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

Molly Peacock

Excerpts from reviews of The Paper Garden in the United States - and other news

to other pages of Reviews: main Reviews page - Canada - UK and Ireland - Australia and New Zealand - to Paper Garden home page

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (November 30, 2011) names The Paper Garden as one of the Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2011.

The Paper Garden is included in Booklist's 2011 Editor's Choice of the best books of the year (December 20, 2011).

Booklist (November 11, 2011) names The Paper Garden as one of the Top 10 Arts Books of 2011:
"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." (Donna Seaman)

The Kansas City Star (December 1, 2011) names The Paper Garden as one of the Top 100 Books of 2011:
"In this unique and gorgeously produced illustrated book, poet Peacock entwines chapters from her own life with the dramatic story of Englishwoman Mary Granville Pendarves Delany (1700-1788), a versatile artist who late in life created intricate and sensual paper 'flower mosaiks,' in which Peacock reads a profound spectrum of feelings."

The New Orleans Times-Picayune (December 29, 2011) includes The Paper Garden in "What The Writers Read in 2011":
"a work of art from cover to cover" (Ann McCutchan)

The Sandusky Register (December 6, 2011) includes The Paper Garden in "Writers, Readers Pick Their Favorite 2011 Books" (picked by Julie Brooks)

review by Andrea Wulf in the New York Times Book Review, May 15, 2011:
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.
      read the full review

review by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post, May 26, 2011:
"The Paper Garden" is a beautifully designed, eye-catching book - there's a picture of an opium poppy on the cover - but it's also as intricately made as Mary Delany's paper flowers. . . . Peacock's book is a celebration of second chances and the possibility - so attractive to those of a certain age - of an unexpected blossoming late in life. . . . Here, then, is not only an introduction to a unique artist, but also a whole bouquet of thoughts and observations about the flow of life.
      read the full review

review by Susan Salter Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2011:
This book layers Delany's life and work over Peacock's. It 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.
      read the full review

review by Donna Seaman in Booklist, April 2011:
If ever a subject and a biographer shared a sensibility, it is the bond between esteemed poet Peacock and the artist Mary Granville Pendarves Delany. . . . In this lapidary work of creative immersion, 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."
      read the full review

review by Barbara A. Genco in Library Journal, April 15, 2011 (starred review):
Affecting and engaging, Peacock's own candor combines with Delany'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. This could catch on with female book groups of a certain age and Jane Austen lovers.
      read the full review

review by Tess Taylor in Barnes and Noble Review, April 18, 2011:
In this lush, humane book, noted poet Molly Peacock shows a terrific hand for crafting prose as she delves into the life of Mary Delany . . . Because a seventy-two year old woman wielding scissors could automatically seem grandmotherish, or "derriere-garde" as Peacock ruefully admits, Peacock bravely uses her exploration of Delany to sidestep or upend the conventional place of the feminine, the craftsy, the domestic. . . . To call this book small or quiet would be somehow to belittle what Peacock has so beautifully magnified and made resonant - the triumph of art as a human pursuit, and the curious webs from which both art and craft spring. This book is not flashy, but it is one of the more beautifully constructed and deeply engrossing books I have read in some time. It is a keen reminder of what the fruits of vivid watching - and passionate living - can offer.
      read the full review

review by Susan Grimm in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 27, 2011:
fascinating and beautifully made biography . . . Possessed of a discerning eye, Peacock is a Canadian poet with six books of verse. Here, she 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.
      read the full review

review by Regis Schilken on and in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 28, 2011:
Peacock writes Delany's life story with inspiring enthusiasm. . . . The book is filled with metaphorical references to blooming flowers which often are so clevery written into the text they might go unnoticed.
      I would recommend this moving story to all readers because it is so spirited. Delany was a woman of much artistic talent, spirit, and dogged courage throughout her life diligently working to lift her family's societal position. Would that we all could begin a new life at age 72.
      read the full review

review by Julia Keller in the Chicago Tribune, April 29, 2011:
What better way to celebrate [spring's] coming than with a book that is physically beautiful and emotionally transporting? Reading Molly Peacock's new biography "The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72" (Bloomsbury) is the perfect way to put a spring in your step - in both senses of the phrase. . . . Peacock, an accomplished poet, uses Delany's life as a window onto creativity itself, especially creativity that bursts into bloom late in life. 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.
      read the full review

review by Ann Klefstad in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, May 11, 2011:
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.
      read the full review

review by Marjorie Kehe in the Christian Science Monitor, June 3, 2011:
Toward the end of her life Delany wrote, "Happiness may seemingly retire, sometimes under the disguise of losses, trials, or worldly disappointments, which in the train of life may happen, and indeed in some degree must, but you are sure of finding her again with added luster." It's that luster that makes "The Paper Garden" such a pleasure.
      read the full review

review by Karen Sandstrom in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 12, 2011:
What made me swoon was the wisdom Ms. Peacock brought to analysis and interpretation of Delany's life and art. . . . In the end, "The Paper Garden" connected me to the author even more than the subject. That probably qualifies as some sort of literary sin, but I don't care. I loved what this book had to say about art and passion and lives well spent.
      read the full review

review by LB Thompson in Art in America, June 23, 2011:
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. . . . "Direct examination leads to indirect epiphany. You can overcome yourself," Peacock assures us in her conclusion, and indeed there is much wonder and inspiration in Delany's life and work.
      read the full review

from a review by Kate Light in the Weekly Standard, May 14, 2012:
Happily, poet Molly Peacock possesses formidable biographcal skills, for they are essential to the task of taking on her subject, the life and art of Mary Granville Pendarvis Delany. But Peacock also brings a poet's sensibility to The Paper Garden, which enhances its vivid appeal. . . . Peacock has created the biographical equivalent of collage. . . .
    That Peacock manages to balance history biography, art, and botany - creating windows into the lives of at least four 18th-century figures as well as countless English and Irish countrysides, countrymen, gentlewomen, and not so gentle men - and does so with elegance and insight, while keepng her audience engaged in such a personal way that they may at times find the book holding up a mirror to their own inner lives, is a feat worthy of the miraculous Mrs. D. (as she is fondly referred to) herself. . . .
    Peacock imbues The Paper Garden with a love of technique, of those things worth striving for and studying. . . .
    Anyone who has ever hit a lull, or a low, or faced a cultural obstacle can ride the wave of this saga. It is a story showing that profound recovery can follow profound loss, that it can take a lifetime to find one's art, that a late bloom is possible and attainable, and that at any time in history there can be, and have been, women and artists, or both, defying all manner of pressures and norms, and leaping.

review by Lucy Sussex on the "Ambling Along the Aqueduct" Website (Aqueduct Press in Seattle, Washington), December 28, 2010:
     What does a modern Canadian poet have in common with the C18th English minor aristocrat who invented collage? In this delightful book, plenty. [section headed "Best Feisty Female (C18th Division)"]
          read the full post

featured in "Books: Spring’s Scandalous Women" on, April 7, 2011
      and the Paper Garden is on display in a Vogue feature, "Downsizing Your Accessories For Spring," April 6, 2011 (move to the 7th image)

review by Donna Seaman in the Kansas City Star, April 30, 2011 (reprinted on the "ArtKabinett" Website):
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.
      read the full review

from review by Carlene Bauer in Whole Living, April 2011:
Peacock fell in love with Delany during 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. . . . We call for the Oscar-worthy costume-drama version starring Rebecca Hall

from review by Carmela Ciuraru in More, April 2011:
In this remarkable biography, . . . Peacock intersperses her own history wth Mrs. Delany's, discerning links between them and bringing to light the artist's rare achievement: "a memoir in paper flowers, an autobiography in botany."

interview with Donna Seaman of Booklist in Trilling Magazine (interview by Naomi Huffman):
It's an incredible artistic achievement.
      read the full interview

The Christian Science Monitor named The Paper Garden as one of the "10 Best Books for Mother's Day" in May 2011

review by Gretchen Echols for Santoro's Books (Seattle, WA), May 2011:
Molly Peacock has created a wonderful book to inspire us all in our creative endeavors and our daily lives as she encourages us to engage in the world around us.
      read the full review

review in Good Housekeeping, May 2011:
This lovely bio by a noted poet speaks to creative impulse in all of us.
      read the full review

from Lisa Moore's comments about The Paper Garden on her "Sister Arts" Website, June 8, 2011:
Peacock's approach is to use Delany's life and work as an opportunity to muse on her own second marriage and work as a mature artist. . . . Both life narratives, Delany's and Peacock's, are absorbing reads. Peacock's writing is often thrilling.
      read the full post (scroll down to June 8, 2011)

review by Brittany Buczynski in the Englewood Review of Books, July 1, 2011:
The real triumph of The Paper Garden comes in Molly Peacock's passion for explaining Mary as both a woman and an artist. . . . Peacock acknowledges early on the affinity she feels for Mary's situation, from her turbulent first marriage to her artistic highs and lows. The parallels between the two female artists are striking not so much in detail but in degree. The connection is personal and palpable, and it gives The Paper Garden an unexpected (but not unintended) sense of intimacy. . . . In The Paper Garden, the author's preservation of Mrs. Delany's legacy is as much an expression of her own gratitude as it is a testimony to the continuation of creativity throughout time.
      read the full review

notice on "In So Many Words" Website, July 16, 2011:
This the sort of book that no Kindle or Nook can ever hold a candle to. Nothing mechanical can ever replace the look and feel, the luxury of something this beautiful. Such care was taken with the design that even the size of the book is perfection.
      read the full notice

review on "Curled Up With a Good Book" Website, July 2011:
When a poet writes a book about an artist, the result is a collectible treasure. That’s what we have here with The Paper Garden, subtitled "An Artist Begins Her Life Work at 72." Not only does the theme immediately inspire, but it will keep on producing creative ideas in anyone who reads it, at whatever age.
     read the full review

comments by Nancy Pinard on her "Writing Historical Fiction" Website, August 18, 2011:
I have just uncovered that greatest of all delights, a book that runs so close to my vein that I look forward to going to bed at night so I can dip into it. . . . The Paper Garden defies category, for while it presents a biographical portrait of the 18th century paper-cut artist Mary Granville Pendarves Delany (1700-1788), it also contains memoir-like passages of the author's journey of discovery and her reasons for attraction to the amazing flower collages which are reproduced (gorgeously, I might add)
     read the full post

review by Abigail Guay in GIA Reader (Grantmakers in the Arts), Summer 2011

remarks in Mississippi Business Journal, September 18, 2011:
"Peacock's absorbing biography acknowledges the creative potential in all of us, and that it's never too late to tap into it," [bookseller Laura] Weeks said.
     read the full article

comments by Katy Gilmore on her "Her Sprits Rose" Website, September 26, 2011:
The book is fat and full - a plucky Jane Austen heroine, a little "Wolf Hall" scene setting, and thoroughly modern language and approach - total fall comfort!
     read the full post
     read a later post about The Paper Garden and visiting the British Museum

comments by Sr. Hildegard on the "Contemplative Horizons" Website, November 12, 2011:
Her story appeals to the artist in me. Her pursuit of beauty and art throughout her life, her ingenuity and application and skill in her seventh decade sets her up as quite a heroine. Even more encouraging is that a lifetime of fine work in the needle arts seems to have prepared her for this tour de force. Twelve of her works appear in the book, some with additional detail images. It is worth looking for the book at your public library (where I found it by pure chance) just to examine and mediate on the blossoms.
     read the full post

remarks on "Potpourri of Books" Website, November 20, 2011:
Reading The Paper Garden is a bit like being taken on a journey into a fairyland.
     read the full post

remarks on the "Lovely Inconsequence" Website, February 6, 2012:
I have not found the words to describe it until now and even so, I am still not sure I can do it justice.
     read the full post

remarks by Chris Skaugset in the Longview (WA) Daily News, February 18, 2012:
Peacock, a poet, has created a wonderful book that is equal parts a memoir, biography, and broad look at the artistic life.
    read the full article

review by Nina Sankovitch on her "Read All Day" Website, June 7, 2012:
[Mary Delany] is not the only friend you'll be making in reading The Paper Garden. The author, Molly Peacock, who shares freely and beautifully, will become another treasured compatriot in the roll and sway of life. . . . Molly Peacock herself has a story of dormancy and flourishing, and frost and light, and she weaves her own story in beside the story of Delany seamlessly and beautifully. . . . The Paper Garden is like an enchanted garden, one in which I passed with slow tread, measured reading, and long spaces of thought and reflection. This is not a book to be read in a day, and in fact would make a lovely book for a year's worth of seasons, alternating between discussion and deliberation.
     read the full post

remarks by Diana Sudyka on her "Tiny Aviary" Website, June 27, 2012:
Peacock weaves an elegant tapestry of Delany's life, history, art, and the natural world. The resulting portrait is so vivid, that by the end of the book I felt as if Delaney was a long lost relative.
     read the full post

remarks on Lisa Allen Lambert's Website, "Flower Power in the Workplace," August 1, 2012

remarks on Kelly M. McDonald's "Two Teens in the Time of Austen" Website, August 15, 2012:
I ADORE the title of this book - the way the "sub-title" is inserted in parentheses on the edition I first spotted - which the eye sees as "Mrs Delany at 72" while recognizing it says "(Begins Her Life's Work)"
     read the full post

Kelly M. McDonald (Janeite Kelly) recommends The Paper Garden in a post on the "Georgian Gems, Regency Reads & Victorian Voices" Website about online versions of the six volumes of Mrs. Delany's Correspondence, August 30, 2012
     read the full post

review by Alison Swan, September 7, 2012:
Part memoir, part monograph, part biography, and part meditation on art-making and womanhood and aging and privilege, Peacock's words and the glossy reproductions of Mary Granville Pendarves Delany's 230-year-old painted-paper collages (She names them Flora Delanica) occupied my imagination for a week this summer. . . . Thank you, Molly Peacock, and thank you, Mary Delany.
     read the full post

reviews of The Paper Garden from the Spring 2012 TLC Blog Tour

General Information about Molly's Spring 2012 TLC Book Tour

Tour Stops - excerpts from the reviews:

Monday, April 30, 2012: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Wednesday, May 2, 2012: Bookfoolery and Babble

"A thoroughly-researched, passionate account of the life and work of Mary Delany, sharply detailed and poetic"

Monday, May 7, 2012: BookNAround

"Poet Molly Peacock has written a fascinating part biography of Mary Delany, part personal memoir, part art criticism, and part introduction to her obsession and role model. . . . Unconventionally constructed, the biography/history/botanical tale is completely engrossing, offering insight into not only the life and times but also the creative process of art in a time when women's lives were quite constrained."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012: The Whimsical Cottage

"A truly intriguing story that reads almost as a work of fiction based in Victorian times. I'm glad to have been introduced to Mary's works and life story."

Monday, May 14, 2012: Patricia’s Wisdom

"Both the biography and the memoirs are remarkable stories and how they weave renders them more endearing. . . . The beauty of this book from the words, the lives and livings shared, the art, history, science, and the blooms makes this volume a gallery showcase. This story was strikingly told by the poet and it is masterful. . . . A stunning book."

Saturday, May 19, 2012: A Life Sustained

"With her poet's skill, Peacock unravels the strands of Mary Delany's eighteenth century life to reveal how the twists and turns in the course of an extraordinary woman's life brought her to the invention of the art of mixed media collage."

Monday, May 21, 2012: Redlady’s Reading Room

Tuesday, May 22, 2012: Boarding in My Forties

"The woman who lived in this time of suppression and oppression of women makes for a fascinating subject and the author, Molly Peacock seems perfectly suited to bring her story to life. Ms. Peacock weaves her own story of hardship and awakening into the story of Mary Delany and the connection the author feels for the artist is one that I felt as I read her story.
     The book inspires and educates."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012: Book Club Classics!

"Peacock allows Mary Delany's artistic self-expression to inspire her own and The Paper Garden is truly original and genre-bending. . . . On one level, Peacock has written a truly liminal biography of Mary Delany, who invented the artform of collage at the age of seventy-two. Peacock includes thirty-five color illustrations of these collages, which are beautiful on their own, but become incandescent once Peacock draws connections from Delany's life that become bellweathers when surrounded by Peacock's prose. . . . what Peacock has accomplished in The Paper Garden - bringing Delany's art and life to vivid technicolor splendor as well as imparting the reader with a quiet wisdom from her own - is so exquisite that the occasional misstep is easily forgiven."

Thursday, May 24, 2012: Luxury Reading

"The Paper Garden is a sensory gift. . . . The near perfect, always sublime, rendition of flowers in mixed-media collage, provide the stage for each chapter of the book, and subsequently Mary and Molly's lives, proffering readers a luxurious view of the past, alongside the author's intimate and candid personal struggles, interwoven in a poetic, sensual manner that makes the story every bit as much a work of art as the subject."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012: Suko’s Notebook

"I languished over both the narrative and pictures of her exquisite work in this book. (I'm certain this book would be nothing short of spectacular in hard cover, a beautiful 'coffee table' book to linger with.) . . . Molly Peacock added bits of her own life into the book, so it forms a collage of thoughts, recollections, and ideas, centering around a bounty of biographical information about the artist."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012: Savvy Verse and Wit

"The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock is a quiet read chock full of details about Mary Delany's craft, her family, and her inspiration, but it also is full of advice, beautiful images of Delany's work, and tidbits about Peacock's motivations in her own poetry and life. Readers will dip into this book, think and wonder about Delany's craft, but also ruminate on what this journey she embarked upon taught her and ourselves. In almost a meditative way, the biography pulls the reader in and pushes them out to ensure the depth of the art and its meaning is thought about on a deeper level."
     interview with Molly Peacock

reviews of The Paper Garden from the Spring 2011 TLC Blog Tour

General Information about Molly's Spring 2011 TLC Book Tour

Tour Stops - excerpts from the reviews:

Monday, April 25, 2011: Unabridged Chick

"This marvelous book is a mix of biography and memoir, written in a beautiful, inviting style that feels as if the author is having coffee with you and sharing her latest research. Molly Peacock is a poet who conveys Mary Granville Delany's life in lovely, lyrical detail that is educational and enjoyable. . . . Finishing was a bittersweet experience! I already miss Mrs. Delany and Molly Peacock's beautiful observations on life, love, creative endeavors, hope, and finding one's true self."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011: Alison’s Book Marks

"This book inspired and amazed me . . . Artists draw inspiration from other artists and art forms, and never is this so clear as with The Paper Garden. . . . [Molly Peacock] made me look at a flower in a new way!"

Monday, May 2, 2011: Library of Clean Reads

"This is not a dry, documentary-style description of handiwork done in the 1700's but rather a very poignant retelling of a woman’s life. . . . If you appreciate flowers, art, craft, and/or handiwork of any sort, as well as history, then you will enjoy this book. At the very least, it is a wonderful testimony to the human spirit."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011: StyleSubstanceSoul

"Her amazing story is vividly captured by acclaimed poet Molly Peacock."
     interview with Molly Peacock

Thursday, May 5, 2011: Sophisticated Dorkiness

"The thing that struck me most immediately about this book was the truly graceful writing. Peacock uses a poet's eye for the perfect word and careful rhythms to set a tone for the book. . . . Peacock's descriptions of the flowers, including commentary on the sexuality of the images, are even more lovely. Matched with the images included with each chapter, it's almost as if the reader gets to experience each flower twice."

Monday, May 9, 2011: Life in Review

Tuesday, May 10, 2011: Broken Teepee

"the book is written in a delightfully easy to read style for a non-fiction book. Ms. Peacock weaves her words in a way to make Mary's every day come to dramatic life."

Thursday, May 12, 2011: Dolce Bellezza

"I am fascinated by this book on so many levels. Not only does it tell the true story of an artist, it gives us glimpses into the author's life as well; it is through their stories that we as readers can piece together meaning for our own lives. . . . The Paper Garden is an exquisite book, written by Molly Peacock with as much care and attention to detail as the artist Mary Dealny used in creating her mosaics. Both are done on paper. Both are an artistic expression of the lessons they learned through the lives they led. I was throoughly fascinated by each of them."

Monday, May 16, 2011: In the Next Room

Tuesday, May 17, 2011: Rundpinne

"Peacock crafts a beautiful biography of a woman who was married off at a young age to an older man, was widowed, remarried later and widowed a second time, and then found her own rhythm in life when many would be reducing their activities."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011: Joyfully Retired

"This actual, physical book is a treat. . . . The book is the type of treasure that I feel compelled to wash my hands before opening it. It will stay on my shelves. . . . Every word, sentence, and paragraph of The Paper Garden reads like a well-crafted prose or poem. . . . In The Paper Garden I met two new friends that I like equally. I want to spend more time with them."

Thursday, May 19, 2011: 2 Kids and Tired Books

Monday, May 23, 2011: Picky Girl

"I adored this book. . . . Peacock deftly extricates the moments in Mrs. Delany's life she wants to highlight, and in the same breath, she reflects on the creative process."

Notices on blogs:

JCB, February 7, 2011

Laura Carroll, Tip of the Hat to Great Childfree Women in History, March 10, 2011

to other pages of Reviews: main Reviews page - Canada - UK and Ireland - Australia and New Zealand - to Paper Garden home page

Sanguinaria Canadensis collage Mary Delany The Paper Garden