Well-loved books stick through a lifetime, the words hot-glued onto the reader’s soul. The book Middlemarch by George Eliot had this effect on the author Rebecca Mead. She delves deeply into Eliot’s upbringing and how it influenced the novel’s interpretation of love, marriage, hope and finding meaning in life. She elegantly weaves comparisons between Eliot’s life and the characters of the novel. Although written in the nineteenth century, Mead argues Middlemarch in many ways incorporates modern themes, especially, “a young woman’s desire for a substantial, rewarding, meaningful life.”
Mead read Middlemarch several times over the course of decades each time gleaning new insights. As she says, “My Middlemarch is not the same as anyone else’s Middlemarch; it is not even the same my Middlemarch of twenty-five years ago...we each have our own internal version of the book, with lines remembered and resonances felt.” No explanation is necessary. Anyone who had ever deeply loved a novel has felt exactly the same way.
Quibbles and Bits
The title and the publisher’s blurbs can easily lead the prospective reader to suppose that Mead intended to draw deep parallels between her life and the novel, describing how lessons in the pages reflected changes in her own condition. This isn’t the case. This is an articulate, intelligently written dissection of a novel, but very little of Mead’s own life is glimpsed.
My Life in Middlemarch is extremely well-researched and written, but I don’t believe it would hold much interest to the casual reader of fiction. However, it would make an excellent companion piece to anyone currently reading Middlemarch, or interested in literary analysis, or any fan of nineteenth century literature in general.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.