I have went through the ending of this novel too many times. I am still trying to formulate an opinion and a review. This book is provocative and it is a new favourite of mine. However, 50-year-old Elle Bishop was no favourite of mine.
Meeting Elle Bishop -the heroine and the narrator of The Paper Palace– was not safe and normal. It was a meeting within the waves, following an affair. Here goes one of the worst first impressions.
“I could look at him and nothing else for eternity and be happy. I could listen to him, my eyes closed, feel his breath and his words wash over me, time and time and time again. It is all I want.”
Miranda Cowley Heller created a painful journey-like ambiguous novel. Heller crafted Bishop’s background story from scratch, allowing the reader to become a witness to decades of history. She uses the pond and the paper palace as significant vivid locations that tether Bishop, both forces acted as the compass for Bishop and her surrounding family.
“The sun has set, leaving behind a fiery orange sky. Pylons that once held up the long-gone piers stalk out into the river in rows of two, black against the burning sky.
“It’s painfully beautiful,” I say.
“Just so we are clear,” he says, “I will never love anyone the way I love you.”
The novel focuses mainly on marriage and a specific kind of fraility that had festered within Bishop’s marriage because of her past. Cowley Heller did not only focus on Elle and Peter’s marriage. She traces Bishop’s family tree choosing to exploit her grand mother’s marriages, her mother’s (Wallace’s marriage to her father and step-father), her father (two marriages). And as those relationships unfold, so does Bishop’s dilemma.
“In my day, we simply divorced and remarried,” Wallace quips. “So much simpler. Refreshing, even. Like buying a new suit of clothes.”
The presence of love, friendship and sisterhood distinguished this novel. It was a complete work. Despite the connection I felt while reading the novel, I could not make myself love Elle Bishop. There was this gap or barrier pushing me away from forming a connection with her. Additionally, I could not formulate a reason why Peter and Jonas fell in love with Elle. Throughout the novel, one finds that Elle focuses on every single character rather than her own self and it became hard to gauge how other characters regarded her.
Elle Bishop had her own affair with the seasons. The seasons were of an integral thematic presence throughout the novel documenting her inner turmoils and romantic interests. Additionally, the ending of this book is something else.
Elle Bishop found herself at crossroads, with no place to escape but the paper palace.
My rating: 4.5 stars.