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The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72 [Paperback]

Molly Peacock , Peacock
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 April 2012
Mary Delany was seventy-two years old when she noticed a petal drop from a geranium. In a flash of inspiration, she picked up her scissors and cut out a paper replica of the petal, inventing the art of collage. It was the summer of 1772, in England. During the next ten years she completed nearly a thousand cut-paper botanicals (which she called mosaicks) so accurate that botanists still refer to them. Poet-biographer Molly Peacock uses close-ups of these brilliant collages in The Paper Garden to track the extraordinary life of Delany, friend of Swift, Handel, Hogarth, and even Queen Charlotte and King George III.

How did this remarkable role model for late blooming manage it? After a disastrous teenage marriage to a drunken sixty-one-year-old squire, she took control of her own life, pursuing creative projects, spurning suitors and gaining friends. At forty-three, she married Jonathan Swift's friend Dr. Patrick Delany, and lived in Ireland in a true expression of midlife love. But after twenty-five years and a terrible lawsuit, her husband died. Sent into a netherland of mourning, Mrs Delany was rescued by her friend, the fabulously wealthy Duchess of Portland. The Duchess introduced Delany to the botanical adventurers of the day and a bonanza of exotic plants from Captain Cook's voyage, which became the inspiration for her art.

Peacock herself first saw Mrs Delany's work more than twenty years before she wrote The Paper Garden, but 'like a book you know is too old for you', she put the thought of the old woman away. She went on to marry and cherish the happiness of her own midlife, in a parallel to Mrs. Delany, and by chance rediscovered the mosaicks decades later. This encounter confronted the poet with her own aging and gave her-and her readers-a blueprint for late-life flexibility, creativity, and change.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Reprint edition (24 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608196976
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608196975
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 12.9 x 3.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 408,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Molly Peacock is a widely anthologized poet, biographer, memoirist,and transplanted New Yorker to Toronto, her adopted city. Her latest work of nonfiction is THE PAPER GARDEN: MRS. DELANY BEGINS HER LIFE'S WORK AT 72, a Canadian bestseller and an Economist Book of the Year, published in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Her most recent collection of poems is THE SECOND BLUSH (W.W. Norton). This fall Molly ventures into short fiction with ALPHABETIQUE: 36 CHARACTERISTIC FICTIONS magically illustrated by Kara Kosaka, published by McClelland & Stewart. As a New Yorker, she helped create Poetry in Motion on the subways and buses; in Toronto she founded THE BEST CANADIAN POETRY IN ENGLISH. Molly is married to James Joyce scholar Michael Groden.

Product Description

Review

'Peacock has structured the whole book as metaphor, a collage about collage, and a meditation on sexuality, friendship and creativity. It both analyses and exemplifies that obsessional, mesmerised state induced in artists and crafts people through concentration and close observation. The volume itself is a craft object, sumptuously presented and designed ... The Paper Garden will be everyone's favourite Christmas present this year' (Victoria Glendinning, Globe and Mail)

'In this charming biography of her heroine, Peacock finds parallels between her own life and Mrs. Delany's that bring this text, and this person to life' (Nancy Milford, author of Zelda)

'Whatever the subject, rich music follows the tap of Molly Peacock's baton' (Washington Post) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

An inspirational tour de force that proves it's never too late to be who you might have been --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The paper garden 1 July 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A biography with a difference; Molly Peacock inserts autobiographical references of her own, with which I was uncomfortable, and she also makes comparisons between the cut-paper mosaicks and Mary Delany's emotional state at the time she created them, equating thorns with personal pain, and so on. This conceit works rather better, as it is easier to imagine MD choosing to cut out the petals, stem and leaves of a rose, for example, when she was longing to stick something sharp into another's side!

Mary Delany is one of my favourite historical characters, her life almost spanning the 18th century, and managing in that time to meet many of the major players at Court and in artistic circles. She was a voluminous correspondent, and one who only found her major artistic stride after her second widowhood, and after the loss of her sister to whom she wrote very regularly. I thoroughly enjoyed this biography but think it would be improved without the personal references.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Paper garden 9 Sep 2011
By Gwen
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was disappointed with this book. I found the merging and comparison of the author's experience with that of Mrs Delany awkward and contrived. However it does have some beautiful illustrations.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars biography of Mrs Delaney 10 Aug 2011
By DGM
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A beautifully produced book - elegant typefaces, quality paper, beautiful cover design - makes you realise that despite all the ipads and kindles, books will always have a place in our lives. Well written too, slightly tongue-in-cheek transatlantic style, but all the more readable for that. Such a pity it was printed in China, oh well, can't have everything I suppose. DM
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sing hey for romanticism! 3 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover
I whizzed through this book in under a week. Physically the book is a thing of beauty - heavy paper, strong typeface, wide margins and high quality illustrations. Content-wise its also a thing of beauty. Mrs Delany's story is told with an unapologetic curtsey towards romance. The author weaves her own personal memoir through that of her subject, and while some may find this intrusive, personally I found it fresh and interesting, a way of inserting an occasional pause for breath and reflection in the story being told. The central conceit is that the major incidents in Mrs Delany's life had an impact, knowing or unknowing, on her famous paper collages. Sometimes the link is obvious, sometimes more tenuous, but those with a romantic turn of mind can see the link clearly. Other reviewers have pointed out that sometimes these links are somewhat overblown or shoe-horned in, and maybe sometimes they are. But everyone's life is bettered by a little romanticism now and again, and this book provides it. From a 21st century viewpoint, the 18th century was an incredibly romantic age (more so than the 19th, when the Victorians just slobbered over everything to nauseating excess). The author provides a sharp, detailed view of 18th century daily life - how people dressed, how they travelled, how they related to their families, how they filled their hours - which provides an interesting background to the story of Mrs Delany and what she did.

Because Mrs. D began her "great work" very late in life, there is a tendency for books about her to run along the lines of "she was born in 17xx, did this, this, this and this and then when she was 74 started making paper mosaics". This book keeps the flower portraits firmly at the centre of the story and clearly in the reader's sights all the way through, which is refreshing and novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read 28 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in arts and crafts, and whose creativity is burgeoning in their later years!
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