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Mrs Palfrey At The Claremont: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) [Paperback]

Elizabeth Taylor , Paul Bailey
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

6 April 2006 VMC (Book 83)

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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Mrs Palfrey At The Claremont: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) + Angel: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) + In A Summer Season (VMC)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844083217
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844083213
  • Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 12.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Taylor had the keenest eye and ear for the pain lurking behind a genteel demeanour' -- Paul Bailey

'The unsung heroine of British twentieth-century fiction' -- Rebecca Abrams, New Statesman

‘Jane Austen, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Bowen – soul-sisters all’ -- Anne Tyler

Book Description

*A humorous and compassionate look at the blossoming friendship between an old woman and a young man.

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First Sentence
MRS PALFREY first came to the Claremont Hotel on a Sunday afternoon in January. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
89 of 90 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The dusk of their days 30 Jan 2006
This is the story of the eponymous heroine lving 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.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The hotel manager resents his residents 10 Jan 2010
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Sadness infuses this book from the opening paragraph where Laura Palfrey, a tall, big-boned but handsome woman, arrives at the Claremont Hotel. She has slender means, but can afford small treats for herself as well as a room with meals. There she joins a coterie of elderly ladies like herself, and one man, Mr Osmond. The Hotel Manager, never named, resents his residents as they cannot be removed at those infrequent times in the year, such as conference times or motor shows, when he could get much more for their rooms. This is the mid-sixties and London is beginning to swing, but not for such as Mrs Palfrey, who finds her fellow residents uninspiring if not downright uncongenial. They live for visits from cousins and grown-up children and grandchildren, but these are few, and for Mrs Palfrey non-existent.

Out for a stroll one day Mrs Palfrey slips and falls and is rescued by a young man, Ludo, who is kind and helpful. He later allows her to give him dinner at her hotel. With a mixture of diffidence and confusion Mrs Palfrey allows the other residents to assume he is her grandson. He enters into this subterfuge quite happily when she feels forced to explain what has happened.

This an incisively written novel which dissects the trials of old age and estrangement from family. Despite its gentle pace and lack of event, it is eminently readable, and though not the most compelling thing I've ever read, it is deeply poignant. Unexciting lives do not make for eager reading, but there is a great deal about this book which stays in the mind. I find Elizabeth Taylor's writing exceptionally sympathetic, composed, clear-eyed and agreeable.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, funny but heartbreaking. 29 July 2012
By doublegone TOP 500 REVIEWER
Poor Elizabeth Taylor. She has surely suffered from sharing the name of one of the world's most famous women.

Only now some years from her death does she seem to be getting the recognition she deserves. As far as I am concerned her face should be on money.

I never in a million years would have read this book had I not heard Radio 4's Book Club in which David Baddiel and James Naughtie discussed it. I have put a link to the programme at the bottom of this review.

I'm a (relatively) young male and so everything about the marketing of this book makes it look like it is not for me. So more fool me but more fool the publishers too. This book and this author should be MUCH better known.

This is quite simply the best book I have read in years. Dazzling character portraits drawn with extreme wit and economy pull you in. From a few nuances about each person they just leap off the page at you.

The setting is a genteel London hotel with a number of elderly longterm residents. Its one stop short of a nursing home for these pensioners desperately clinging to the last vestiges of independence. Think of Fawlty Towers with the Major and the elderly sisters. They are at once a reliable source of income, and an annoyance to the management.

The residents jockey for status by how many friends or relatives visit them. New arrival Mrs Palfrey is at first confident her grandson who works at the British Museum will come to see her. But the months go by and he fails to make an appearance. Then one day when Mrs Palfrey is out for a walk she takes a bad fall and is rescued by aspiring young author Ludo. The pair get along well and before long Ludo is visiting the Claremont posing as the grandson.

The book is darkly funny.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 'other Elizabeth Taylor' 7 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm pleased that Virago seem to be attempting a rehabilitation of Elizabeth Taylor, since her work has apparently slipped from view. She was highly regarded in the 1940s and '50s, her novels reviewed in prestigious publications like the TLS, while the New Yorker published many of her short stories. Her work was praised for its subtlety and its precise observation, and she was sometimes referred to as a kind of latter-day Jane Austen. While the subject matter may not seem initially enticing - an elderly lady ekes out her days in genteel poverty at a shabby-genteel London hotel - one comes to care about Mrs Palfrey and wish her well; the other characters are often comically repulsive, but never grotesque caricatures, and the style is beautifully lucid. Perhaps one reason for her neglect is that - unlike, say, Olivia Manning and "The Fortunes of War" - Taylor has never been the source of a BBC dramatisation; her novels have neither exciting plots nor, on the whole, exotic locations. The pleasure comes from reading; but what pleasure she gives.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
one of the best books i have read
Published 8 days ago by sparror hawk
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay but....
Genteel and honest. Explores human relationships but not really my sort of book.
Published 11 days ago by Wicked Thumbs
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling classic
Fantastic book worthy of all the praise people heap on Elizabeth Taylor. It is about ageing and the nature of friendship. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Alison Thinks
5.0 out of 5 stars rather sad and perceptive novel
A sensitive portrayal of a life long gone where one "kept oneself to oneself".. Mrs Palfrey was more or less abandoned by her family and her friendship with a modern young... Read more
Published 27 days ago by Mrs Berry
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant novel. Very subtle depiction of everyday life of ...
Brilliant novel. Very subtle depiction of everyday life of the elderly at the hotel - some waiting to die, their loneliness, etc. Sounds depressing but isn't. Very clever writing.
Published 1 month ago by Susan Osborne,Lance Osborne
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
beautifully observed
Published 1 month ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful
A beautifully crafted novel that is poignantly sad and utterly enthralling. Elizabeth Taylor's grasp of old age seems both masterfully observed and brutally honest. Read more
Published 2 months ago by wilkesy62
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and quite enjoyable
This was a book club choice and at first I thought, "oh dear, I won't enjoy it: dreary old people in a dreary hotel in a dreary part of west London". Read more
Published 2 months ago by W. Tegner
5.0 out of 5 stars Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
I had never read any Elizabeth Taylor before but this certainly gave me an appetite to read more. Beautifully written and full of acute observation of people and places - up there... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. P. M. Yesin
4.0 out of 5 stars Characters and Regrets perfectly observed...
This clever short story is a lesson in regret and deceit and show us that whatever happens, life goes on. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. C. M. Greaves
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