Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont cover

It’s just as well that I keep a written list of all the books which I’ve read and add to it as soon as I’ve finished a book, in fact I write the title down first and add the author when I’ve finished it, all written in pencil in an old school jotter, very low tech. But that low tech list is more precise than my Goodreads list because I just discovered tonight that I hadn’t added all the books that I had finished recently on to Goodreads, which meant that I had actually reached my goal of 75 books read – four books before Goodreads thought I had.

The four which I just added on tonight, despite having finished them were:
1. Traitor’s Purse by Margery Allingham – I’ve already blogged about that one.
2. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
3. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
4. Another Time Another Place by Jessie Kesson

So what did I think about Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont? It must be a couple of weeks since I finished reading it now but it’s still very clear in my mind, and I can’t always say the same of a fair few books, although when I read the blurb the details usually all come back to me. I’ve really liked Elizabeth Taylor’s books in the past and I wasn’t disappointed with this one although I did find the subject matter to be quite sad.

The Claremont Hotel is situated in London and most of the guests are elderly people who have decided to stay there because they aren’t really up to looking after themselves in a home of their own, but obviously don’t want to take the enormous step of checking themselves into an old folks home. They hope that London will have more to offer them in the way of entertainment compared with some more traditional retirement locations such as coastal resorts like Bournemouth.

But the Claremont is peopled by an odd assortment of inhabitants, widows and widowers who were all fairly recognisable characters to me, Taylor is very good at observation of people and the emotions which rule them.

Of course despite the many free attractions on offer in London none of them take the opportunities to visit them, and each day is much the same as the one before. The meals on offer in the hotel are repetitive, on a strict rotation of the – if it’s Tuesday it must be veal – variety. Boredom is the one thing that the guests all have in common, but being seen as an object of pity by the other guests is what Mrs Palfrey really wants to avoid. It’s what they all want to avoid but as they’re stuck in an environment where the most exciting thing that happens is recognising one of the previous guest’s name in the obituary section in The Times, there’s not much hope for any of them.

This book was first published in 1971 when Elizabeth Taylor would have been 59, so she wasn’t in her dotage, but obviously had some experience of people who had lived out their final days in small hotels like The Claremont. This is a really well written book but as I said – I did find the subject sad and it made me all the more determined that if I ever reach a great age – when my time comes – I’ll bow out gracefully thanks!

3 thoughts on “Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor

  1. I enjoyed this book, as you say though a sad book. Though when I stay in hotels I love wondering what everyone’s ‘story’ is that brings them there!

  2. It seems everyone who reads Taylor likes her and I have managed to find one of her books but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. One of these days I will!

    • Stefanie,
      I bought that one recently and somehow it jumped the queue, I have some Viragos that have been waiting for 10 years or more, but I intend to get around to them – sometime!

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