Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont – BOOK REVIEW

 

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London bookstores now have sets of this deceased author’s novels on their shelves, a welcome opportunity to revisit a society before huge changes occurred in the 1980′s. “Mrs. Palfrey” might be seen as a pastiche of gracious widowhood, or it might be recognized as having cut pretty close to the bone back when the British economy was still lagging behind, and the English people stuck in their ways.

The woman at the center of the story is self-aware, but seems not to have the will to choose a life that is not respectable in the eyes of her peers, her dead husband, or even her child and grandchild, of whom she disapproves. As one of a set, she leads a dull existence in the residential hotel near the Victoria & Albert Museum on Cromwell Road – a “trivial” life, as one character observes.   However, young Ludo comes onto the scene as her rescuer when she takes a fall, and remains a glimmer in her eye. He consents to masquerade as her grandson who has not paid her a visit and likely won’t. However, his visits also taper off. One can sense the frustration in the fussy thinking that follows.

Taylor’s writing will not delight readers used to more action and bravado, but, from my position near Cromwell Rd., it is a handbook for discerning what used to go on inside the Victorian walls that line the streets in West London – not much that would be obvious. It’s hopping now!

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