Book Review | The Paper Palace
Title: The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
Genres: contemporary, literary fiction
Publisher: Riverhead Books (July 6th, 2021)
“This house, this place, knows all my secrets.”
It is a perfect July morning, and Elle, a fifty-year-old happily married mother of three, awakens at “The Paper Palace”–the family summer place which she has visited every summer of her life. But this morning is different: last night Elle and her oldest friend Jonas crept out the back door into the darkness and had sex with each other for the first time, all while their spouses chatted away inside. Now, over the next twenty-four hours, Elle will have to decide between the life she has made with her genuinely beloved husband, Peter, and the life she always imagined she would have had with her childhood love, Jonas, if a tragic event hadn’t forever changed the course of their lives. As Heller colors in the experiences that have led Elle to this day, we arrive at her ultimate decision with all its complexity. Tender yet devastating, The Paper Palace considers the tensions between desire and dignity, the legacies of abuse, and the crimes and misdemeanors of families.
Wow! Where do I even begin with a book like The Paper Palace? Within the first
chapter I knew this book would be an intense journey. After finishing the book, I can safely say that my initial thoughts were correct!
This book is so beautifully written. Filled with elegant prose, I really never wanted to stop reading this one. At 400 pages, this isn’t the chunkiest book I’ve ever read, but it’s certainly not the smallest either. That being said I flew through it much faster than I anticipated.
The characters absolutely made this book. The Paper Palace starts after the main characters, Elle and Jonas, just had an affair. You go into this book with the idea of what is clearly right and wrong in this situation. As the story progresses, however, and you begin to learn about Elle’s life and her past and the journey she’s been on, you start to question and gain sympathy over her difficult life choices.
I do want to also add that this book has just about every single content/trigger warning that I can think of including rape and sexual assault (including children). So please go into this book aware.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The Paper Palace is a heavy one but so worth it. This was the first book I read in 2023. It’s been almost a month now since reading it and I just can’t stop thinking about it. If you are in the right headspace, I highly recommend this one!