The Paper Palace

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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

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 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021

Critics Review

  • A beautifully constructed, wonderfully intelligent and beguiling novel, rich with a multitude of pleasures

    William Boyd
  • It’s glorious and gorgeous. I was absolutely immersed and gripped and I’m devastated to have finished it

    Marian Keyes
  • It’s been ages since I was so absorbed in a contemporary novel. I loved it

    Nick Hornby
  • 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

    Claire Fuller, author of Unsettled Ground
  • Tightly woven and immediate, The Paper Palace takes us deep into a vivid summer landscape, a family, and a private, longstanding love story, and holds us there from start to finish

    Meg Wolitzer, New York Times bestselling author of The Wife and The Female Persuasion
  • I can’t think of a more brilliant debut than The Paper Palace. Enticing, assured and multi-layered, it introduces a major new voice in American fiction . . . A marvel

    Cressida Connolly

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