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Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont

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3.98  ·  Rating details ·  4,449 ratings  ·  656 reviews
Librarian Note: An alternative cover for this ISBN can be found here

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 o
...more
Paperback, 206 pages
Published April 6th 2006 by Virago (first published 1971)
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Steve Scott Just finished watching the movie (Amazon Prime), and it was delightful, packed with great character actors, as well as some new faces. I needed a tiss…moreJust finished watching the movie (Amazon Prime), and it was delightful, packed with great character actors, as well as some new faces. I needed a tissue at the end. For me, ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. (less)

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Average rating 3.98  · 
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·Karen·
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those of us who remember that the sixties didn't always swing.
Re-read in January 2016
It hasn't lost any of its shine.

It was this author's inevitable fate to be known as the other Elizabeth Taylor, especially as her first
novel appeared a year after the twelve year old star of National Velvet blanketed all associations with the name. In this review of Nicola Beauman's biography we're told of one blossoming of confusion:

Elizabeth Taylor the novelist occasionally received fan letters intended for her more famous namesake. "Men write to me and ask for a pictu
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Paul Bryant
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
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.

Idarah
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017, classics, own
 photo IMG_0055_zpsedx90t1b.jpg

"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
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Hugh
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 help
...more
Paul
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: elizabeth-taylor
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 i ...more
Rebecca
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
(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. He ...more
Barbara
Jun 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Often described as hilarious, this book is anything but. Maybe I am overly sensitive, but just as I was saddened by clowns as a child, so now I felt saddened by the elderly residents of the Claremont Hotel. While Mrs. Palfrey displayed a little bit of spunk, the other residents of the hotel had basically given up on life; their conversation was as bland as the food they ate. They had no zeal, no purpose, and very few interests. They were just passing time until death ended their dreary lives.

Thi
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Roman Clodia
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Pa
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Teresa
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
JimZ
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good book -I would rate it as 3.5 stars. It was humorous in parts but sad in other parts. About older people who nobody seems to care about anymore all living in a hotel (at the Claremont). Taylor describes the older people’s physiques in a “clinical” manner…older people’s bodies are certainly not what they used to be. Here is an example –“she turned her head to look at the clock, and there was the sound like the crushing of granulated sugar at the back of her neck as she moved it” – ...more
Karen
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 more 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
...more
Alex
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Elizabeth "No, the other one" Taylor's Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is about old people doomed to die alone because their relatives don't love them, so it's basically more harrowing than Blood Meridian.

What I was really blown away by was Taylor's unsentimental empathy for her characters. She doesn't sugarcoat their loneliness and pain, but she doesn't wallow in it Père Goriot-style either. She neither condemns nor excuses their snobbery and petty gossip; she just lays it out. When one characte
...more
Doug H
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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.
Ali
May 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Mrs Palfrey first came to the Claremont Hotel on a Sunday afternoon in January. Rain had closed in over London, and her taxi sloshed along the almost deserted Cromwell Road, past one cavernous porch after another, the driver going slowly and poking his head out into the wet, for the hotel was not known to him. This discovery, that he did not know had a little disconcerted Mrs Palfrey, for she did know it either, and began to wonder what she was coming to. She tried to banish terror from her hea ...more
Wyndy
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every person needs at least one friend in this life, one other human to care about and share with. Mrs. Laura Palfrey is recently widowed and has moved into the Claremont Hotel in London, a place several other senior citizens she’s never met call home, but residents are NOT allowed to die here. The Claremont is a stopping-off point for seniors with means (and the occasional tourist or two), before incontinence or indigence requires their transfer to “the home.” Mrs. Palfrey has a tense relations ...more
Ova - Excuse My Reading
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fast and enjoyable read mostly about "keeping up the appearances". I'd love to read Elizabeth Taylor again.
Negin
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who are looking for something that's not a heavy read - something soft and sweet
Although this story has an underlying touch of sadness, it was a delightful read. This is one of those books where nothing much happens, and it’s more about the prose, the depth of the characters, and the relationships. The story is about elderly people living in a London hotel during the late 1960s. In my mind, I imagined The Claremont to look like this.



The ending was a bit abrupt, but it was truly a lovely book.

Some of my favorite quotes:
“Everything she did was unhurried, almost authoritativ
...more
Krista
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Mrs Palfrey first came to the Claremont Hotel on a Sunday afternoon in January. Rain had closed in over London, and her taxi sloshed along the almost deserted Cromwell Road, past one cavernous porch after another, the driver going slowly and poking his head out into the wet, for the hotel was not known to him. This discovery, that he did not know, had a little disconcerted Mrs Palfrey, for she did not know it either, and began to wonder what she was coming to.

A thoroughly charming and poigna
...more
Connie G
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: movie-tie-in, england
Mrs Palfrey moved into the Claremont Hotel in London after her husband died. A small group of older residents were living there--Mr Osmond who writes letters to newspaper editors, Mrs Burton who has a few too many drinks, Mrs Post who never misses the happenings in the lobby, and Mrs Arbuthnot with her strong views on society and literature. Time moved so slowly for them that the most exciting thing of the day was seeing the menu for dinner posted. Mrs Palfrey tried not to feel lonely, but her d ...more
Tania
Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this a couple of years back and thought about it for a long time after. It was recently read as the Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4 and I have just finished listening to it.
It is a rather poignant story of Mrs Palfrey, who has moved into a residential hotel for aged guests, however, they "aren't allowed to die here". She is lonely and waiting for her grandson to come and visit, as she tells the other guests.
One day, she falls over in the street and is helped by Ludo, an aspiring writer.
...more
Hilary
I really didn't want this book to end, this rates more than a five star for me. The characters of Mrs Palfrey and Ludo where so enjoyable, their unusual friendship and the way they both needed each other was a pleasure to read about. Another wonderful Elizabeth Taylor about aging, loneliness and friendship. I desperately wanted the story to end differently but glad that Ludo, in the end proves he is the good person I thought he was.
Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
Loved this so much
Bettie
Karen gave the initial recco, and now I see Cheryl has added it too. Neat!

Introduced by Paul bailey

Opening: Mrs Palfrey first came to the Claremont Hotel on a Sunday afternoon in January.

4* Dangerous Calm
4* Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

Karen 5*
Cheryl 4*
Libbeth 4*
Deanne 3*

Karen Coles
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Absolutely loved every sentence of this book. It's witty, insightful, poignant and a true masterclass in characterisation. Despite the fact that it's (mostly) about elderly people, and there's no gruesome murder, or psycho baddy, not for one second was I bored (and I'm VERY easily bored). The writing's so wonderful, the characters written with such understanding, compassion and humour, the observations so acute, it doesn't need a dramatic car chase or helicopter crash. Fantastic book. Highly rec ...more
Cheryl
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a lovely story, beautifully constructed and self-contained. It would be a great play. It is a touching and thoughtful look at aging, loneliness, and community, with a colourful cast of often sharp-tongued characters.
A bit of trivia: p71, the mother of Mrs Palfrey's friend says "But every great actor started that way. I'm sure Sir Laurence did his stint." The real-life widow of Sir Laurence, Joan Plowright, plays Mrs Palfrey in the movie.

Bart
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read
Actual rating: 4.00
Joanna
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Quite a restrained little book, this is. Brilliantly couching an intense "seize the day" message within its somber story of lost happiness, wistfulness, and bitter regret. Nearly all of the action takes place in the constrained environment of a somewhat down at the heels hotel that houses long term elderly residents. All of the residents live there because they feel that there is no other place to go, and they all resent this fact. They are not aging gracefully, these people. They are simply agi ...more
Jana
This is my first Elizabeth Taylor, though I've had View of the Harbour gathering dust on my shelf for ages. But thanks to Jen's postal book pick we have now been introduced. I should like the acquaintance to continue.

But first, Mrs. Palfrey:

As a middle-aged human, this glimpse into the next age category is rather daunting. And interestingly, the author did not live to see old age. But along with the sad/bleak layer, there is a lot of wonderful, understated humour. Her characters are drawn so cl
...more
Ruthiella
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reminiscent of Barbara Pym in its beautiful balance between despair and humor. Also, the description of Mrs. Palfrey in the first few pages is so brief and yet absolutely perfect; I really admire authors who can do that.

Recently widowed, Mrs. Palfrey moves into a residential hotel in London as sort of a way-station prior to entering a nursing home or death, whichever comes first. When talk among her fellow residents turns to potential visitors (much sought after but rarely seen), Mrs. Palfrey e
...more
Mmars
May 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a British tragic-comedy of errors, set in a “Hotel”, concerning a small group of long-stay elderly residents. The protagonist, Mrs. Palfrey finds little to like in the residents, the hotel, or her life. But dignified lady that she believes she is, she attempts to keep her chin up and cover her loneliness. As luck would have it, she falls one day while out walking and a young man, Ludo, comes to her rescue. A highly unlikely friendship ensues and because Mrs. Palfrey’s grandson, the only ...more
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Elizabeth Taylor (née 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
...more

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“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.” 4 likes
“They Weren't Allowed to Die There.” 3 likes
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