic is creating a character based on her. And Ludovic is not sure of what he thinks of her. In the end, he is the one at her deathbed, while she dies, away from her daughter who couldn't get there in time. ( )
1 vote siok | Oct 19, 2017 |
With an atmosphere so pronounced, this novel demands to be read only at dusk for the light of day would wash out its impact and make readers impatient to find the sun. Give it what it requires and the rewards are generous in spite of the story being a melancholy tale of the desolation of loneliness in old age.

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont may be a slim novel, but it is a hefty work. The construction is perfect, built around the seasons from late winter to the end of fall that symbolize the main character's life. Mrs Palfrey's life of retirement to a private hotel in a discreet and secluded part of London is traced in quotidian detail. The reader's acquaintance with her becomes swiftly and totally intimate -- we share the pain of her varicose veins, her fear of making a spectacle of herself, her yearning towards youth, her awkward fumbling in and about love, and her perpetual estrangement and drift that are the natural companions of an old lady without attachments, widowed, neglected by family, and unsure of her status in society.

The Claremont is at best a 2-3 star establishment, teetering along with all its better days behind it. While its owner entertains fantasies of his establishment becoming a thriving hive for business travelers and their professional conventions, he runs, instead, a place that is less of the road and more "end of the road." Guests at the Claremont are mostly the old left-single men and women who can not really afford to live in sunnier brighter retirement conditions but must settle on the barely affordable dreary and crabbed hospitality and execrable food available in its lounge, dining room, and bar.

In spite of her surroundings and the death's waiting room residents whose habitat she shares, Mrs. Palfrey manages a bit of harmless deception that injects her spirit with life-affirming tonic when she befriends a (literally) "starving artist," Ludovic, and invests him with false kinship, identifying him to her fellow boarders as her grandson.

Taylor's genius is in characterization and tone. It is hard to think of another author who creates a feeling of calm inevitability that is punctuated with acidic, witty observation of each of the characters' personalities. Taylor is the perfect BBC writer. By that I mean she is the creator of precisely the kind of domestic dramas that are masterfully acted by ensemble casts as one sees in such TV series as The Duchess of Duke Street. Or, in a literary sense, Taylor writes like Virginia Woolf would have written had she been an extrovert. ( )
3 vote Limelite | Aug 15, 2017 |
This was a lovely story, beautifully constructed and self-contained. It would be a great play. It is a touching and thoughtful look at aging, loneliness, and community, with a colourful cast of often sharp-tongued characters.
A bit of trivia: p71, the mother of Mrs Palfrey's friend says "But every great actor started that way. I'm sure Sir Laurence did his stint." The real-life widow of Sir Laurence, Joan Plowright, plays Mrs Palfrey in the movie.

( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
Elisabeth Taylor paints a beautiful word-picture of the London of the 1930's in this novella about a hotel resident who meets and befriends a young writer. In an exquisite tale of manners, narrowly confined by time and place, she describes the milieu they both inhabit in subtle detail.

It was both refreshing and comforting to discover such a fine writing talent for the first time. Elisabeth Taylor goes on my list of authors whose works I will seek out for a relaxing and enjoyable read. Thoroughly recommended. ( )
1 vote SunnyJim | Apr 13, 2016 |
OK, I admit I thought "the Claremont" was this Claremont Hotel: http://www.claremontresort.com/, which has been a hotel since 1915.

But it's not.

No, this Claremont is a small nondescript hotel in England. There are overnight guests, and permanent residents (all elderly).

Mrs Palfrey has just moved into the Claremont. Widowed and needing more care than she was getting at home, she is satisfied to find a place she can afford that is nice enough. Nonetheless, the obviousness of "moving down" as she gets old is depressing. And I found the novel to be a bit depressing--the elderly residents fell unwanted by their relatives, by management, and forgotten by the friends they have who are still living.

Yet, when they do have the opportunity to go out, they are tired, achy, and recognize their own weakening. They are frustrated just as much by their bodies' inability to keep up as they are by the relatives who don't come visit often.

Mrs Palfrey manages to make a friend, a young man who helps her when she falls. They both need each other. Their odd friendship is a bit awkward, yet both enjoy it.

A bittersweet story of the elderly. ( )
  Dreesie | Apr 12, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
First published in 1971, in a period setting perfectly depicted -- a cheap London residential hotel where a few widowed old people pass their later, solitary years. The pitiful circumstances of the ageing residents, and heartlessness of their remaining families and friends, are beautifully observed and portrayed, though, as universal themes. The hotel residents encounter helplessness, humiliation, increasing forgetfulness, loneliness, boredom -- the daily chore of passing the time, knitting as a social duty, with prospects only of increasing bodily feebleness, perhaps a nursing home, and death. Their few visitors `did their duty occasionally ... and went relievedly away'; the hotel manager resents these permanent guests, `cluttering up the place and boring everybody'.
Mrs Palfrey has one child, a daughter, now married and living in Scotland, who waits there until her weekend houseparty is over before travelling to her mother's hospital bed when she breaks her hip; her grandson, learning of the accident, feels that it `suited him admirably', having had some fear that she might remarry and change her will. Thus we rejoice when someone does appear to be showing Mrs Palfrey human kindness and friendship -- but young Ludovic is in fact deliberately observing her and her fellow Claremont-residents for a book he is writing on old age. Eager for copy, he makes notes after every meeting with Mrs Palfrey, whom he sees as `doting on him, to his embarrassed boredom'. He is `banking on her being dead -- or out of his life -- before [his book] saw the light of day'.
Nevertheless, Ludovic brings Mrs Palfrey her only happiness in her last months, and despite the pity and pain, the book is pleasurable to read. Taylor writes with delicacy and subtlety, and shrewd, witty observation of the characters she exposes. There is much humour in the depiction of rivalry and one-up-manship in the hotel. Certainly the book also offers much subject for group discussion. Is Ludovic wholly to be condemned? What could or should have been done to ameliorate the fates of the elderly residents? How different would their situation and the events have been today?
added by KayCliff | editNew BooksMag, Hazel K. Bell (May 28, 2016)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Taylorprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bailey, PaulIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Mrs. Palfrey first came to the Claremont Hotel on a Sunday afternoon in January.
I have to begin this appreciation of Elizabeth Taylor's penultimate novel on a personal note. (Introduction)
As one gets older life becomes all take and no give. One relies on other people for the treats and things. It's like being an infant again...Of course, it's nice to be given a treat, but not if it's ALWAYS that way round.
Every day for an infant means some new little thing learned; every day for the old means some little thing lost. {...} Both infancy and age are tiring times.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0860682633, Paperback)

On a rainy Sunday in January, the recently widowed Mrs. Palfrey arrives at the Claremont Hotel where she will spend her remaining days. Her fellow residents are magnificently eccentric and endlessly curious, living off crumbs of affection and snippets of gossip. Together, upper lips stiffened, they fight off their twin enemies—boredom and the Grim Reaper. Then one day Mrs. Palfrey strikes up an unexpected friendship with Ludo, a handsome young writer, and learns that even the old can fall in love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:01 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Mrs. Palfrey had come to London, after her husband died, because that was "where it's happening." She was far too independent and active to warrant staying with her married daughter in Scotland--even if she had been asked. In London there would be plays to see, friends to visit, her adorable grandson at the archives of the British Museum, it would be a lark.… (more)

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