Elle, a happily married mother of three, wakes up one summer morning at the Paper Palace, her family’s summer home. The story starts off in present day, where Elle is reflecting on her affair from the night before with her childhood best friend, Jonas.
After a brief look at the present, the author takes readers back decades to share Elle’s story from childhood to adulthood. While learning about Elle’s childhood – parts of which are filled with trauma and tragedy – readers are also taken on her present day journey of deciding between the life she’s built with her husband, Peter, or the life she could have with Jonas.
Throughout Elle’s life, one thing remains a constant: the Paper Palace and the secrets it holds.
*Trigger warnings: rape, cancer, loss of a child
This book was unlike one I’ve ever read before. While the story line wasn’t one that moved quickly, the timeline flipping and multiple love interests held my attention. Though, I will say that parts of the story were hard to follow with going back in time multiple decades and also focusing on the present day story line, which recounts Elle and Jonas’s affair from the evening prior.
The hardships that Elle and her family faced were truly gut wrenching. The book was certainly hard to read at points, but every event contributed to what made her the person she is, and ultimately why she ended up choosing the partner that she did at the end of the book.
Experiencing Elle and Jonas’s relationship evolve from childhood through present day – when they’re both married – was my favorite part. The two shared a love that spanned decades, even though they were never actually together. Both of the men in Elle’s life were lovable characters, but there was something about Jonas that left me rooting for him.
The author did a beautiful job of shaping the Elle’s story, especially her relationships with Jonas and Peter over time, however I was left wanting more at the end and feel that it could’ve been expanded on a bit more and ended less abruptly.
Most Memorable Moment
I pause, stand on the precipice of memory, wanting so desperately to fall into it, knowing I can’t. Jonas is animal, Peter is mineral. And I need a rock.
“I’ll see you,” I say. And we both understand what that means.
“Elle…” Jonas calls out as I head down the steps into the subway. I stop, but this time I don’t turn around.
“Peter isn’t the ring guy,” he says. “I’m the ring guy.”
- Book: The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
- Release date: July 2021
- Genre: literary fiction, domestic fiction
- Stars: 4/5
- Burn speed: slow
- Steam level: 3/5
- Suspense level: low
- Conclusion: worth the read, but I was left wanting more
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