Skip to content

The Paper Palace: The New York Times Number One Bestseller

The Paper Palace: The New York Times Number One Bestseller by Miranda Cowley Heller

As seen:

  • Women's Prize for Fiction 2022

By Miranda Cowley Heller

avg rating

3 reviews

Find your local library.

Buy this book from or to support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no additional cost to you.

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.


10 Aug 2022


Loved this book! Story had me hooked, well developed characters, great writing and a real sense of place. Some huge issues around abuse in here but all dealt with in a way that made it readable, if disturbing.

24 Apr 2022


A riveting, powerfully written dramatic read!

There will be some disturbing areas in this read but it’s well worth you getting through the harrowing scenes. Once you hit around 1/4 of the way through I’m hoping you will be hooked like I was.

The Paper Palace is a camp where Ell Bishops family spent every Summer. This summer meets a change for Ell. Is she going to regret what she did?

This spans fifty years of lies, secrets .
Peter her husband, will she stay with him or her life long dream with her her childhood sweetheart?

There are so many things that happen around Ell and her innermost secrets that will make the toughest person feel.

The childhood references and memories that merge so well into the present is so well weaved in.

The narrator was excellent. Had enough pitch power and pace reading this to follow it so well.

A somewhat tragic tale. Very powerful.

The last chapter was such a heavy BOOM revelation.
And a warming one from Mother to daughter.

It’s lovely how it ends with the Pond in chapter 33 as Ell started with the Pond.

The reflections on Jonas were insightful to how she remembers him and yet is so tender with Peter.

This book is so wrong, so right. Addictive.

The Paper Palace that’s falling apart knows all Ell’s secrets.

Why don’t you read this and discover them too

16 Feb 2022


Read with Gloucester Book Club. Loved this book from start to finish. There are some difficult themes of sexual abuse which some may find triggering. Miranda Cowley Heller has worked for HBO as a script editor and it shows in the way she’s written this book. It’s her debut novel and centres around a multi-generational dysfunctional family, told over 24 hours and several decades. The tough choice that the protagonist has to make at the end leaves the reader wondering. Brilliantly told and so glad to hear it is now in production for a drama series by HBO! Can’t wait!

It was so good our book club produced a podcast which you can find here

From the noticeboard

View our other programmes