On a perfect August morning, Elle Bishop heads out for a swim in the pond below ‘The Paper Palace’ – her family’s holiday home in Cape Cod. As she dives beneath the water she relives the passionate encounter she had the night before, against the side of the house that knows all her darkest secrets, while her husband and mother chatted to their guests inside…
So begins a story that unfolds over twenty-four hours and fifty years, as Elle’s shocking betrayal leads her to a life-changing decision.
The Paper Palace is a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s an addictive read, but also has some very tough themes within its pages and parts I found difficult to read. But I absolutely raced through it, and finished it feeling both satisfied and like I’d been hit by a bus!
At the start of the book we join Elle, who has just had a night of passion with a man, Jonas, who she’s known for most of her life. But Jonas is not her husband and the father of her kids. That’s Peter – and so, threaded through her elation at having slept with Jonas, her guilt at her actions is also raging within her.
I have to say, at the start of the book I wasn’t sure how likeable Elle would be. But that soon changes as we go back in time to Elle’s childhood and we learn just how hard a time she’s had. There are some horrible incidences and people in her life that have no doubt shaped her behaviour today, and through it all: Jonas, who has always been there for her.
Every now and again we return to the present day – which is the day after the night before, when Elle battles her conflicting feelings. Emotions run high and we wonder if everything is going to come crashing down around her.
I both read this and listened to it on audiobook, and enjoyed both – though I have to say, the narrator’s accent for Peter, who is supposed to be British, was highly amusing (it sounded much more like South African – but then, I’m sure I couldn’t do an American accent convincingly so I can’t criticise!). This was an audiobook that kept my attention very well throughout, which isn’t always easy!
Overall I really enjoyed this novel. The subject matter won’t be for everyone but I found it a gripping and entertaining read.