Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont: Elizabeth Taylor’s forgotten masterpiece
Elizabeth Taylor is one of those forgotten literary talents who deserves more exposure. It’s good to see the BBC and David Baddiel giving her some attention to mark the centenary of her birth. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont remains her best known book. It was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1971 (V S Naipaul’s In a Free State won) and the novel tells the story of ageing Laura Palfrey, a widow who can no longer look after herself, and moves to a hotel in London. She strikes up an unlikely friendship with an impoverished young writer, who turns her life into a novel.
Taylor was born on 3 July 1912 in Reading. She published 12 novels between 1945 and 1976, the final one being published posthumously a year after her death. She also wrote five short story collections and a children’s book. Lots of famous authors describe her one of the greats and yet most people don’t know her work.
Her name does her no favours. Taylor’s debut novel, At Mrs Lippincote’s, was released in the same year as National Velvet propelled the Hollywood Elizabeth Taylor to mega-stardom.
It great to see that Virago has recently republished Taylor’s Complete Short Stories.