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Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont [Hardcover]

Elizabeth Taylor
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Aug. 26 1971
Mrs Palfrey arrives at the Claremont Hotel, where she will spend the rest of her days. Her fellow residents live off crumbs of affection and fascination with the hotel meals. They fight off their enemies: boredom and death. Then one day Mrs Palfrey encounters the handsome young writer, Ludo, and learns that even the old can fall in love.

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Review

'A wonderful novelist' JILLY COOPER 'How skilfully and with what peculiar exhilaration she negotiated the minefield of the human heart' JONATHAN KEATES 'The unsung heroine of British twentieth-century fiction' REBECCA ABRAMS, NEW STATESMAN 'A funny and honest examination of the casual cruelty we can sometimes inflict upon each other' DAILY MAIL 'I envy those readers who are coming to her work for the first time. Theirs will be an unexpected pleasure, and they will - if they read her as she wanted to be read - learn much that will surprise them' PAUL BAILEY --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Elizabeth Taylor (1912-75) is increasingly being recognised as one of the best writers of the twentieth century. She wrote her first book, At Mrs Lippincote's, during the war, and this was followed by eleven further novels and a children's book, Mossy Trotter. Her short stories appeared in Vogue, the New Yorker and Harper's Bazaar. Rosamond Lehmann considered her writing 'sophisticated, sensitive and brilliantly amusing, with a kind of stripped, piercing feminine wit', and Kingsley Amis regarded her as 'one of the best English novelists born in this century'.

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A unique book that focuses on unique issues Dec 5 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
'Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont' certainly does not deserve the obscurity it has been languishing in .It is a clear and well-written book that focuses on the loneliness and loss of dignity of the elderly treated with just the correct does of sentimentality and humour .I would recommend the book strongly for it is written with a lot of heart and a strong understanding of human nature
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  39 reviews
109 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Welcome to the Claremont. I hope you have a strong stomach." June 11 2006
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When Mrs. Palfrey, a genteel, elderly widow, arrives with her possessions at the formerly elegant Claremont Hotel in London, she expects "something quite different." Planning to stay at least a month, possibly permanently, she prefers her independence in this aging London hotel to living in Scotland near her daughter, who prefers to ignore her. A variety of elderly eccentrics call the Claremont home--a ditzy busybody, a haughty observer of the social niceties, a woman who fancies herself an ingénue, and one lone male, an expert on all subjects. The residents put up a good front, but their loneliness and boredom are obvious--no one visits them, they rarely leave the hotel, and nothing in their lives changes very much.

When she falls while walking one day, Mrs. Palfrey is rescued by Ludovic Meyer, a struggling young writer. Because of his kindness and her pleasure in his attention, she invites him to dinner, where the residents assume he is her grandson Desmond. Ludo/Desmond is everything that the other residents of the hotel long for--he genuinely cares for Mrs. Palfrey, he listens to her, and he recognizes her value. Having never known a normal family life, Ludo needs Mrs. Palfrey as much as she needs him, and she happily becomes his much-appreciated "grandmother."

As the two develop a close relationship, Mrs. Palfrey reminisces about her life, and Ludo, having failed in past relationships, begins to understand what love means, blossoming under her attention. Ludo subsequently takes notes for a story he plans to write about her life and her experiences at the Claremont, where the informal motto is "We Aren't Allowed to Die Here." As time passes and life becomes more complicated for both of them, their relationship is tested.

Filled with eccentric characters who respond to aging in different ways, this 1975 novel shows a feisty Mrs. Palfrey challenging convention by reveling in her relationship with Ludo. With an unerring eye for the telling detail and the perfectly revealing comment, the author brings universal themes to vibrant life--the passage of time, the aging process, the compromises we make, and our continuing need to be accepted. The author never resorts to caricature as she makes her wry observations, respecting her characters even when presenting them in sometimes darkly comic scenes. In this unusual and ironic masterpiece, old age is shown as a stage in life, one in which rewards and happiness are more important than the inevitable conclusion. Mary Whipple
67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love among the ruins June 4 2005
By Jay Dickson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In terms of sheer craftsmanship alone this little novel is a masterpiece--there hardly seems to be a word out of place. But what really distinguishes it is its sophisticated and yet almost oblique take on the many varieties of love. Elizabeth Taylor's setting is a small hotel in London which caters not only to visiting tourists but also to a small group of retired middle-class widows and widowers, who are forced to accept the dark back rooms and have little to do as they wait for death but knit and wait for the change of the evening's menu in the dining room. To this sad last stop before the grave comes Laura Palfrey, who (rare for a Taylor novel) is a genuine heroine in her kindness, sensitivity, and refreshing lack of the silliness or malice endemic among so many of the Claremont's other permanent denizens. Neglected by her only relative in the city, a grandson working at the British Museum, Mrs. Palfrey asks a young penniless writer who helps her after a fall one day to pretend to be the grandson in order for her to save face among her hotelmates--and as she learns to love him for his attentions and goodness to her he also begins to revel in her generosity and maternal care. Despite the repeated praise lavished on this book by other writers I held off reading it for a long while because I feared it would be unbearably sad; but while Taylor does not stint on the emptiness and pathos of her retiree characters' lives, she brings humor and an expansive vision of redemption to the book.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The dusk of their days Jan. 30 2006
By Semioticghost - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is the story of the eponymous heroine living out the dusk of her days in the Claremont Hotel on Cromwell Road in postcolonial London. Her fellow long-term residents are other old people who have fallen on hard times, but remain just about affluent enough to avoid a care home. The novel centres on the interactions between them, trying to keep up appearances and maintaining a stiff upper lip until the end. The loneliness and boundless monotony of their lives forms the backdrop to Mrs. Palfrey's astute and witty observations and we share her thrill in a secret kept from fellow guests: the man she addresses as her grandson is in fact a young writer she met in a chance encounter.
Ludo, unlike her real grandson, is a delightful, attentive and interesting young man. He is preparing a novel -"We aren't allowed to die here"- and first draws on their encounters as a form of research, but their friendship grows on the basis of mutual respect and beautiful conversations.
I would not have picked this up if it had not been for a personal recommendation and I was delighted by it.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The inequities of love March 4 2009
By M. A Cole - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I chose this book because I had seen the movie, a lovely meditation on the possibilities of friendship. My experience of the book was shaped by my surprise at how it had a completely different tone and message. Not less valuable, but completely different! The point of the movie seemed to be to demonstrate how the exemplary Mrs. Palfrey could form healthy connections with all sorts of unlikely people, and create a new "family" for herself when her blood relatives proved unsatisfactory. The point of the book, however, seemed to be that the exemplary Mrs. Palfrey, and everyone around her, was caught in a morass of unequal and unreciprocated relationships. Taylor's depiction of the characters' emotional reactions to each other was detailed and deadly accurate to all humanity's worst moments. Doing friendly things out of charity, doing charitable things as a last desperate attempt to forge a bond of love, sitting by a hospital bed wondering if one might be allowed to leave yet... all these moments are recorded unflinchingly. No one in the book ever rises above the level of acquaintance or hopeless longing to achieve true friendship. It's a thought-provoking book, and certainly a valuable portrayal of one, all too common, experience of aging, but it is not warm or inspiring, as the movie was.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A unique book that focuses on unique issues Dec 5 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
'Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont' certainly does not deserve the obscurity it has been languishing in .It is a clear and well-written book that focuses on the loneliness and loss of dignity of the elderly treated with just the correct does of sentimentality and humour .I would recommend the book strongly for it is written with a lot of heart and a strong understanding of human nature
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