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I have wanted to read an Elizabeth Taylor novel for some time (I know what you are thinking – this is not the actress, this is the English novelist) and when I was wondering which one to read first, Caroline from ‘Beauty is a Sleeping Cat‘ recommended ‘Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont‘.

Mrs Palfrey moves to the Claremont hotel. It is a place where mostly single, retired people live. There is an interesting cast of characters who live there and each of them is unique in their own way. Mrs Palfrey settles down there and makes new friends. One day while coming back from the library, she slips and falls. A young man helps her, takes her to his home nearby, and treats her to a cup of tea, and finds her a taxi to get back. And that is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. What happens after that – you have to read the book to find out.

Mrs Palfrey is a very likeable character and her friends and acquaintances at the Claremont are all interesting characters that we enjoy reading about. The relationship between Mrs Palfrey and Ludo, her young friend, is beautifully depicted. Elizabeth Taylor’s prose is charming and there are many beautiful sentences and passages in the book, which are filled with humour and insights. I am giving below some of my favourites.

“He had a glass of wine on the table beside him, but did not touch it. He sat patiently still, with his hands on his knees, as if waiting for the drink to drink itself.”

“Perhaps from his father he had his sense of duty, and from his mother its sporadic quality.”

‘Do you consider yourself an optimistic person?’
‘Oh, I think so.’ She did not explain to him how deeply pessimistic one must be in the first place, to need the sort of optimism she now had at her command.

“Sometimes, when I was a young, married woman, I longed to be freed – free of nursery chores and social obligations, one’s duty, d’you know? And free of worries, too, about one’s loved ones – childish ailments and ageing parents, money troubles, everyone at times feels the longing – to run away from it all. But it’s really not to be desired – and I realise that that’s the only way of being free – to be not needed.”

“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 enjoyed reading ‘Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont‘. I am glad I read my first Elizabeth Taylor book.

You can find Caroline’s (from Beauty is a Sleeping Cat) review of the book here, and Jacqui’s (from JacquiWine’s Journal) review here.

Have you read this book? What do you think about it?

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