|Sold by:|| Random House LLC |
Price set by seller.
Your Memberships & Subscriptions
Follow the Author
My Life in Middlemarch: A Memoir Kindle Edition
|New from||Used from|
Paperback, International Edition
Explore your book, then jump right back to where you left off with Page Flip.
View high quality images that let you zoom in to take a closer look.
Enjoy features only possible in digital – start reading right away, carry your library with you, adjust the font, create shareable notes and highlights, and more.
Discover additional details about the events, people, and places in your book, with Wikipedia integration.
Rebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read George Eliot's Middlemarch, regarded by many as the greatest English novel. After gaining admission to Oxford, and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs, then marriage and family, Mead read and reread Middlemarch. The novel, which Virginia Woolf famously described as "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people," offered Mead something that modern life and literature did not.
In this wise and revealing work of biography, reporting, and memoir, Rebecca Mead leads us into the life that the book made for her, as well as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure that deftly mirrors that of the novel, My Life in Middlemarch takes the themes of Eliot's masterpiece--the complexity of love, the meaning of marriage, the foundations of morality, and the drama of aspiration and failure--and brings them into our world. Offering both a fascinating reading of Eliot's biography and an exploration of the way aspects of Mead's life uncannily echo that of Eliot herself, My Life in Middlemarch is for every ardent lover of literature who cares about why we read books, and how they read us.
New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
Featured on the Entertainment Weekly "Must" List
"My Life in Middlemarch is a poignant testimony to the abiding power of fiction." —Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review
"Clearly, this book was a pleasure for Mead to write—it's personal, intimate, yet rigorously researched—and it seems to have deepened her relationship with the novel she loves so much. Her passion proves infectious for the reader as well, and My Life in Middlemarch will surely encourage readers to discover Eliot's masterpiece for the first time — what an enviable experience — or, like Mead, to regard it as a lifelong and steadfast companion." —USA Today
"Fans of this Victorian mainstay — or, really, any book lover in a passionate long-term relationship with a novel — will find Mead's research and analysis deeply gratifying. And if you haven't ever read Middlemarch, Mead's lucid writing will send you straight to the bookstore... A-." —Entertainment Weekly
"Anyone who believes that books have the power to shape lives and that 'our own lives can teach us how to read a book' will respond with fascination and delight to Mead’s evolving appreciation of the richness and relevance of Eliot’s masterwork." —Priscilla Gilman, O Magazine
"Part memoir, part biography, part literary appreciation, My Life in Middlemarch is pure pleasure." —NPR
"Mead’s middle-aged rediscovery of Middlemarch—and her insights into Eliot’s rich middle age—is not to be missed." —The Atlantic
"My Life in Middlemarch, which I loved, follows not just the different things Mead got out of Middlemarch at different times in her life, but her personal, even tactile attempts to better know Eliot."—Washington Post
“If Eliot’s work is the candle, Mead’s is the bright sconce reflecting the flame.” – Boston Globe
"It would be difficult to find a novel more likely to reward multiple rereadings than Eliot’s — or a richer, more complete or more moving demonstration of its lasting power than My Life in Middlemarch." —Laura Miller, Salon
"My Life in Middlemarch is a deeply sympathetic and intelligent account of one woman’s 'profound experience with a book', without doubt a love letter to Eliot’s masterpiece, but also an important meditation on how our life experiences shape our reading, and our reading shapes how we choose to live our lives." —The Daily Beast
"Mead’s writing will make you want to read Middlemarch if you haven’t, and re-read it if you have. Mead’s is a wonderful close reading of not just a book, but also a life, and a life in reading."—Slate
"[Mead] invites empathy, an exercise of which George Eliot would be unmistakably proud."—Emily Rapp, Boston Globe
"Mead's work stands out for its brevity (beside its voluminous source), for its calm (no violence and few sudden moves), and for its perfect match of writer and subject." –San Francisco Gate
"'Generating the experience of sympathy was what her fiction was for,' Mead writes of Eliot. And that is precisely what Mead’s own book accomplishes as well. Mead not only cements Middlemarch’s status as a work of profound genius and inestimable import, but she returns the humanity to its pages." —The New Republic
"Mead beautifully conveys the excitement of living in a novel, of knowing its characters as if they breathed, of revisiting them over time and seeing them differently. She conveys, too, not at all heavy-handedly, the particular relationship one develops with an author whose work one loves….There is a meticulous underlying order to the book, structured to mirror Middlemarch itself, but as in a letter, the effect is of spontaneous movement, the particular thrill of following a mind untrammeled." —Claire Messud, Bookforum
"In this nuanced look at Middlemarch, Mead offers a fresh and vibrant portrait of Eliot, an entrancing memoir and a passionate homage to the riches of rereading."—Newsday
"Mead's journey is in the service of an intellectual pilgrimage, her attempt to 'discern the ways in which George Eliot's life shaped her fiction, and how her fiction shaped her.' There are pleasures to be gleaned from this quest. For one thing, My Life in Middlemarch serves as an astute primer on the novel." –Chicago Tribune
"This is, quite simply, heaven in book form."—The Sunday Times
"This is Mead’s life inside a book, inside the fictional Midlands village Eliot created. By the end, though, this could be your life, too. As Mead writes, 'She makes Middlemarchers of us all.'" —Newsweek
“Though Mead's regard for Eliot is obvious, you don't need to be a Middlemarch fan to appreciate My Life in Middlemarch. If a book has ever truly spoken to you, you'll be able to relate.”—The Week
"Gracefully executed." —Kathryn Schulz, New York
"One need not read the [lengthy] 1874 classic to appreciate this new work, which pays tribute not only to Eliot, but also to all book lovers who see novels as good friends worthy of frequent revisits." —New York Post
“It is delightful that a writer as thorough and serious as Mead draws attention to so many types of joy, including the ‘larger vista, a landscape changed by books, reshaped by reading’ that might be the ultimate joy that comes from reading. That’s what My Life in Middlemarch offers: a landscape changed, a powerful joy.” –The Rumpus
“Mead elegantly intertwines the novel’s intersections with Eliot’s biography, as well as with Mead’s own plotline: First as an intellectually curious adolescent in provincial England, yearning for life’s adventures to begin; then as an aspiring journalist in New York, dating an older man and facing disappointment, professional and personal; and finally—and most movingly—as a mother and stepparent opening her heart to an unruly brand of joy.” –Vogue.com
"[Mead's] captivating and lucid book mixes biography, memoir and close reading to symphonic effect." —Financial Times
“A combination of thorough research, elegant writing, and a willingness to admit when things remain ‘unavailable or obscure’ makes Mead a commendable guide… In My Life in Middlemarch she is committed to telling the full truth of what she uncovers, resisting the temptation to downplay context and complexity to suit her own purposes. The result is highly rewarding—a reflection on the novel that contains compelling depths of its own… Her thoughtful tribute to the power of Middlemarch will send any reader back to Eliot’s work with eyes newly opened to its treasures.” – Commonweal
"There is lots more to quote in this eminently quotable book, especially Mead’s many insightful reflections on the various characters besides Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch. 'The greatest benefit we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies,' she quotes Eliot. My Life in Middlemarch is Mead’s exploration of this benefit as well as an ambitious agenda for a memoir. I feel pleasurably enriched to have read it." —Arts Fuse
"My Life in Middlemarch has a third major theme as well — the enduring power of literature. 'Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it's a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book,' Mead writes. 'But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and when a reader is grasped and held by a book, reading does not feel like an escape from life so much as it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself.' Anyone who agrees with that sentiment is likely to enjoy this engaging book." —Associated Press
"If there is a perfect book to start the year with it has to be Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch." —The Edge
"Ambitious, elegant, intense and absorbing—even if Middlemarch is not your favorite book."—Literary Review
"Mead's long experience of profile-writing shows in the effortless ease of her prose."—The Evening Standard
"Rebecca Mead’s new book is thought-provoking, wonderfully insightful and satisfying. It speaks to any reader who may reflect upon the subliminal touch a remarkable book may have had on one’s own life."—The Frederiscksburg Freelance-Star
“Mead is both learned and astute; on the page she comes off as an inquiring mind, on par with Eliot and her beloved heroine, Dorothea Brooke: sensitive, cunning, and winningly relatable… My Life in Middlemarch achieves what good criticism strives to accomplish: it compels the reader to seek out the original text and experience it for herself… Mead reminds us why one is a book person in the first place.” – Harvard Review Online
"In this deeply satisfying hybrid work of literary criticism, biography, and memoir, New Yorker staff writer Mead brings to vivid life the profound engagement that she and all devoted readers experience with a favorite novel over a lifetime....Passionate readers, even those new to Middlemarch, will relish this book."—Publishers Weekly (starred)
"A rare and remarkable fusion of techniques that draws two women together across time and space." —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"Mead demonstrates through her own story how literature can change and transform lives. For this reason, even the reader who has never heard of George Eliot will find Mead's crisp, exacting prose absorbing and thought-provoking." —Library Journal (starred)
"[Mead] performs an exhilarating, often surprising close reading of the novel, which Eliot began writing at age 51 in 1870. And she takes a fresh look at Eliot’s daringly unconventional life, visiting the writer’s homes and casting light not only on the author’s off-the-charts intellect but also her valor in forthrightly addressing complex moral issues, cutting sense of humor, 'large, perceptive generosity,' and the deep love she shared with critic and writer George Henry Lewes and his sons. Mead injects just enough of her own life story to take measure of the profound resonance of Eliot’s progressive, humanistic viewpoint, recognition of the heroism of ordinary lives, and crucial central theme, 'a young woman’s desire for a substantial, rewarding, meaningful life.'" —Booklist (starred)
"In the wonderful and thoughtful My Life in Middlemarch, Rebecca Mead revisits her love of George Eliot's novel to consider what makes it great--and the ways life and art inform and imitate each other. The result is a lively, wide-ranging appreciation of one of the greatest novels in the English language, through the lens of Mead's observations on its shifting resonance throughout her own life."—Shelf Awareness
"Rebecca Mead has written a singular and inventive tale about her favorite book, and how it has changed — and changed her — over many years of reading and re-reading. Anyone who has ever loved the characters in a novel as dearly as we love our own families will recognize the passion, the devotion, the intimacy and the joy of returning again and again to a revered classic. Both a memoir and a biography, both an homage and a homecoming, My Life in Middlemarch is a perfectly composed offering of literary love and self-observation. I adored it, and it will forever live on my bookshelf next to my own precious paperbacks of George Eliot." —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love andThe Signature of All Things
"Rebecca Mead's My Life in Middlemarch is a wise, humane, and delightful study of what some regard as the best novel in English. Mead has discovered an original and highly personal way to make herself an inhabitant both of the book and of George Eliot's imaginary city. Though I have read and taught the book these many years I find myself desiring to go back to it after reading Rebecca Mead's work."—Harold Bloom
"Not quite biography, not quite memoir, not quite literary criticism, My Life in Middlemarch is a wonderfully intelligent exploration of a great novel and its great author. I loved Mead's empathy, her insight and her restraint and I devoured her deliciously readable pages."—Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
"Rebecca Mead’s marvelous book tells us everything we need to know about the greatest of all English novels. She gives us Middlemarch’s characters–their marriages, their world–and she gives us George Eliot herself, a woman whose self-doubt led her into wisdom. But that’s just the start. Mead reads with passion and care, and she allows the novel to irradiate her own life–to tell her, with each successive rereading, just who she is and how she’s changed. Indeed she suggests that Middlemarch is the book that made her grow up, and in showing us the difference it’s made to her she shows how it can make a difference in your own life too." —Michael Gorra, author of Portrait of a Novel
"My Life in Middlemarch is both unclassifiable and irresistible: a smart, absorbing glimpse into two lives—George Eliot’s and Rebecca Mead’s—as well as a lively meditation on Middlemarch. Intelligent, insightful, and generous in her judgments, Mead is a delightful guide—winsome and engaging." —Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
- ASIN : B00EBRTZYK
- Publisher : Crown; Reprint edition (January 28, 2014)
- Publication date : January 28, 2014
- Language : English
- File size : 1580 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 306 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #383,546 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Rebecca Mead, a writer for The New Yorker, first read the book when she was seventeen. She has reread it numerous times in the decades since then and feels a strong connection with it. She sees connections between the text and her own life and between George Eliot's life and hers. This book is an exploration of all those connections. It is part biography of Eliot, part autobiography, part literary criticism and memoir of how the book came to be written. Some critics described it as a bibliomemoir and that seems apt.
I actually felt the title proved to be a bit misleading. The book was more about Eliot's life and times and the writing of the book than it was about the author's life. We learned some basic facts of her life and, indeed, she spent a considerable chunk of the book in detailing her research, her visits to museums and libraries to review original texts, her visits to the places where Eliot lived and wrote, but, in the end, I did not feel that the life of Rebecca was revealed to us by these descriptions.
We learn a great deal about the unconventional life that Eliot and her life partner, George Henry Lewes, lived. In Victorian England, divorce was virtually unheard of and unobtainable and Lewes was married to another woman with whom he had a family. But at some point, they grew apart, she took up with another man, and they started having children together. Lewes magnanimously allowed her to continue to use his name and gave his name to her children by the other man so that they would not be stigmatized by illegitimacy. Eliot had never married and when she met Lewes in her middle age, she could not legally marry him since he was already married. So, they simply lived together to the consternation of many of her friends and family, some of whom cut off all contact with her because of the scandal.
Eliot and Lewes, both described as physically unattractive people, had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances which seems to have included every famous Victorian you've ever heard of. They never had children of their own, but Eliot assisted in the upbringing of his three young sons from his marriage and she was apparently quite close to them. After Lewes died at age 61 and Eliot decided to marry, the eldest and only surviving Lewes son gave her away at her wedding.
The most interesting parts of the book for me were the parallels which Mead was able to draw between Eliot's life and the lives of her Middlemarch characters, especially her heroines Dorothea Brooke and Mary Garth. Surely, many of the characteristics which she gave to her book people were taken from her experiences, her own personality or what she observed in her family and friends. That could no doubt be said of most if not all fiction writers, but a truly inspired writer like Eliot is able to make those connections seamlessly.
It was a pleasure to spend time in this book and to experience the characters and events of the wonderful Middlemarch through the eyes and understanding of someone, who, unlike me, first met the book as a teenager and has returned to it many times over the years. I feel it has deepened my understanding of the classic and has made me want to read it again. While I'll never be the constant Middlemarch reader that Rebecca Mead is, maybe I will reread it again some day. I think I would appreciate it even more the second time around.
There was an abundance of physical description--landscapes for instance--intellectual posturing--some sentences have to be read more than once. I could imagine a teacher assigning this book and students perhaps groaning at what they will have to endure in order to get to the last page. Don't get me wrong--I am well aware that there are people, women in particular, who are enthralled with Eliot and who absolutely love her novels, and maybe were born in the English countryside and will love Mead's tours, or there may be people who will be enchanted by the descriptions and want to schedule a tour.
I just thought that reading this book would help me to understand Middlemarch. Well, yes and no. Occasionally, especially towards the end of the book, Mead actually gets down to the business of discussing the characters in Middlemarch and analyzing the novel itself. But much of the time we are caught up in a whirlwind of ideas. Mead is taking us with her to libraries where she is reading Eliot's correspondences and some of the original lines from her novels which Eliot tweaks later on. Mead will give us her opinions down to the last comma as to the so-called improvements which were made. And then suddenly we're back in the countryside looking at the array of amazing flowers.
She tells us of the remarkable connection she feels to Eliot--Eliot's first significant other (not her legal husband) has three sons whom Eliot learns to love and considers her stepchildren and Mead marries a man late in life who has three sons and then she later gives birth to their daughter. There is some discussion of motherhood and the inner feelings of the mothers in Eliot's books, Mead's own feelings, and Eliot's feelings as a stepmother to the three boys.
It's not as big a book as Middlemarch but it almost seems as long and as ponderous! Mead covers so much ground. I did find some of it quite interesting. I didn't expect to discover that Eliot, a 19-century woman, was actually living a life more akin to a 20th or 2lst-century woman. I didn't expect to see such parallels between Mead's life and Eliot's and I had no idea that Mead was so close to Middlemarch both literally and figuratively.
But when all is said and done it wasn't a page turner for me. I guess I didn't identify enough with Eliot, Mead, or the characters in the novels.
Postscript: After writing this review, I started to wonder if I had noted the genders of Mead's children correctly. Did she have three stepsons and then give birth to a daughter? So I started paging through the book and couldn't find the part about her marriage and instead found myself seeing all the descriptions of the characters in Middlemarch and realized that she certainly had a lot more discussion of the characters than I gave her credit for. Also, I realized that if she had written only about the characters, I would have probably been longing for a respite from the novel itself. Still, it just didn't resonate that much with me. I really think that it's a five star book for a student of literature.
The author is Rebecca Mead a London born journalist who is on the staff of the New Yorker. Mead grew up in a small off the beaten track area in southwestern England. She was a voracious reader from childhood who became enamored with the considerable novel Middlemarch by George Eliot (1819-1880) a Midlands woman who became the leading intellectual author during the Victorian era.
Mary Ann Evans was born in Warwickshire before trying her literary skills in London. She is the famous author of such classic works as": Silas Marner; The Mill on the Floss: Romola;Scenes of Clerical Life;' Daniel Deronda; Felix Holt and her masterpiece Middlemarch published in 1872. Eliot lived without benefit of clergy with George Henry Lewes a literary man following her failed romance with Herbert Spencer the famous Victorian philosopher. Eliot was a homely and large woman who was an agnostic. She called her belief ":meliorism" calling upon us to live ethical and worthwhile lives.
Mead identifies strongly with Dorothea in Middlemarch and sees Dr. Tertius Lydgate as a reflection of Eliot';s love for her lover George Henry Lewes. Mead analyzes the Middlemarch novel which is over nine hundred pages long and has been called by Virginia Woolf one of the few English novels written for grown-ups.
Rebecca Mead has a way with words and this delightful little book is a joy to read!
Top reviews from other countries
The main idea (that books can mean different things at different stages in life) might seem like a simple point but Mead does a good job of considering how this happens: through a reader's identification with an author and her characters, the things that happen to her, and the stories she chooses to tell. I was sceptical at first but Mead gets stronger as the book goes on and she won me over completely by the finale. It is likely that most readers who have a similar passion for Middlemarch, or any other favourite novels will recognise what Mead is talking about and enjoy this book.
Sometimes it is a little repetitive, and Mead's formula - of describing an episode in her life which is a bit like an episode in Eliot's life, or one of her characters's lives - occasionally feels a bit laboured. Also sometimes Eliot's power seems to be over-intellectualised and the philosophical moments are discussed at the expense of the straightforward emotional response Eliot was drawing from her drama and characters
I read and loved Middlemarch first as a 32 year old man (I've since read all other GE novels), so it is maybe not such a surprise that my response was quite different to Mead's. The many different opportunities Eliot creates for individual responses to her story is though one of Mead's main points in the book. Overall this will be a worthwhile read for anyone who loves Middlemarch, or who just loves art. A really worthwhile book.