Sunday, May 08, 2016

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

By Elizabeth Taylor

Mrs Palfrey is now a widow and has moved into the Claremont, a hotel in London that is popular with the older set. Once there and trying to fit in with the other elderly residents, Mrs Palfrey discovers that having visitors raises a person in esteem among her peers. But Mrs Palfrey doesn't have many people in her life after living abroad for decades. She has a daughter,  but they are not close. The daughter has a son who works and lives in London and Mrs Palfrey begins to talk up her grandson, hoping to gain points with her fellow residents. But the grandson never comes to visit and the pitying glances of her fellows starts to bother the old woman.
Out one day, Mrs Palfrey stumbles and cuts her leg. A nice young man, Ludo, comes to her rescue. They become friends and Mrs Palfrey asks him to impersonate her grandson. Ludo wants to be a writer and sees this invitation as a chance to study an old person in their natural environment plus, being chronically short of money, he gets a free meal.
Ludo is a charming, attractive and pleasant young man and he is well received by the elderly residents of the Claremont. But then one day the real grandson, egged on by his mother, shows up to visit his granny. So here you would think comedic complications would break out, but not really. Mrs Palfrey has fallen again and is now dying in the hospital. She doesn't know about the real grandson coming to see her and passes away unknowing.

This book is highly praised for its insightful depiction of old age and how it robs a person of their independence and standing in society, about how the elderly often end up cast aside and forgotten. As I mentioned, it does not end nicely, Mrs Palfrey dies alone and unconscious in the hospital. Up until that, I had been enjoying the book quite a bit. But that ending just ruined it for me.

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