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"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 wi "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. Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780593329825.


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"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 wi "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. Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780593329825.

30 review for The Paper Palace

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    WOW!!!!!! Review to follow - must get outside - sit with my thoughts — but a very strong 5 stars - REVIEW: Many books are page turners….we love them right? “The Paper Palace”, is more than a page turner…. it’s an IV being pumped into your veins like a drug! Personally— I LOVED IT!!! Yet…. Not everyone will. Beware….of taboo scenes: sex, lies, cheating, rape, incest, …..but it would be a shame —IMO if this book was labeled and categorized as the naughty-distasteful- book - because it’s NOT! I doubt ev WOW!!!!!! Review to follow - must get outside - sit with my thoughts — but a very strong 5 stars - REVIEW: Many books are page turners….we love them right? “The Paper Palace”, is more than a page turner…. it’s an IV being pumped into your veins like a drug! Personally— I LOVED IT!!! Yet…. Not everyone will. Beware….of taboo scenes: sex, lies, cheating, rape, incest, …..but it would be a shame —IMO if this book was labeled and categorized as the naughty-distasteful- book - because it’s NOT! I doubt even the most prudish reader would be able to negate the LUSHNESS….LUMINOUS descriptions. ….Some of the nature sentences are absolutely breathtaking— The dialogue - the narrative- is intoxicating- penetrating- savvy-simply marvelous! It’s one of the most explosive-alive -experiences of writing I’ve read all year. Its psychologically riveting—gut-wrenching-complex- COMPLICATED ….lush, dreamy….with sensitive understandable thought-provoking situations!!! I found it quite reflective. Honestly it’s so exhilarating —-in the best ways contemporary novels can be. I’m in aw of the writing. It was sad. It was funny. It was wrong. It was right. It was honest. It explores morality — and most of all examines love at the deepest level. Miranda Crowley Heller’s ‘styling’ was very appealing to me - it was fresh - and unique. The prime story takes place in one day- divided into five segments. The back-stories are intertwined with present day happenings. It just terrifically well done. Personally I love everything about this book — I thought it was completely brilliant with tons of “OH MY”, moments. There were many surprise zingers.. ZAP! …. A little more storytelling… ZAP…. A little more storytelling… ZAP, zap, zap …. Many times these zingers just keep coming!!!! Did anyone ever see the movie called “Adore”, with Robin Wright and Naomi Watts….(they each had an affair with each other’s son)…and it took place in lush Australia…in a beach house? Beautiful and uncomfortable- right? Well….this book is NOT THAT….honest it isn’t….but….a few times the captivating atmosphere reminded me of that movie. Rather than keep sharing on and on about how much I loved this book (yes, aware it might not be for everyone’s taste - but it sure was mine)…. I’ll include a few sample excerpts .. ‘teasers’ ….if you will. If they intrigue you ….then there is a good chance this novel would be exciting for you to read. If not…skip it. One more aspect…(before the excerpts)… it was the type of storytelling where you’re dying to know the conclusion…but the journey is so fascinating- (with those ZAP ZINGERS coming when you least expect them)…that you won’t want to miss a word of each page. Teasers….excerpts: “By the time we reach the Woods it’s almost midnight. The camp has been locked up all winter. Our canoes are stacked on the porch. Everything is covered in pollen and spiderswebs. Some large animal has managed to get in over the winter, knocking plates off the open shelves. Shards of iron stone are skittled across the living room floor. The mice have made their annual nest in the silverware drawer. Mouse shit in the fork tines, afterbirth on the teaspoons. The hot water needs to be turned on. The flashlights are all dead. No one feels like making beds”. “I pee in the bushes, walk down the path to my cabin, and throw myself onto the bare mattress. I’m so happy to be here”…….. NOTE…. this scene goes on - the writing continues getting more and more gorgeous; suspenseful for several more pages. ….. “My stomach drops into my feet. My entire body is cold with panic”. ….. “You knew I was watching, he says” ….. “I was worried you were going to keep sulking”. “I was. But apparently I have the backbone of a snake”. “We go to sleep listening to the flicker of the fire, the occasional thud of wood, chunks falling into the embers. Outside, in the winter moonlight, the world is cold—stark—a bare echo of the place where, for me, life begins and ends”. “We drag our past behind us like a weight, still shackled, but far enough back that we never have to see, never have to openly acknowledge who we once were”. “He should leave her. Is that what I want?” “Gina and Jonas are our oldest friends. We have spent almost every summer of our adult lives together: shucked oysters and drink them live from their shells, watched the full moon rising over the sea, while listening to Gina complain that the moon was making her period cramps worse; prayed the local fishermen would start culling the harbor seals; over-cooked Thanksgiving turkeys; argued about Woody Allen. Gina is my daughter Maddy’s godmother, for fuck’s sake. What if Jonas did leave Gina? Could I betray her that way? And yet I already have. I fucked her husband last night. And the thought makes me want to do it again”. “Hey, wife. Peter kisses the back of my neck”. “Hey, yourself. I start, struggle for normal”. “You look deep in thought, he says”. “There’s coffee”. “Excellent, he roots around in his shirt pocket and pulls out his cigarettes. Lights one. Sits down on the sofa beside me. I love the way his long legs look poking out from his faded surf shorts. Boyish”. “My husband is a handsome man. Not beautiful, but handsome in an old-fashioned movie star way. Tall. Elegant. British. A respected journalist. The kind of man he looks sexy in a suit. An Atticus. Patient, but formidable when angered. He can keep a secret. He rarely misses a beat. He’s looking at me now as if he can smell the sex on me”. “Jonas is a brilliant painter. Successful. Looks like a bloody screen idol. He could’ve married Sophia-fucking-Loren. I think he hooked up with Gina just to irritate his mother”. “Well, that was a worthy cause, anyway, my mother says”. “Peter laughs. He loves it when my mother is bitchy”. “The ‘two’ of you, I say. Enough”. “There were nine ponds in our woods. We swam in all of them, crossing other people’s property lines to reach small sandy coves, clamber out over water on the trunks of fallen trees. Cannonball in. No one minded us. Everyone believed in the ancient rights of way: small shaded paths that led to the back doors of old Cape houses, built when the first dirt roads were carved, still standing in sober clearings preserved by snow and sea air and hot summers. And watercress pulled from a stream— someone else’s stream, someone else’s watercrest”. I like what this reader & author had to say: “Set in the physical and psychic landscape of Cape Cod, ‘The Paper Palace’ is a fever dream of a novel, luminous with love and shot through with humor and heartbreak. It is a book that explores the indelibility of childhood, what it means to be shaped by place, and all that is unpredictable about the human heart. I couldn’t put it down” ——Adrienne Brodeur, author of ‘Wild Game’.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Val ⚓️ Shameless Non-Snowflake ⚓️

    "'Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backward...' ...'If I could fly backward, I would,' I said... ...And he said, as he always did, 'I know..'" This was just beautiful. I thought it was beautiful before I even got to the above quote...and then I loved it all that much more. I LOVE hummingbirds so much I have some tattooed on my body. But I digress. If you have followed me for any length of time, you will know my reading tastes have evolved and changed a lot over the last 2-3 years...Mess "'Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backward...' ...'If I could fly backward, I would,' I said... ...And he said, as he always did, 'I know..'" This was just beautiful. I thought it was beautiful before I even got to the above quote...and then I loved it all that much more. I LOVE hummingbirds so much I have some tattooed on my body. But I digress. If you have followed me for any length of time, you will know my reading tastes have evolved and changed a lot over the last 2-3 years...Messy, nuanced family dramas have become one of my favorite things to read. And boy did this deliver on that front. In my opinion, this book exemplified showing vs. telling. Through Elle's narration, we are taken through the numerous consequential and seemingly inconsequential moments of her life that have brought her to the decision point upon which the book is premised. The moments, settings, and people who have shaped her reality. And we perhaps reflect on those moments in our own lives. How the choices and actions of our parents and grandparents impacted the present. How our own might impact the future. I just loved and appreciated everything about this book. The characters, the setting, the way Cowley unpacked everything for us across the two separate timelines. Just brilliant.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    My goodness… I loved this book! Perfect to read right now too.. A family spending all their summers on Cape Cod… a family that has dealt with some devastating history. There’s so much more to this story then what the synopsis states.. so many layers ..so much that many of these characters have endured. You’ll laugh, gasp, feel enraged.. so many emotions. Perfect read for me! Oh… and just beautiful descriptions of the land and sea! Forgot to mention.. go see Elyse’s review of this book.. it sold me!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sharadha Jayaraman

    Thank you Netgalley and Penguin for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I'm not sure how I feel about this book, except that I didn't like any of the characters or the life choices they made. I can accept when a story has one or two characters that make dumb decisions or are born to cause calamity, but this book had no good people, they all were dysfunctional in their own ways, vindictive and judgmental (everything that is wrong with our generation today), and would just Thank you Netgalley and Penguin for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I'm not sure how I feel about this book, except that I didn't like any of the characters or the life choices they made. I can accept when a story has one or two characters that make dumb decisions or are born to cause calamity, but this book had no good people, they all were dysfunctional in their own ways, vindictive and judgmental (everything that is wrong with our generation today), and would just not communicate with each other even at the ripe age of 50+. It felt as though the author feared fleshing out one full scene where her characters would just sort out their differences and, y'know, be adults like, be it Elle and her mother, Elle and her sister Anna, Jonas and Elle, Peter and Elle, or Elle's mother and her numerous boyfriends. I cannot fathom how people jump from person to person and claim "to be in love" the way these characters did, it started to seem like a joke to me beyond a point. I felt for Elle and the horrifying childhood she had to endure, but after a while, she started to take on the role of a masochist and I was left with my feelings hanging. A few sentences and word choices also felt odd to me like "weirdo-ness" (what's wrong with weirdness?), and, "Jonas is animal, Peter is mineral. And I need a rock" (??). Just felt a bit pretentious to me. Anyway, this is my first by the author so I went in without any expectations. I look forward to her future works. (view spoiler)[Trigger warnings for non-consensual incest and cheating. (hide spoiler)]

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    An enthralling book that is beautifully written and fantastically narrated! The Paper Palace is a rambling house that is set in the backwoods of Cape Code. For every summer of her life Elle and her family have been vacationing there. Now at Fifty years old we see Elle, in the beginning chapter regretting that she has had sex with her childhood friend outside the house while both their spouses were inside during an evening gathering with the families. I enjoyed the narration a lot. Nan McNamara was An enthralling book that is beautifully written and fantastically narrated! The Paper Palace is a rambling house that is set in the backwoods of Cape Code. For every summer of her life Elle and her family have been vacationing there. Now at Fifty years old we see Elle, in the beginning chapter regretting that she has had sex with her childhood friend outside the house while both their spouses were inside during an evening gathering with the families. I enjoyed the narration a lot. Nan McNamara was spot-on with the storytelling and especially the voice of Elle's mother. This is a slow building drama that is told in a 24 hour type of format as Elle contemplates her love of her husband and childhood friend. There are multiple timelines as Elle thinks back to certain parts of her childhood and life. The backstories are engaging and I'm glad I listened to the audio as I'm not sure if I could follow along as easily if I'd just read it. I might be in the minority but the ending was a bit brusque. I wanted a precise conclusion but got more of an open ended one. It's still a book that I'd highly recommend especially the audio.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Claire Fuller

    I loved this book. The proof (thanks the publisher) had sat on my shelf for far too long, and when I finally pulled it down, I read it in a day and a half, because I couldn't stop. One of those books that I read while walking around the house, attempting to do other things. Published in July. Every summer Elle goes to 'The Paper Palace' with her family - husband, three children and mother - a series of cabins in the woods on the Cape. She's been going there since she was a child, when she became I loved this book. The proof (thanks the publisher) had sat on my shelf for far too long, and when I finally pulled it down, I read it in a day and a half, because I couldn't stop. One of those books that I read while walking around the house, attempting to do other things. Published in July. Every summer Elle goes to 'The Paper Palace' with her family - husband, three children and mother - a series of cabins in the woods on the Cape. She's been going there since she was a child, when she became friends with the neighbours, including Jonas. Elle and Jonas have a complicated history, which we learn in luminous and illuminating flashbacks. The present-day narrative takes place over the course of 24 hours, at the end of which Elle must make the hardest decision of her life. In rich and sensuous prose, Cowley Heller, cracks open the human heart and exposes her character's choices: the paths not taken and the devastating consequences. I smelled the old cabins and the backwoods, felt the pond water lapping around my ankles, experienced the love and loss of family. A perceptive and powerful story which will stay with me for a long time.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sacha

    Thanks to NetGalley and Riverhead Books for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. I'll post that review upon publication. TW*: rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and incest *Please note that the victims and survivors of these horrors are children and that these topics/related scenes come up repeatedly. Updated 7/6/21 2.5 stars This is a well constructed novel born of the descendent of industry royalty (I came to learn in the acknowledgments), but I struggled with severa Thanks to NetGalley and Riverhead Books for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. I'll post that review upon publication. TW*: rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and incest *Please note that the victims and survivors of these horrors are children and that these topics/related scenes come up repeatedly. Updated 7/6/21 2.5 stars This is a well constructed novel born of the descendent of industry royalty (I came to learn in the acknowledgments), but I struggled with several central aspects. Elle, the m.c., is a middle-aged woman whose husband Peter, three children, and mother (Wallace) all join her in the present day at "The Paper Palace," a rustic family retreat. They are surrounded by friends and neighbors, and Elle is nearly infested (much like the physical location) with memories and trauma. Heller provides a clear sense of place, and one commendable feature is the connected description. While the detail feels overwrought at times (and flat out weird at others, like when Elle thinks of a white cat on the porch as "porny"), there is not a moment during the present-day scenes when readers cannot see, smell, and feel the environment. This attention to specifics highlights the themes of decay/rot, long-term burden, and connection between memory, place, and the development (or lack thereof) of the self. Prospective readers should know that there are multiple references to rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and incest, and that all of these horrors are committed against children. It's relentless. If you are the kind of reader who can know that such a scene exists, manage or skip it, and keep reading, you need to know that this is not that kind of work. As someone who can generally manage this content, I felt overwhelmed by it here. It's not just the details but more so the profusion. Heller effectively demonstrates how damaging this kind of abuse can be and the long-term effects it creates on those who experience it, but unfortunately, readers can get swept up in this, too. When this material IS present, I like to come out of the novel feeling like all of the details and references were worth it: that the emotional labor was necessary. Upon completion, I do NOT feel like that at all. Along with the at times difficult subject matter, the characters are often infuriating. Secrecy is a main point, but WOW these characters are poor communicators, especially as adults. I found their lack of growth and their responses to each other confounding at times. The one relationship I did find fascinating is between Elle and her sister, Anna, and I was disappointed at how little of that is ultimately available. I see enough in this novel to want to read more from Heller, but I am leaving this work feeling a sense of hollowness from the characters and from the overall plot. When I reflect on the piece as a whole, I feel most struck by the profusion of assaults on children, and this is disappointing for obvious reasons.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Right after finishing the audio of “The Paper Palace”, I restarted from the beginning. It was so good. I was concerned that I missed things since I didn’t read it. Author Miranda Cowley Heller is an incredible writer, creating lush sentences and gorgeous dialogues. I ultimately decided to get the book as well. I NEED to read it. But as I gave it a second go in listening, I am grateful that I did the audio. Nan McNamara is suburb in her narrating skills, especially with her narrating Wallace, the Right after finishing the audio of “The Paper Palace”, I restarted from the beginning. It was so good. I was concerned that I missed things since I didn’t read it. Author Miranda Cowley Heller is an incredible writer, creating lush sentences and gorgeous dialogues. I ultimately decided to get the book as well. I NEED to read it. But as I gave it a second go in listening, I am grateful that I did the audio. Nan McNamara is suburb in her narrating skills, especially with her narrating Wallace, the mother of Elle (the novel’s narrator). The story begins with Elle beginning her day after consummating a life-long crush relationship with a man, Jonas, who she’s known since she’s been a child. Elle and Jonas came to this family compound, named The Paper Palace, since they were children. Elle is two years older than Jonas, which is not a big difference in age now that they are adults. But as children, he was a mere boy. The beginning scenes are a bit “racy” in description of their tryst. Author Heller is direct. This is an extramarital affair. Elle then narrates her history, beginning as a baby, including the volatility of her parent’s marriage. The structure of this story is Elle going through her present day, after having sex with Jonas, and the history of her life bringing her to this moment. She, in current time, is contemplating if she should leave her husband and go to Jonas, the love of her life. Yet, through her ruminations of her history, she sees her husband, Peter, as a good stable man, a man whom she loves. The story of Elle’s life is troubling. Her mother, Wallace, is THE WORSE MOTHER EVER in my opinion. But Wallace didn’t have the best upbringing herself. Wallace is self-involved and blunt. Her haughty attitudes are so horrendous and cringe worthy that I snorted in derision while listening. Again, narrator Nan McNamara captures Wallace’s attitudes superbly. I believe McNamara made the story better. I know when I read it, I will have McNamara’s performance voice in my head. Elle’s father is no prize either. He passively neglected his girls. Elle and her sister Anna had to suffer through their parent’s multiple marriages and many step-siblings who were disturbing to say the least. Very little consideration was given to the girls and their well-being. The fact that Elle was able to engage in a healthy relationship with a man is a testament to Elle’s inner strength. Elle’s rumminations to stay in her marriage or run off with Jonas is complex. Author Heller weaves in the complications of life, both emotional and pragmatically. Marriage is complicated, life is fluid, choices are complicated. I highly recommend this in audio or in print. I need to do both. I am happy I heard the audio first; it whetted my appetite for reading the prose. GR friend Elyse and I are going to re-read it together and discuss chapter by chapter, it’s that good.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

    Well I've set a record with this one. Sometimes I DNF early, usually around 25%, sometimes before that; but I quit here in the middle of the 3rd sentence. If you are a person who is impressed by overwritten slush, stop reading here and walk away. Or in your preferred langue du commerce, relinquish the tome in your bejeweled, alabaster digits and prance haughtily from this verbose online chamber of literary enlightenment. With your chapeau atilt. You're welcome. Anyone who has read my opinion piec Well I've set a record with this one. Sometimes I DNF early, usually around 25%, sometimes before that; but I quit here in the middle of the 3rd sentence. If you are a person who is impressed by overwritten slush, stop reading here and walk away. Or in your preferred langue du commerce, relinquish the tome in your bejeweled, alabaster digits and prance haughtily from this verbose online chamber of literary enlightenment. With your chapeau atilt. You're welcome. Anyone who has read my opinion pieces knows how very little I value fancy dancy lacy pantsy writing, pages sludged down with pretentious creative writing class pomposity and unnecessary piles of detritus and detail. The offending phrase here involved a perfect green pear with "the stem atilt." This single word was a spoiler warning that I was going to be gagging on sugar syrup and to quit while I still had a lunch to digest, and before I found out whether there was actually a cake under all that icing. So I blew that pop joint. Life's too short to waste time reading crap. Why are you still reading this?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Gandhi

    I needed some time to figure out how to review this book. And I had to re-read the ending multiple times to see if I could figure it out. The author states in an interview that she was very clear on who Elle chooses. After reading that ending over and over, I’m still not sure. I can guess… but it is not crystal clear like the author says. That is my biggest issue with this book. I don’t like open ended finales if you aren’t leading to a sequel. The other is the multiple timelines. When written c I needed some time to figure out how to review this book. And I had to re-read the ending multiple times to see if I could figure it out. The author states in an interview that she was very clear on who Elle chooses. After reading that ending over and over, I’m still not sure. I can guess… but it is not crystal clear like the author says. That is my biggest issue with this book. I don’t like open ended finales if you aren’t leading to a sequel. The other is the multiple timelines. When written correctly it can be great, even enhance a story. This one is jumbled and confusing. Within each chapter she jumps back and forth between present and past and often times you have no idea she has changed the timeline on you. Having said all of that, I gave this 3 stars. The writing isn’t bad, in face it’s good. I just didn’t care for the structure and that’s a personal preference. I also liked the premise behind the book. While I didn’t necessarily like or agree with all of Elle’s choices, it makes for good debate and discussions.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    The Paper Palace is a story of summer, secrets, love and lies: in the course of a singular day on Cape Cod, one woman must make a life-changing decision that has been brewing for decades. When the novel opens, it is 6:30 am, present day. Elle Bishop, a fifty-something happily married mother of three, wakes at dawn and heads down to the pond for her morning swim. She is staying at her mother’s summer camp, nicknamed “The Paper Palace”, on a fresh-water kettle pond in the backwoods of Cape Cod. As The Paper Palace is a story of summer, secrets, love and lies: in the course of a singular day on Cape Cod, one woman must make a life-changing decision that has been brewing for decades. When the novel opens, it is 6:30 am, present day. Elle Bishop, a fifty-something happily married mother of three, wakes at dawn and heads down to the pond for her morning swim. She is staying at her mother’s summer camp, nicknamed “The Paper Palace”, on a fresh-water kettle pond in the backwoods of Cape Cod. As Elle plunges naked into the bracing water, she thinks about what she has done the night before: how, in the middle of her mother’s dinner party, she and her oldest friend Jonas crept out the back door into the darkness and had frantic, breath-taking sex for the first time while their spouses chatted away inside. Over the next 24 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 Jonas, if only they hadn’t had to carry the shame of a tragic event from their youth. The story takes place over a single day and across fifty years and is set against the summer backwoods and beaches of Cape Cod. Twenty-four hours in the life of Elle Bishop, and the mosaic of her life right up until the moment she steps out the back door into the night: a childhood navigating her parents’ divorce; a cast of mostly awful stepparents and stepsiblings; the curious boy, Jonas, who comes into her young life like a birdsong; her wonderful British husband; three beautiful children. But, also: abuse, loss, trauma, and long-held secrets – a single act in her childhood that changed the course of everything, that can never be undone; the pebble she dropped in the pond. With its transporting setting and propulsive pace, the story draws on the sweet promise of young love, as well as the heartbreaking damage incurred by too many dark secrets. It's a compulsively readable story about the tensions between the romantic childhood ideals we grow up with, and the family responsibilities that carry us into adulthood. Must our life choices remain irrevocable if the conditions are changed? A captivating, emotional and highly recommended read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    PorshaJo

    It's a known fact, we eat with our eyes. I read with my eyes. Meaning many times I choose a book based on if the cover catches my eye. When I saw this cover, I was drawn to it. The colors drew me in and I found it intriguing and mysterious. Could just be me. I'm weird. I also think when I see that chocolate chip cookie it's better for me than that kale salad. Anyway. I grabbed the audio based on the cover, knowing nothing about it. I asked Dana if she was up for a buddy read and off we went. And It's a known fact, we eat with our eyes. I read with my eyes. Meaning many times I choose a book based on if the cover catches my eye. When I saw this cover, I was drawn to it. The colors drew me in and I found it intriguing and mysterious. Could just be me. I'm weird. I also think when I see that chocolate chip cookie it's better for me than that kale salad. Anyway. I grabbed the audio based on the cover, knowing nothing about it. I asked Dana if she was up for a buddy read and off we went. And we both loved it! The Paper Palace tells the story of Elle, a fifty-year-old happily married mother of three. She is at her family summer home on the Cape, called The Paper Palace. You see, she just had sex for the first time with her childhood friend Jonas. Both of their spouses are inside chatting, drunk, possibly passed out. Elle and Jonas go way back to their childhood and have a deep bond. They both love each other but are married to others. Elle needs to choose, her husband or Jonas. The story slowly unfolds beginning with Elle's birth telling the story of her life, how she and Jonas met, what incident drew them apart and ruined things, how they each met their spouses, and what happens on this fateful evening. The story is told from the point of view of Elle and the 24 hours at The Paper Palace between sleeping with Jonas and deciding if she will stay with her husband or go off with Jonas. Via flashbacks the story of how they got here slowly unfolds. To her ultimate decision. I loved this one. The writing was wonderful, the story was great, most of the characters were ones I grew to love (I loved her mother), the narration was amazing. This book took you right to the end. The last 3-4 mins of the audio threw me for a loop. I had to rewind about 5-6 times to listen again to see if I heard it right, did I understand it, I needed to hear it again. We had a great discussion of this ending with us going back and forth, listening again and discussing. We both agreed this was a top read for the year. I loved it so much I honestly thought afterwards, after that ending, I needed to go back and start it again from page 1. A highlight of the reading year for me and so glad I read with my eyes else I might have ignored this one.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    After having a fail with everyone else’s summer fave Seven Days In June I had sworn myself off of Reese’s Book Club picks. I thought I could easily pass up The Paper Palace after taking a gander at the blurb that talked about how these two married people snuck out of a family dinner while on vacation to bang because no thank you very much. But then people were commenting that it was disturbing and well . . . . . It don’t take much more than a house on the cover or the word “disturbing” to ma After having a fail with everyone else’s summer fave Seven Days In June I had sworn myself off of Reese’s Book Club picks. I thought I could easily pass up The Paper Palace after taking a gander at the blurb that talked about how these two married people snuck out of a family dinner while on vacation to bang because no thank you very much. But then people were commenting that it was disturbing and well . . . . . It don’t take much more than a house on the cover or the word “disturbing” to make your girl interested again. As for the content? Yes, disturbing is an accurate word. I am not one who wants a sensitivity reader or trigger warnings so I am not going to spoil the contents contained within this book’s pages by saying anything aside from if you don’t like dark, then stay the hell away. All you need to know about this one going in is it the story of Elle and Jonas who have been friends most of their lives, spending their summers together vacationing with their families in Cape Cod. This book is all about secrets of the past and what they can do to a person. As far as I’m concerned it proves once again that . . . . . “Unhappy people are always more interesting.” This book sucked me in immediately and never let me go. There is such a fine line between tragedy and tragiporn or melodrama and “drama llama” and this book is a prime example of how it’s done. All the Stars. Damn you, Reese! One question that is completely not important, but driving me crazy: Do people in the Northeast use the term “jacket potato”?????? I had never heard it used in an American novel before.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jana

    I normally will read a book and just give it stars unless it is something I feel needs to be discussed. This book disturbs me in ways that I didn't know a book could. The sex, the emotional abuse, the parental abuse that goes on is one thing, the physical abuse of children and the lack of parental love is a completely different thing. More disturbing than all the above, the fact that this book has been rated so highly across the board. It gives me pause to think of the society we are becoming wh I normally will read a book and just give it stars unless it is something I feel needs to be discussed. This book disturbs me in ways that I didn't know a book could. The sex, the emotional abuse, the parental abuse that goes on is one thing, the physical abuse of children and the lack of parental love is a completely different thing. More disturbing than all the above, the fact that this book has been rated so highly across the board. It gives me pause to think of the society we are becoming when this type of book is rated so highly. I'm not talking about the style of writing, development of characters, etc. I'm talking about what is acceptable in our society if this is the type of reading people enjoy. I will not finish this book and move on.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bianca

    4.5 I knew early on I was going to like this book, I tried really hard to keep my excitement in check, fearing the novel's quality will go down the hill. As you can tell from my rating, it didn't. Phew. Eleanor (Elle) is the narrator of this story. She's fifty, a mother of three, married to a handsome and nice British man. Their life is pretty good. In the shadows, there are unfulfilled desires and longings between childhood friends, who are now adult friends who brought into the mix their signific 4.5 I knew early on I was going to like this book, I tried really hard to keep my excitement in check, fearing the novel's quality will go down the hill. As you can tell from my rating, it didn't. Phew. Eleanor (Elle) is the narrator of this story. She's fifty, a mother of three, married to a handsome and nice British man. Their life is pretty good. In the shadows, there are unfulfilled desires and longings between childhood friends, who are now adult friends who brought into the mix their significant others. Some people never find true love or have good, meaningful relationships. Others have the fortune, or misfortune, to be thorn between two perfectly good men. We all know by now, life is not fair. It could be argued that the place in Cape Cod is, to a certain extent, one of the main characters of this novel. Elle and her family spent every summer there. They still do. It's a place that holds meaning, a place where things happened and are still happening. There are some secrets hiding the shallows of the pond and in the sandhills of the beach nearby. I liked the structure of this novel, alternating between a day's events and then going back in time, to where the narrator's mum was younger, up to the recent days. This novel is very filmic in its nature. I would definitely watch a movie, or even better, a miniseries based on this novel.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Craig

    I always know I thoroughly enjoy a book because I have very little to say when it's time to review. This book was phenomenal. I love the back-stories of the characters—so well thought out. The ending was rather abrupt, which somewhat bothered me but not enough to lower my rating. A Must Read. I always know I thoroughly enjoy a book because I have very little to say when it's time to review. This book was phenomenal. I love the back-stories of the characters—so well thought out. The ending was rather abrupt, which somewhat bothered me but not enough to lower my rating. A Must Read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    A riveting, powerfully written dramatic read! There will be some disturbing areas in this read but it’s well worth you getting through the harrowing scenes. Once you hit around 1/4 of the way through I’m hoping you will be hooked like I was. The Paper Palace is a camp where Ell Bishops family spent every Summer. This summer meets a change for Ell. Is she going to regret what she did? This spans fifty years of lies, secrets . Peter her husband, will she stay with him or her life long dream with her h A riveting, powerfully written dramatic read! There will be some disturbing areas in this read but it’s well worth you getting through the harrowing scenes. Once you hit around 1/4 of the way through I’m hoping you will be hooked like I was. The Paper Palace is a camp where Ell Bishops family spent every Summer. This summer meets a change for Ell. Is she going to regret what she did? This spans fifty years of lies, secrets . Peter her husband, will she stay with him or her life long dream with her her childhood sweetheart? There are so many things that happen around Ell and her innermost secrets that will make the toughest person feel. The childhood references and memories that merge so well into the present is so well weaved in. The narrator was excellent. Had enough pitch power and pace reading this to follow it so well. A somewhat tragic tale. Very powerful. The last chapter was such a heavy BOOM revelation. And a warming one from Mother to daughter. It’s lovely how it ends with the Pond in chapter 33 as Ell started with the Pond. The reflections on Jonas were insightful to how she remembers him and yet is so tender with Peter. This book is so wrong, so right. Addictive. The Paper Palace that’s falling apart knows all Ell’s secrets. Why don’t you read this and discover them too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    Love this book so much! It’s a riveting family drama—one part takes place over one day on Cape Cod, the other part tracks the main protagonists history over the course of fifty years. It’s about Elle, a wife and mother, that risks her marriage by having a summer fling with her best friend and first love Jonas, and what happens after. It explores the path not taken and the terrible consequences. Love, divorce, secrets, inherited trauma, parenting - it’s all there. It’s such an amazing debut novel Love this book so much! It’s a riveting family drama—one part takes place over one day on Cape Cod, the other part tracks the main protagonists history over the course of fifty years. It’s about Elle, a wife and mother, that risks her marriage by having a summer fling with her best friend and first love Jonas, and what happens after. It explores the path not taken and the terrible consequences. Love, divorce, secrets, inherited trauma, parenting - it’s all there. It’s such an amazing debut novel. Highly recommend!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Erica Zutz

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was going to get two stars for me but then I looked back and saw that I gave two stars to where the crawdad sing which I hated but at least that had some redeemable characters this however did not. The entire premise as most people know is this Elle cheats on her husband with her childhood best friend at 50. So they met when she was 11 and he was 8 and he’s held a candle out for her for 40 some years and he decides a quickie behind the cabin from behind is the ticket. You’ve got to be This book was going to get two stars for me but then I looked back and saw that I gave two stars to where the crawdad sing which I hated but at least that had some redeemable characters this however did not. The entire premise as most people know is this Elle cheats on her husband with her childhood best friend at 50. So they met when she was 11 and he was 8 and he’s held a candle out for her for 40 some years and he decides a quickie behind the cabin from behind is the ticket. You’ve got to be kidding me. Also 3 scenes of gruesomely detailed child sexual assault is like 3 too many for me to be completely honest like I get this was important to the story however…you can miss me with the nitty gritty details I am good. Plus Elle was miserable and she just went back and forth from Jonas and then to her husband a bunch like she just couldn’t decide like give me a break. Then they could have stopped where she chose Pete her husband who was if we were being honest not that redeeming himself and sort of a part time funny guy but a chain smoker…his only redeemable quality was his British accent which probably didn’t translate for the book readers. Also they didn’t stop with her choosing Pete to be clear they left it open ended…let me just be clear selling this as a slow blossoming love spanning time and distance of hearts growing fonder just isn’t doing it for me. Utter garbage like if you are gonna cheat on your spouse that you have a happy marriage with a 3 kids like fucking commit and at least make one a measure able upgrade in a discerning way. The only redeemable character was the sister and they killed her off. Anyways don’t waste your time…it’s trash binge watch something on Netflix instead.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Polly

    Oh wow... this could be my favourite book of the year so far! Taking place over 24 hours and five decades simultaneously via flashbacks, this is an extraordinary exploration of snapshots; moments and decisions both big and small that culminated in a passionate encounter between Elle and her oldest friend Jonas, outside a cabin while their families and spouses socialised inside. A book romanticising an affair is normally something that would send me running, but this was just so well-written that I Oh wow... this could be my favourite book of the year so far! Taking place over 24 hours and five decades simultaneously via flashbacks, this is an extraordinary exploration of snapshots; moments and decisions both big and small that culminated in a passionate encounter between Elle and her oldest friend Jonas, outside a cabin while their families and spouses socialised inside. A book romanticising an affair is normally something that would send me running, but this was just so well-written that I was hooked from the beginning and couldn't put it down. Set largely in an old summer camp on Cape Cod — but with moments in other places too — the sense of location painted here by Miranda Cowley Heller is wonderful. It's nostalgic and whimsical while also being dark and holding secrets. Although there is a strong narrative driving the story, it is really a character exploration primarily. And what characters there are to work with. No one defines the term "complicated character" like Elle's mother, who I found absolutely fascinating. She's nasty, she's tender, she's funny, she's contradictory, and as a result she felt incredibly real. Every character has light and dark sides — subtle ones often, and those dark sides make this a heavy read at times. The various family dynamics created by these characters, between several generations, make for a really interesting read. While the narrative and politics presented are different, this creation of realistic and gripping family dynamics — with a clear understanding of what drives people — reminded me at times of Celeste Ng's work. The ending seems ambiguous at first, but after coming back to it after a few minutes to reread it, I think the author's intentions are there, if a little hidden. A part of me is still itching for more, but really it was the perfect place to end the story. Varying at times between genres such as romance, literary fiction, mystery, women's fiction, and others, this one is definitely on my recommended list and one that I know I'll be thinking about for a long time. content warning: sexual abuse

  21. 5 out of 5

    Louise Wilson

    3.5 stars rounded up to 4 **TRIGGER WARNING** A Traumatic string of sexual abuse/rape t's a perfect July morning, Ellie, 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 Ellie 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 together inside. Now, ove 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 **TRIGGER WARNING** A Traumatic string of sexual abuse/rape t's a perfect July morning, Ellie, 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 Ellie 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 together inside. Now, over the next twenty four hours, Ellie will have to decide between the life she has made with her beloved husband Peter or the life she's always imagined with Jonas. The Paper Palace is the name of the summer resort that Ellie's family have been visiting for years. The story is told in a dual timeline: the present day and back in time from Ellie's childhood. It descriptively written but also gut churning at the same time. The pace is slow to begin with and I did struggle to get into it, but as soon as the secrets and lies started to reveal themselves, I was hooked. This is not an easy book to read and it might upset some readers due to some of it's contents. I would like to thank #NetGalley #PenguinGeneralUK and the author #MirandaCowleyHeller for my ARC of #ThePaperPalace in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tooter

    4.5 Stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Absolutely not. Sexual child abuse is a hard no. Didn’t even make it to chapter 3.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Natalie "Curling up with a Coffee and a Kindle" Rampling

    I was so looking forward to this one, after seeing such high review ratings. Firstly, the writing is breathtaking. It is so well written, I feel harsh giving it 3 stars. But for me, the plot didn't hold up to much scrutiny. It was too much of a slow burn for me and I have a strong need for an eventful story, that consumes me and keeps me engaged. I didn't care for the characters and the decisions they made. There were so many sex scenes, I felt like I was reading Fifty Shades at times. They just I was so looking forward to this one, after seeing such high review ratings. Firstly, the writing is breathtaking. It is so well written, I feel harsh giving it 3 stars. But for me, the plot didn't hold up to much scrutiny. It was too much of a slow burn for me and I have a strong need for an eventful story, that consumes me and keeps me engaged. I didn't care for the characters and the decisions they made. There were so many sex scenes, I felt like I was reading Fifty Shades at times. They just felt like scene fillers to me and I eventually got pretty fed up of them. The arrangement of the timelines was sometimes difficult to follow on the audiobook, but that just might be something I have difficulty with.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    I don’t know if it’s because the writing was so good and descriptive that parts of this book where really hard to read. I almost quit I’m not going to lie. But I’m so glad I didn’t. I don’t agree with some of the choices the characters made but the words where beautiful and the book gave me all emotions. At the end of the day what more could I want from a book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Jackson

    This writing is lovely but everyone in this book is such a terrible person.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This was a rare book. The Paper Palace is the type of book that reminds me of why love to read. A book I burned through, only to become instantly regretful to have finished it so quickly. A book that lingers. And yet, I cannot particularly identify why I love it so. The characters are not particularly nice, or redeemable. The story is sad. The ending is open to interpretation. But the setting, and the structure of this book are rich and lively and I was left wanting more. For me, this was the pe This was a rare book. The Paper Palace is the type of book that reminds me of why love to read. A book I burned through, only to become instantly regretful to have finished it so quickly. A book that lingers. And yet, I cannot particularly identify why I love it so. The characters are not particularly nice, or redeemable. The story is sad. The ending is open to interpretation. But the setting, and the structure of this book are rich and lively and I was left wanting more. For me, this was the perfect read. *note* This book does depict multiple accounts of sexual abuse and rape, thought neither is the focus of the story. However, if you are someone who is instantly turned off a book due to such topics, this one is not for you.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Molly Rooney

    I truly had zero expectations when I picked up this book, having barely even read the blurb, and it has absolutely blindsided me. It is stunning. I can’t think of a single other author I’ve read that could span 50 years over a 24 hour period with such beautiful prose. The sheer detail woven into every sentence in this novel is astonishing. I loved it so, so much and this deeply moving, heartfelt and gorgeous story deserves every success. Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. An astonishing five st I truly had zero expectations when I picked up this book, having barely even read the blurb, and it has absolutely blindsided me. It is stunning. I can’t think of a single other author I’ve read that could span 50 years over a 24 hour period with such beautiful prose. The sheer detail woven into every sentence in this novel is astonishing. I loved it so, so much and this deeply moving, heartfelt and gorgeous story deserves every success. Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. An astonishing five star read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    A podcast I listen to raved about this one, and y’all know I’m a sucker for a family drama, so I RAN to put this on the preorder list. Then it came in.. And I saw… THE REESE STICKER. Reese. Girl. I love you. Phenomenal actress. I just rewatched Cruel Intentions (in my top 10 movies of all time) and I love your films. You can act, but you cannot pick out a damn book. This book was CHAOS. Listen, I have a hole in my stomach, I have nothing to do but lay in a recliner and pay attention to what’s going o A podcast I listen to raved about this one, and y’all know I’m a sucker for a family drama, so I RAN to put this on the preorder list. Then it came in.. And I saw… THE REESE STICKER. Reese. Girl. I love you. Phenomenal actress. I just rewatched Cruel Intentions (in my top 10 movies of all time) and I love your films. You can act, but you cannot pick out a damn book. This book was CHAOS. Listen, I have a hole in my stomach, I have nothing to do but lay in a recliner and pay attention to what’s going on, and even I couldn’t keep up with this one. In ONE CHAPTER you start with present day, then flashback to 1950s, then 1970s, then present day, then back to the 70s. Truly all within the span of 3 pages. Different characters introduced each time. Not a damn one is likable either. My head was SPINNING. I am all for dual timelines, but this was absolutely maddening. I’d love to know what happened in the end, but no part of me was patient enough to finish this tornado, and I’m not confident I would have understood what happened if I did. I’ve read there are some serious trigger warnings with this, but I never got to them - this was a hard DNF at 120 pages. You got a pass for Seven Days in June Reese, but I’m going back to avoiding your stickers. VERDICT: 2 STARS ⭐️⭐️ because I really do want to know what happened with the woman sleeping with the man, there was plot potential

  30. 4 out of 5

    BookNightOwl

    I loved this book and it kept me interested from the very beginning. I loved all the back story and all the different story lines you get from everyone. This book was about family, friendships, siblings, step siblings, spouses. There are some trigger warnings of abuse,rape and cheating. A+

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