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A View Of The Harbour: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) Paperback – 6 Apr 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 201 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844083225
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844083220
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (201 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Every one of her books is a treat and this is my favourite, because of its wonderful cast of characters, and because of the deftness with which Taylor's narrative moves between them ... A wonderful writer (Sarah Waters)

Jane Austen, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Bowen - soul-sisters all (Anne Tyler)

A wonderful novelist (Jilly Cooper)

An eye as sharply all-seeing as her prose-style is elegant - even the humdrum becomes astonishing (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

Book Description

* An unforgettable picture of love, loss and the keeping up of appearances

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
Mrs Taylor never disappoints and this time gives us a wonderfully well-observed, compassionately funny glimpse into the lives of the inhabitants of a faded seaside harbour, shortly after the war. If their lives are mundane, there still seems to be a lot going on, all observed by dreadful, bed-ridden Mrs Bracey, proprietor of the second-hand clothes shop - who doesn't miss a thing from her upstairs window. Elizabeth Taylor paints a wonderful picture of female friendship between Beth, distracted lady novelist/ terrible housewife/neglectful mother and her nextdoor neighbour Tory - who is Beth's old schoolfriend, chic, divorced, and playing a dangerous game with her best friend's husband.
Nothing happens and everything happens - behind the harbour's net curtains, there is passion and betrayal, loneliness, loyalty, the dreadful vitality of the dying Mrs Bracey, the adolescent droopiness of Beth's daughter ... and you finish, as always with Elizabeth Taylor, wishing you could meet them all again in five years time and find out what happened to them all after the last page!
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Format: Kindle Edition
I'm halfway through this book and enjoying it. I won't say much about it because a lot has already been said. I just thought I'd let Kindle uses know that the Kindle version has a lot of typos. More than I've seen in any other Kindle book. So if that kind of thing annoys you, you might want to get the print version. It's a shame really. Only three stars for the Kindle version because of the typos.
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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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