The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller book review

I picked up The Paper Palace as a random pick before I went on holiday a few weeks ago. Since then I’ve been on quite a journey and thoroughly enjoyed so much of it. Not all of it was perfect but it’s a book that has definitely left a good mark on me.

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The Paper Palace is told over 24 hours and 50 years. It’s a book about betrayal and tough adult decisions. It’s also a book that spends so many of its pages trying to convince you something so very wrong was justified and you’ll definitely have an opinion on whether it was by the end.

The Paper Palace plot – 4/5

The Paper Palace tells the story of Elle and her affair with a childhood sweetheart. It slowly tells the tale of the 24 hours after the incident but, more importantly, and more interestingly, the life that led Elle to make this decision.

The book takes place mostly at a place in the countryside by a lake dubbed “The Paper Palace” – a building built by one of Elle’s family which, every year, they spend their summers.

If you know me, you know I love a book that spans someone’s life and I love a book that gives an honest and brutal look at life where not everything goes swimmingly and things are difficult. The Paper Palace does this – it’s a great look back at Elle’s life and some of the darker moments, how her life isn’t perfect and possibly why she made the decision she did in the modern-day.

I never felt bored at any point of the story and I was constantly wondering what was coming next with Elle’s life constantly throwing interesting curveballs and genuinely difficult moments to comprehend. Her story features loss, divorce, a broken home life as a child and then hard work and perseverance is how she got to where she is now.

The Paper Palace characters – 5/5

The Paper Palace is one of those books really absolutely defines its characters, sticks with them and makes you fall in love with them. Elle herself is a flawed, sometimes rude but predominantly good person who has made some bad choices but made many more good ones. She’s likeable in her own sense and is a good main character, with Heller giving her a troubling time to deal with some honest thoughts on life.

Elle’s husband Peter is my favourite throughout the whole book along with Elle’s mother. Peter is genuinely funny, an incredible soul and seems to be so mature – despite coming from a family of wealth meaning he could have been more arrogant and dislikeable. He’s got a fantastic relationship with Elle’s mother too which I enjoyed every time it was presented.

Elle’s mother is a harsh, opinionated and to-to-point woman of age and seems to have given up caring what people think and giving her thoughts where she can. Despite this harsh and mean exterior, Peter’s witty and intelligent banter and equally ruthless opinions mean that she adores him. She rarely admits it but the way she smiles, the way she agrees and the way she can’t help but compliment him show her real admiration for him.

Jonas is the final main character really. He is kind too and gets on well with Elle. He’s a mysterious boy and grows into a slightly quiet but interesting character. In my opinion, I prefer Peter as he’s more my sort of person but Jonas is likeable in his own way too.

The Paper Palace overall rating – 4/5

I really liked The Paper Palace. It was a close call between giving it four or five stars. The story was enjoyable throughout, the characters were a delight with a couple of exceptional highlights and it was a nice easy book to read. However, the more I think about it and compare it to my other five-star reads, there was just something slightly missing which I think may have been any sense of real twist or drama – yes there are emotional moments but nothing that fully had be gripped by the heart.

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