Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

I saw Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont last year when it came out in the cinemas. The first thing that appealed to me about the film was its title – I went to school in a suburb called Claremont! Anyway, I found the film just delightful and, when I discovered the book of the same name, I was keen to read it. Fast forward a year, and my copy arrives from Book Depository. I dived straight in.

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont was written by Elizabeth Taylor. (oh, and I note another of her books has been made into a film and is showing now – Angel ). Mrs Palfrey moves to a hotel in London – The Claremont – when her husband dies. At the hotel are a number of other long term elderly residents. The outlook from hotel is bleak, the quality of the company questionable and the food is awful – there does not seem to be much for Mrs Palfrey to look forward to. That is, until she takes a tumble outside the door of Ludo’s basement flat. Ludo is an aspiring writer who becomes her surrogate grandson; invited to meals at the Claremont and doted on. The relationship is cemented to such an extent that, Mrs Palfrey having introduced Ludo to the other Claremont residents as her grandson, when Mrs Palfrey’s real grandson visits the Claremont the other residents turf him out as an impostor!

The book is just beautiful; sad in parts, but poignantly happy in others. Elizabeth Taylor is an exquisite writer and I definitely plan to read more of her work. Still, the novel left me thinking about what old age means when you are alone and I was reminded of a quote from the 1960s film The Trouble with Angels which stared Haley Mills. After visiting an old people’s home at Christmas the young Haley Mill’s character says to Mother Superior “I want to die young, and very, very wealthy”. Well I don’t want to die young, but I am not sure being the last one standing is all that desirable either!

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