The Paper Palace – Miranda Cowley Heller

The Paper Palace is the first book by Miranda Cowley Heller and to be honest, it shows. My book club chose to read this otherwise it wouldn’t even be on my radar because I don’t particularly enjoy reading Reese’s book club choices. And I can say after reading this book; I’ll avoid their choices like the plague.


The Paper Palace contains many triggering scenes like rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and incest. I generally avoid these trigger warnings because if they add a lot to the story, they have to be read. But in The Paper Palace, all those scenes do not add anything to the story and you end up thinking why you had to go through them all.

The Paper Palace - Miranda Cowley Heller

They do not change the characters, they do not change their lives and as the mother repeatedly says “they end up fine.” How can a fifteen-year-old girl not be traumatised after being raped by their disgusting stepbrother? And this is not the only question I have, there are many. But I don’t want to give spoilers if you still want to read this waste of paper and ink.

The Paper Palace is not a good book. It doesn’t have a point. After all the drama, tragedy and death, nothing happens. Oh, the main character cheats on her husband, and nothing happens. You just end up reading all those saddening, horrible things and guess what, see that nothing happens. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.

Want to read a good novel about marriage and relationships? Try this: 20 Beautiful Novels About Marriage

The Paper Palace - Miranda Cowley Heller

The Paper Palace

Before anyone else is awake, on a perfect August morning, Elle Bishop heads out for a swim in the glorious freshwater pond below ‘The Paper Palace’ — the gently decaying summer camp in the back woods of Cape Cod where her family has spent every summer for generations.

As she passes the house, Elle glances through the screen porch at the uncleared table from the dinner the previous evening; empty wine glasses, candle wax on the tablecloth, echoes of laughter of family and friends. Then she dives beneath the surface of the freezing water to the shocking memory of the sudden passionate encounter she had the night before, up against the wall behind the house, as her husband and mother chatted to the guests inside.

So begins a story that unfolds over twenty-four hours and across fifty years, as decades of family legacies, love, lies, secrets, and one unspeakable incident in her childhood lead Elle to the precipice of a life-changing decision. Over the next twenty-four hours, Elle will have to decide between the world she has made with her much-loved husband, Peter, and the life she imagined would be hers with her childhood love, Jonas, if a tragic event hadn’t forever changed the course of their lives.

Tender yet devastating, The Paper Palace is a masterful novel that brilliantly illuminates the tensions between desire and safety; the legacy of tragedy, and the crimes and misdemeanours of families.

Miranda Cowley Heller

Miranda Cowley Heller was raised in New York in a family of artists, writers and editors. Her grandfather was the literary critic Malcolm Cowley. After graduating from Harvard, she was the associate fiction and books editor at Cosmopolitan Magazine, before working for almost a decade as Senior Vice President and Head of Drama Series at HBO, developing and overseeing such shows as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Deadwood, and Big Love, among others.

She currently serves on the Board of the Fine Arts Work Center (FAWC) in Provincetown, MA, and, until its merger with PEN America last year, was Treasurer and on the Board of PEN CENTER-USA. She divides her time between Los Angeles, London and Cape Cod. The Paper Palace is her first novel.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World, A Great Journey


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