The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life's Work At 72

Molly Peacock

The Paper Garden Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock

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The Economist
The Globe and Mail
The Irish Times
The Kansas City Star
London Evening Standard
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Sunday Telegraph


"Delany's story abounds with energy as Peacock brings her alive . . . Like her glorious multilayered collages, Delany is so vivid a character she almost jumps from the page." (Andrea Wulf, New York Times Book Review)

"A beautifully designed, eye-catching book . . . A celebration of second chances and the possibility - so attractive to those of a certain age - of an unexpected blossoming late in life." (Michael Dirda, Washington Post)

"We call for the Oscar-worthy costume-drama version." (Whole Living)

"Esteemed poet Peacock chronicles the remarkable, many-chaptered life of English artist Mary Granville Pendarves Delany (1700-88) and marvels over her 'flower mosaiks,' entwining aspects of her own life with Delany's to evocative effect.” (Booklist, "Top 10 Arts Books: 2011")

"It's an incredible artistic achievement." (Donna Seaman)

"Peacock does with words what Delany did with scissors and paper, consummately constructing an indelible portrait of a late-blooming artist, an exalted inquiry into creativity, and a resounding celebration of the 'power of amazement'." (Booklist [starred review])

"Affecting and engaging, Peacock's own candor combines with Delan'’s wit and honesty to prove that it is never too late to make a life for oneself and to be sustained by art. VERDICT: This marvelous 'mosaick' makes an indelible impression." (Library Journal [starred review])

"A beautifully produced book . . . There are many moments in The Paper Garden when it's clear that a poet is writing . . . Poems require original and sensory description under formal constraints, and Peacock gives us such as she writes about Delany's friendships, her elaborate handmade gowns, the larger-scale historical events that shaped the artist's life, and the care she lavished on the mosaicks." (Art in America)

"[The Paper Garden] is organized by flower - forget-me-not, thistle, poppy, etc., each a metaphor for a different phase in Delany's life. In this way, the book itself is a complicated, delicate and beautiful collage." (Los Angeles Times)

"Peacock writes Delany's life story with inspiring enthusiasm . . . But there is much more to The Paper Garden. Author Peacock blends various flowers along with those displayed in this remarkable work to phases in Delany's life . . . I would recommend this moving story to all readers because it is so spirited." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

"Physically beautiful and emotionally transporting. . . . Peacock makes her own mosaic by weaving pieces of her life into Delany's story, and ties it all together with lovely meditations on art, love, history and botany. The result is a sumptuous bounty of gorgeous words, striking mosaics and a spirit of joy - the joy of finding one's true calling." (Chicago Tribune)

"Peacock recounts with verve and empathy each chapter in Mary Delany's life, which was as intricate as one of her flowers and would on its own make for a scintillating biography. But the poet - who reveres Delany as a role model exemplifying a late-in-life artistic flowering - digs much deeper . . . It feels as though Peacock is channeling Delany's spirit in this vital, exquisitely crafted portrait, the piquant fruit of an artistic cross-pollination . . . Part biography, part memoir and a veritable prose poem, Peacock's luscious, witty and profound homage to Mary Delany assures us that a life, no matter how daunting, can be a seedbed for creativity and enlightenment when it is lived with curiosity, attentiveness, principles and generosity of spirit." (Kansas City Star)

"A beautiful biography of a late-flowering life . . . Poet Molly Peacock lovingly channels her kindred spirit, Mary Delany, in this charming biography of the 18th-century botanical artist . . . Peacock seems to write in the same spirit that she sees in Mary Delany, a spirit that can glory in the details, and the resulting account is all the more heartfelt and moving for it.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

"Possessed of a discerning eye, Peacock . . . lavishes attention on Mary's life, both social and artistic, drenching us in vivid, sensory language as if we were adrift in champagne. The Paper Garden is perfect for the art lover, and for the reader who revels in rich digressive layers that imitate the contours of our lives." (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

"I loved what this book had to say about art and passion and lives well spent." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

"An intriguing, evocative aesthetic experience. A lyrical, meditative rumination on art and the blossoming beauty of self that can be the gift of age and love." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Peacock's tribute is beautifully designed and makes for a gorgeous addition to any collection." (Image)

"This lovely bio by a noted poet speaks to the creative impulse in all of us." (Good Housekeeping)

"Peacock fell in love with Delany during a chance visit to a museum, and she makes us fall for her, too, in this terrifically romantic portrait of the artist as a tenacious and patient dreamer." (Whole Living)

"[A] remarkable biography." (More)

"The ultimate late bloomer comes to lush life." (


"A meditation on sexuality, friendship and creativity . . . The volume itself is a craft object, sumptuously presented and beautifully designed." (Victoria Glendinning, Globe and Mail)

"To scrupulous research [Molly Peacock] brings poetic sensibility and structures her narrative in a way that echoes the flowers themselves. The result is as innovative a piece of literary craftsmanship as her subject’s was artistic. . . . as I closed this beautifully designed book with its exquisite reproductions and sensuous paper, one word came to mind and has remained with me ever since: amazing." (Katharine Lochnan, Literary Review of Canada)

"Like collage itself, The Paper Garden is carefully layered - part fascinating biography . . . part gripping memoir . . . accompanied by dozens of vivid photo reproductions. Beautifully written and rendered." (Maclean’s)

"A winsomely unorthodox ode to Delany that is part biography, part miniature coffee-table book and part memoir . . . Peacock skillfully and tangibly evokes Delany's era . . . The point Peacock makes most convincingly is that Delany's rarefied oeuvre, and her late but metaphorically apt 'blooming,' was the perfect, logical product of the life that preceded it." (Toronto Star)

"In the continuing debate about the future of print publications, [the publishers] have triumphed. An electronic version of The Paper Garden would be a mere shadow, only hinting at the pleasure readers will get from this miniature art book. The silken pages, the writing, the careful stitching, the wonderful reproductions, the subtle perfume of new ink, the size (it tucks perfectly in the corner of a bag) - these all combine to a whole that is a pleasure to hold and to read." (The Novascotian)

"A fascinating, uplifting and beautiful book." (Montreal Gazette)

"Captivating . . . The Paper Garden is a lovely book, clever, artfully contrived, wonderfully illustrated and full of surprises . . . fascinating and original. It is a book to be treasured." (London Free Press)

"[A] rich and poetic hybrid biography . . . Teeming with life - and gorgeous colour illustrations." (Winnipeg Free Press)

"Wonderful and markedly unusual . . . A unique book, one even more remarkable than Mrs. Delany herself." (Quill & Quire)


"[Peacock's] account of [Delany's] life, which is expanded into a meditation on friendship and creativity, is so fresh, sensitive and convincing . . . lovely." (Diana Athill, The Times)

"The book I coveted most this year was the exquisite The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock, who manages to imbue 18th-century decoupage flowers with surprisingly radical significance." (London Evening Standard, "Best Books of the Year")

"Like flowers built of a millefeuille of paper, Ms. Peacock builds a life out of layers of metaphor. The result is . . . as strangely moving as the 'muddled blooms' of Mrs Delany's art." (Economist)

"Written with an eye for a button or a piece of lace, in a narrative joie de vivre, they are emotional and social outpourings with breezy opinions and the details of living that allow one to drink in the brewed quotidian existence of the eighteenth century." (Daily Telegraph)

"Vivid . . . The Paper Garden is, like its subject, difficult to classify. Molly Peacock's writing has many different registers - part essay, fan letter, biography and autobiography. Peacock borrows the techniques of her subject, in the sense that her form of life writing relies on an instinctive process of layering, arrangement and juxtaposing." (Times Literary Supplement)

"Elegantly written and handsomely illustrated . . . An unmitigated delight." (Financial Times)

"A poetic meditation on one woman's experiences that offers up inspiration for others . . . moving and thought-provoking, demanding and entertaining." (Scotland on Sunday)

‘Fascinating . . . A literary treat and a visual delight, but it is also a great book with much to say about life and how to live it . . . a wonderful read about what really matters." (Gardens Illustrated)


"Peacock's prose . . . is as pungent and precise as her subject's flowers. . . . The Paper Garden is a blessed relief from the humdrum, a bright feather in a peacock's tail." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"The Paper Garden is a profound and beautiful examination of the nature of creativity and art." (Channel: North Shore's Monthly Magazine)

"The Paper Garden is a total delight. From beginning to end, from gorgeous cover to gorgeous cover, it is a joy to read. . . . The Paper Garden is simply a beautiful book, in every way. A perfect gift to yourself, or others." ("BookieMonster" blog)


Sanguinaria Canadensis collage Mary Delany The Paper Garden