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

Molly Peacock

Excerpts from reviews of The Paper Garden in the U.K. and Ireland - and other news

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London Evening Standard (November 17, 2011) names The Paper Garden as one of the Best Books of Year for 2011:
"The book I coveted most this year was the exquisite The Paper Garden: Mrs Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock, who manages to imbue 18th-century decoupage flowers with surprisingly radical significance." (Hermione Eyre)
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The Economist (December 10, 2011) names The Paper Garden as one of the Books of the Year for 2011:
"Less a biography, more an extended prose poem."
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The Irish Times includes The Paper Garden as one of the Books of the Year:
"captivating . . . botanical works of such splendour they charm Peacock's imagination" (Eileen Battersby)
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The Sunday Telegraph's "Seven" magazine (July 22, 2012) names The Paper Garden as one of the Books to Travel With This Summer:
"delightful and beatifully illustrated . . . a very engaging, lightly written portrait of an extraordinary 18th-century woman" (Diana Athill)
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from review in The Bookseller, April 8, 2011 (Editor's Pick):
Unusual, and delightful.

from review by Diana Athill in The Times' "Saturday Review" magazine, July 9, 2011:
[Peacock's] account of the life, which is expanded into a meditation on friendship and creativity, is so fresh, sensitive and convincing that a very rare wobble should be overlooked. . . . Being capable of expanding in old age rather than dwindling is largely a matter of luck, but still it is encouraging to be shown in this lovely book (lovely in its format, by the way, as well as in its writing) such a pleasing example of it.

review in The Economist, June 9, 2011:
This book aims to be less biography, more an extended prose poem. Like flowers built of a millefeuille of paper, Ms Peacock builds a life out of layers of metaphor. The result is convoluted, but as strangely moving as the "muddled blooms" of Mrs Delany's art.
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from review by Claire Black in The Scotsman (Scotland on Sunday), July 17, 2011:
Peacock's book, though, is more than a biography, more than the story of Delany's life no matter how extraordinary that is; rather, it's a poetic meditation on one woman's experiences that offers up inspiration for others. . . . It is moving and thought-provoking, demanding and entertaining. . . . Her book is every bit as intricate and rewarding as Delany's artistic creations. . . . Peacock has created more than a flattering portrait, her book reveals a textured and complex understanding of what it really is to live a full life.
      "The mosaicks unveil the vision of a person who was not remotely interested in simplification, or the lessening of experience in order to smooth out the contrariness of its elements," Peacock writes. One might say just that about her book, and it's all the better for it.

review by Kasia Boddy in The Telegraph, July 18, 2011:
This is as much the story of Peacock's thrilled investigation of Delany and her "late-life art" as it is the story of Delany herself. She lovingly describes her encounters with comely curators in the British Museum and her excitement on meeting Ruth Hayden, a direct descendant of Delany's sister. . . . She is unembarrassed by a crush that spills over into imaginative identification.
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      also reviewed in The Sunday Telegraph by Philippa Stockley, July 19, 2011
      read an excerpt from The Paper Garden

review by Mary Keen in Gardens Illustrated, August 2011:
a new and fascinating book about [Mrs. Delany's] life . . . The writer's technique is as new a way of painting a life as Mrs Delany's ground breaking flower portraits. . . . This is 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. . . . It is a wonderful read about what really matters.
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from review in Image Magazine (Ireland), August 1, 2011:
Poet Molly Peacock has created an amazing title celebrating the life of a little-known lady called Mary Delany. . . . I know what you're thinking - paper cuttings of flowers hardly shout excitement. But it's Delany's life story that is so brilliant. . . . Peacock's tribute is beautifully designed and makes for a gorgeous addition to any collection.

review by David Evans in the Financial Times, August 6, 2011:
Elegantly written and handsomely illustrated, this unusual book is more or less an unmitigated delight. . . . Her descriptions of the artist at work are as vividly realised as those cut-paper blooms.
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review by Edward James in HNR (Historical Novels Review), August 2011:
American poet, Molly Peacock, is surely the only person who could have made this into a fascinating book. . . . The greatest beauty of the book is the pictures. . . . Peacock uses a different picture to illustrate each chapter, and her discussion of each adds greatly to our understanding. . . . In every sense a beautiful book.
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from review by Elizabeth Eger in TLS, November 4, 2011:
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 juxtaposition.

review on the "AustenOnly" Website, June 17, 2011:
This has recently become one of my very favourite books. . . . It is simply one of the most well written and engaging books on Mrs Delany I have ever read. But it is so much more than that. . . . In less talented hands this could have been a disjointed, difficult book to read. But we travel effortlessly between detailed appreciations of the paper mosaiks, on to reminisces of Molly's life, family and her journeyings (both mental and physical); then to the minutiae of life in 18th-century England and Ireland on to philosophical musings on the nature of modern life and contentment. It is an entirely satisfying and stimulating experience. The book is also beautifully produced, reproducing 35 of Mrs Delany's marvelous mosaiks in full colour.
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reviewed by Rosemary Hill in the London Evening Standard, July 14, 2011

reviewed by Michael Kerrigan in The Scotsman, July 23, 2011

notice by Liz Roberts Moffat on her "Book Events" Website, March 1, 2012:
Purely as an object, this is a beautifully-produced book, . . . with many pretty touches such as the typeface, expensive paper, lovely colour illustrations. A five star recommendation.
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The Paper Garden was excerpted in the Sunday Telegraph's "Stella" magazine, July 3, 2011, and in The Lady, July 26, 2011.

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Sanguinaria Canadensis collage Mary Delany The Paper Garden