At first look, The Paper Garden was exactly my kind of book. I love memoirs, my mother is an artist, and I have spent most of my post-graduate education learning about plants. However when I picked up the book, something just didn't click with me as a reader. One problem was that some of the "scientific" statements bothered me, for example she says that "All flowers have both ovaries and semen-(a.k.a pollen-) forming organs.", which is completely incorrect, there are many flowers which are imperfect, meaning that that they contain only female or male reproductive organs, not both. This sort of statement is not something whose inaccuracy I wouldn't have recognized if I didn't have at least a rudimentary understanding of botany, but considering Peacock has written a non-fiction book where botany plays an important role I was disappointed to find incorrect science within it. I was reading an advanced copy of the book so perhaps it was changed in the final version, but finding even one false statement made me doubt the accuracy of the entire work in a way that I didn't enjoy.
At times I found the story-telling style simply too dramatic for me, for example at one point Peacock writes of Delany riding a horse on the beach that "the cantering four-legged beauty between her legs a vigorous inversion of the ineffective beast of a man at home." a line which feels more appropriate for a romance novel than a biography. In fact, The Paper Garden isn't a biography in the traditional sense of the word, and while at times this makes it wonderful and unique, there were also many times when as a scientifically-minded individual I was overwhelmed by Peacock's interpretations and wanted to shout, tell me the facts. Sometimes, the flowery language was simply too much (no pun intended).
It took me a lot longer than I expected to read The Paper Garden, and a lot of that had to do with the difficulty I had getting immersed in the story. The premise itself is really fascinating, and I was definitely intrigued to learn more about this fantastic woman who was a pioneer is so many ways, but Peacock's language and personally interpretations often lost me. Although there are many positive reviews of the book out there, ultimately the pace of the book was simply too slow for me. Overall, there was a lot that excited and enticed me into picking up The Paper Garden, but unfortunately there wasn't a lot that kept me reading.
Release Date: October 12th, 2010
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This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.