REVIEW: Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor

Part of the project of setting up my blog was to try and do a written review of every book I read, because I think the skills, practice and experience that doing that will give me will be extremely valuable. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont isn’t the typical book you would see reviewed on a blog or on BookTube, but I think it’s exciting to discuss why books like this are picked up and either enjoyed or disliked. I’d like to bring to my blog a variety of genres and time periods in literature.

I decided to read Mrs Palfrey after reading Lolly Willowes for my Literature in History module at university and enjoying the experience of reading something written by a woman, and focused on a woman, which wasn’t extremely modern or recent. This is something I hadn’t done in a little while, and I loved reading about the day to day life and societal struggles faced by spinster Lolly. Mrs Palfrey was recommended at the back of the book for readers who’d enjoyed Lolly Willowes, so I rushed to my university library and picked out a copy.

I read the novel in a rather disjointed way, reading snatches whilst on the bus and between spending as much time as possible with my university friends before leaving for the summer, and my new-found, time-consuming obsession with Love Island. So, whilst I didn’t have the most cohesive experience whilst reading this, I did still find it entertaining and readable. I wasn’t dying to pick it up to find out what happened next in the plot, but I was also pleasantly surprised by the humour; many of the dry comments from the older characters had me smiling or laughing out loud.

I did understand some of the messages that the book was trying to send about elderly people and how their experiences in life change with age, in fact at one point a character compares aging to growing from a baby to an adult in reverse. However, I was slightly confused by one of our main characters. The premise of the novel is that Mrs Palfrey has moved into The Claremont, which is a hotel in which elderly people can become long-term lodgers. Mrs Palfrey brags to the other residents about her wonderful grandson, but after he fails to come and visit her she becomes disheartened and feels judged by the others. When she falls and injures herself out in the street one day and is taken in by a young man, she invites him to dinner at the hotel as a thank you, and they hatch the plan that he will act as her absent grandson. The young man, Ludo, is a struggling and aspiring writer, with a rather dismal life of his own, but at first it seems as though the relationship between the older and the younger will be heart-warming and endearing.

Whilst I consistently enjoyed the small events going on at the hotel, I became increasingly confused by Ludo’s character. It is clear that he begins to use Mrs Palfrey and her situation as inspiration for his writing, but towards the end of the novel it appears as though he doesn’t care for her and finds her a bore, although this is completely in contrast with his personality and all that she has done for him. I would have liked the novel to go a little more in-depth into this; the novel was fairly short and wouldn’t have suffered from further additions to develop the characters. Whilst this novel never impressed me, the humour did lighten the thought-provoking and somewhat depressing atmosphere of The Claremont, so I decided to give the novel 3*.

What was the last book you read that was published before 2000? Until I post again, please check out my social media; I’d love to stay in touch about books!

– hatterell

1 thought on “REVIEW: Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor”

  1. […] Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor – 3/5* – this was the first book I read in my bid to read some older novels this summer, and it was definitely a pleasant start. Some nice comedy, but the characters were confusing at times and I think it could be easily forgotten over the next few weeks. […]

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