Followers of the Richard and Judy Book Club will know that a common feature of the novels we personally select is a strong sense of place. Vivid, detailed descriptions of the setting for a story can add hugely to one’s enjoyment of it.
That’s certainly the case with The Paper Palace. Miranda Cowley Heller’s pages draw us deep into the backwoods of Cape Cod, for many decades the summer playground of America’s east coast elite. JFK would have enjoyed and recognised this story, and not just for its setting: sex and infidelity are at its core.
We begin on a perfect August dawn. Elle Bishop is up before anyone else, heading for an early-morning swim in the beautiful lake close to the summer home, The Paper Palace, that her family have stayed at for generations. But this trip is already very, very different.
As Elle dips beneath the surface she is hit by a double shock – the coldness of the water, and the memory of what happened last night. A passionate encounter up against the wall of The Paper Palace, her husband and mother oblivious inside the house as they laugh and chat with dinner guests.
The lines of this story are quickly laid out for us. Elle was making love to her childhood love, Jonas, a house guest who after all these years has revealed his unquenched desire for her – and she has rediscovered hers for him.
What should she do? She adores her husband, Peter, but now Elle is faced with a life-changing decision – and that means re-visiting long-buried secrets from her past.
A gripping read and as Richard says, in a wonderful setting. Enjoy. We did.
Gripping, full of intrigue, and utterly absorbing from the first page.