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Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (1971)

by Elizabeth Taylor

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9054918,310 (4.07)2 / 320
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.… (more)
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» See also 320 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
Read: British authors/75er group.
British author
This is a study of being old. Such interesting characters, more a character study than a plotted novel. I do so enjoy reading novels about aging.

"Although she felt too old to do so, she knew that she must soldier on, as Arthur might have put it, with this new life of her own. She would never again have anyone to turn to for help, to take her arm crossing a road, to comfort her, to listen to any news of hers, good or bad. She was helplessly exposed--to the idiosynerasies of other old people, the winter coming on, her aches and pains and loneliness, even that absurd and embarrassing proposal of marriage." Pretty much an accurate description of my current situation, though I think I am capable of soldiering on, the truth of the matter is that with every added inconvenience and the aging, it is very hard to not lose step. A novel about mortality. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 30, 2021 |
Well... I feel rather lukewarm about it. Everything, really. Not a huge fan, glad I don't own it. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
Thrilled to discover Elizabeth Taylor (the writer, not the actress. Her, I knew about). Many thanks to the Backlisted podcast for introducing her to me. ( )
  sblock | Sep 7, 2021 |
Published in 1971, this is the story of the residents at the Claremont Hotel in London, a long-term residence for elderly people who, for one reason or another, find themselves in the hotel's shabby elegance until it's time to go to a nursing home. Mrs Palfrey is widowed with one daughter living in Scotland who has never invited her mother to live with her because, as they both know but don't say, they don't really like each other. Mrs Palfrey's grandson lives in London and works at the British Museum, but can't be bothered to visit. These hotel residents have sharp eyes, and some have sharp tongues. The constant badgering of Mrs Palfrey to explain why her grandson hasn't visited is recognized as a humiliation to the elderly group of regulars, and leads her to a small deceit to save face.
While the story rests mostly with Mrs Palfrey, each resident is dealing with their loneliness and exclusion from families that find their age an inconvenience. ( )
  mstrust | Jun 16, 2021 |
Despite the light tone and well-crafted writing, this was too sad and depressing to read.

Ultimately a predictable window into many old, forgotten, and unhappy people's final days - and nights.

And why no pain killers that work for Mrs. Arbuthnot?

Book also led off with another of those Introductions that fairly reveals the entire plot. ( )
  m.belljackson | Mar 5, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (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)
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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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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.

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