Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont Old middle class people mouldering away bleakly in a London residential hotel around 1968 nice Beatles reference, Union Jack carrier bags and political demonstrations on the telly every night It s a black comedy which it has to be otherwise you would slit your wrists The reader will have a suppressed grim smile throughout which may widen at times but no lols Author is merciless about the horrors of geriatric society, for which try to be grateful all medical advances are preparing us. 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 It was hard work being old It was like being a baby, in reverse Every day for an infant means some new little thing learned every day for the old means some little thing lost Names slip away, dates mean nothing, sequences become muddled, and faces blurred Both infancy and age are tiring times I really enjoyed this book I realize now that I didn t intend to introduce myself to Elizabeth Taylor s work by starting with her penultimate book, but it was such a joy to read nonetheless, and as I understand, a parting from her usual themes Mrs Palfrey is a recent widow who decides to make the Claremont hotel in London her residence Although the place is a bit shabby, and the food nothing to write home about, the cheap rates attract a small group of elderly people that are still independent, but not ready for a nursing home The only rule They weren t allowed to die there. The outlook especially on this darkening afternoon was daunting but the backs of hotels, which are kept for indigent ladies, can t be expected to provide a view, she knew The best is kept for honeymooners, though God alone knew why they required it I found this book to be quietly funny even though the subject matter was a bit melancholy I can t help but think that this was source material for the creators of The Golden Girls The residents of the Claremont aren t particularly nice, a bit on the eccentric side, and each are dealing with abandonment on some level in various ways Some things are just heartbreaking to read about, like the loneliness that results from being forgotten by loved ones, being subjected to obligatory visits, or losing one s independence in one cruel blink of an eye A lovely, lovely book Can t wait to read of her work. Elizabeth Taylor is another writer who was virtually unknown to me, but was brought to my attention by The Mookse and the Gripes group This is a very entertaining book, but ultimately quite a poignant one.Mrs Palfrey is a widow who has chosen to spend her retirement in a London hotel which is populated by similar lonely old people She has talked about her grandson in her early days of her stay there, but it becomes clear he is not interested in visiting her When a struggling young writer helps her after a fall, she concocts a plan for him to pretend to be the grandson, and much of the comedy in the book results from the misunderstandings that ensue, and the complications that occur when the real grandson turns up Taylor s observations are razor sharp and the characters are memorable Definitely a writer to investigate further. This is Elizabeth Taylor s penultimate novel and with this one I have read all of her eleven novels The plot is very simple Mrs Palfrey has lost her husband she does not want to be a burden to her daughter nor does her daughter She decides to take residence in a London hotel, The Claremont, who takes older persons on a residential type basis as well as their normal trade This type of arrangement was quite usual in the upper middle classes in the early to mid twentieth century The hotel is a little shabby, the food passable, but not good and the wines pretty grim However it is all many of them can really afford now they are alone in the world There is a rather wry comic element to this, which there needs to be as Taylor addresses some difficult and rather heavy themes The themes include the role and fate of older people, isolation, the end of empire, death, friendship, falling in love and family As always Taylor s descriptions are sharp, as she describes Mrs Palfrey She was a tall woman with big bones and a noble face, dark eyebrows and a neatly folded jowl She would have made a distinguished looking man, and sometimes, wearing evening dress, looked like some famous general in drag The end of empire theme isn t so obvious, but Mrs Palfrey s husband was a servant of the Empire Burma He is now dead and she is alone, but the attitudes and tone remain Taylor manages to portray this well and also to make Mrs Palfrey somewhat sympathetic as well When I grew up there were no old Empire hands to be found However, when training to be a priest, I had a placement in a rather well to do area of Birmingham and came across a few out of place and time, longing for a lost world, replete with tiger skins and stories of uprisings in India it was all rather bizarre Taylor captures very well the behaviour of older people forced by necessity to live in institutions and hedged around by loneliness, neglect, boredom and apathy It was hard work being old It was like being a baby in reverse Every day for an infant means some new little thing learned every day for the old means some little thing lost Mrs Palfrey is alone, her daughter is in Scotland She has a grandson, Desmond, in London, but he never visits her Then one day, she falls in the street and is rescued by a rather down at heel writer called Ludo He helps and a friendship develops She even has him visit her at the Claremont and introduces him as her grandson Of course, things get complicated when her actual grandson turns up And even Ludo has an ulterior motive He helped her up the steps and into the taxi and when it had driven off, he returned to his room and leaning over the table, wrote in a notebook fluffy grey knickers elastic veins on leg colour of grapessmell of lavender water ugh big spots on back of shiny hands and veins horizontal wrinkles across hands Ludo s novel is to be about The Claremont It is to be entitled They weren t allowed to die there , after something Mrs Palfrey had said The residents of The Claremont are a varied bunch and Taylor manages to capture their vicissitudes rather well, as with Mrs Burton, who is very partial to a drink Mrs Burton felt as if she were swimming along the corridor towards her bedroom, glancing off the walls like a balloon she pulled up at number fifty three, steadied herself, made a forwards movement with the key Calmly does it Miraculously, she hit the keyhole first time Taylor describes the increasing frailty of Mrs Palfrey very well adding an edge of bleakness, as here where she is taking a gift to Ludo She realised that she never walked now without knowing what she was doing and concentrating upon it once, walking had been like breathing, something unheeded The disaster of being old was in not feeling safe to venture anywhere, of seeing freedom put out of reach Her fall had deepened her uncertainty And there was no husband to take her arm across a road, or protect her from indignity when she failed I can have a little rest when I get there, she promised herself And perhaps he will offer me a cup of tea The Guardian put this novel in its top 100 number 87 I don t see that, I enjoyed a couple of Taylor s other novels , but it is sharp, perceptive and very prescient After all medical science has enable us all to live longer this perhaps shows us where we are all headed. Taylor has penned an acerbic end of life tale uncomfortable and real in which one s family doesn t care much what happens once one is parked at a last maybe destination Friends who do care, care mostly for secret or selfish reasons, and include a young man who literally picks up a character off the street His novel writing and how he accumulates his source material had me wondering if he was an alter ego for the author.No one escapes Taylor s dark humor, though each character s humanity is left intact And what is left to the protagonist near the story s end clutches at one s heart. 4.5 A charming little book about ageing and prejudice The relationship between Mrs Palfrey and Ludo, who masquerades as her grandson, is not, as the blurb might suggest, some tawdry cougar romance What a strange friendship we have is Mrs Palfrey s better description Taylor s two main settings a shabby chic hotel with an enclave of elderly residents, and a miserable bedsit where Ludo s struggling to write a deliberate nod to George Gissing s New Grub Street contrast wonderfully Her habit of inserting asides from multiple minor characters reminds me of Jane Austen Overall, the tone of gentle regret and enduring good humor lies somewhere between All Passion Spent and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.As Paul Bailey writes in his introduction to this Virago edition, Taylor s reports from the chintz bedecked battlefields are of lasting value, for the simple reason that they are exquisitely written I much preferred this to Angel It s a quick read with an almost fable like simplicity of structure and character, but explores old age and life s disappointments with great tenderness I will read much from this underrated novelist A Wreath of Roses may tempt me next. It was hard work being old It was like being a baby, in reverse Every day for an infant means some new little thing learned every day for the old means some little thing lost Names slip away, dates mean nothing, sequences become muddled, and faces blurred Both infancy and age are tiring times That is all. Published in 1971 Mrs Palfrey at the Claremount is Elizabeth Taylor s eleventh novel and the only one of her books to be shortlisted for a prize the booker prize in her lifetime.After the death of her husband, Mrs Palfrey moves to London with the hope of gaining her independence and seeing of her Grandson Desmond, who works at the British Museum.After seeing an advertisement in a Sunday newspaper while staying in Scotland with her Daughter Elizabeth, she decides that the Claremont Hotel boasting excellent cuisine and reduced winter rates sounds perfect for her.One afternoon, while taking a walk, she falls over and is rescued by Ludo, an out of work actor who spends his days writing his novel in Harrods Banking Hall because it is warm and comfortable.An unlikely friendship flourishes between them both and Mrs Palfrey pretends to the other residents at the Claremont that Ludo is her grandson.Things get complicated when one day Mrs Palfrey s real grandson turns upAlthough this novel is a study in excruciating loneliness, Elizabeth balances the bleak with equal comedy and fantastic characters.I absolutely loved it and has become a favourite. She would have made a distinguished looking man and, sometimes, wearing evening dress, looked like some famous general in drag This is a merciless exposure of old age amongst a certain class from Mr Osmond s Mr Angry letters to the Telegraph to the touching, if uneven, friendship which develops between Mrs Palfrey and a rather feckless, George Gissing alike young man called Ludo Taylor is excellent on detail and in creating characters who are multidimensional Everyone is flawed Mrs Palfrey herself has a distanced relationship with her daughter and grandson even while she is one of the kinder and balanced of the Claremont group And that group Eccentric, pathetic, and monstrous all at once they re the kind of people I love reading about but who no one wants to meet in real life Lady Swayne, especially, brings out Taylor s delicious waspishness Unlike poor little me She was at least five feet ten, and with shoulders like a bison Taylor s writing doesn t perhaps have the literary style of an Elizabeth Bowen, but she has a ruthless eye for foibles that can be quite cruel perhaps because of its truthfulness Her description of the Claremont group at a cocktail party thrown by one of their ex members, for example, is a classic of social awkwardness and embarrassment.Working on a small and narrow canvas, I d recommend Taylor for fans of Bowen, Antonia White, Rosamund Lehmann I m certainly intending to read from her.

Elizabeth Taylor n e Coles was a popular English novelist and short story writer Elizabeth Coles was born in Reading, Berkshire in 1912 She was educated at The Abbey School, Reading, and worked as a governess, as a tutor and as a librarian.In 1936, she married John William Kendall Taylor, a businessman She lived in Penn, Buckinghamshire, for almost all her married life.Her first novel, At Mrs

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  • Paperback
  • 206 pages
  • Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont
  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • English
  • 16 February 2019

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