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on March 17, 2014
This literary appreciation is easy to read and full of interesting anecdotes about George Eliot and her classic novel "Middlemarch." It's really two books in one. It takes us through important stages of Rebecca Mead's life and shows how her perceptions of the characters and themes in "Middlemarch" changed with her age and circumstances. If you have loved "Middlemarch" and read it more than once, you are likely to relate to Mead's observations and think more deeply about how the book has affected you. Secondly, it's a concise but incisive primer on George Eliot herself: how her writing and ideas developed, how she was perceived by contemporaries, how her unconventional life impacted her reputation, how she's viewed today. I thought the many anecdotes and quotes from Eliot's letters and books were well-chosen and illuminating. I found "My Life in Middlemarch" to be a quick read because it's very accessible and flows so well. It was lovely to get reacquainted with Eliot and "Middlemarch." Highly recommended! It sparked me to invest in a new hardcover copy of Middlemarch (Clothbound Classics), an 830 page tome that I am likely to reread and lend to others.
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on March 28, 2015
Having recently read Middlemarch for the first time and having loved the experience, I was intrigued by this title. I remembered having read a couple of positive reviews of the book when it first came out over a year ago and I decided that now was the time for me to read it, while Middlemarch is still fresh in my mind.

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.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon June 15, 2014
My Life in Middlemarch is a personal memoir combined with literary criticism; the biography of George Eliot '; a tour of sites associated with Eliot and a personal journey all combined into less than three hundred pages of evocatively beautiful prose.
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!
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on September 5, 2017
To be honest, I have tried reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch a couple of months ago. I failed as you expect. I found it not that easy to go thorough detailed illustration about characters and backgrounds in the former part. That’s because I have mixed feeling about Middlemarch. I am a novice in here. In conclusion, I can say anyone who never read George Eliot can enjoy Rebecca Mead’s accounts. She is pretty friendly guide toward the world of George Eliot.

I got immersed in multiple layers of lives in this book. George Eliot’s life, the protagonists’s one in Middlemarch, the author Rebecca Mead’s one and mine. Last but not least, my perspective horizon has enlarged thanks to this experience.

Reading about reading is always very great. Likewise listening to other’s life.
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on May 1, 2014
This is a hard book to categorize. I think that it would not appeal to casual readers, and that it's only relevant for Middlemarch fanatics, which I became for a month or so.

Mead has the difficult task of trying to make us care about George Eliot, George Lewes her putative husband, Herbert Spencer and all ( even a "groupie" from back then)--even herself, Rebecca Mead. Lots of interesting info about Eliot's and Lewes' life together and how "beloved" she felt by him. Eliot was definitely the force in that "marriage". Lots of info about Spencer's rejection of Eliot and how unloved she felt from this blow to her ego before Lewes came along.

The info that Mead shared about her own life was cursory. The stated connections between Mead and Eliot didn't ring true. Of course, they were true--- just not emotional enough to seem important to me .

A big plus is that the tone of Mead's writing evoked Eliot's tone. If not for this and trying to see how Mead constructed her sentences to sound like Eliot's, I probably would have given this two stars. ( Too harsh. Mead deserves one more star for her research, which was significant.)
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on March 8, 2014
I had decided to read Middlemarch again....after 50 years! But while scrolling through amazon I came across Rebecca Mead's book. What a lucky find, as I decided to read it before starting Middlemarch. Ms. Mead's book is utterly charming and thoroughly engaging. Her research is so interesting. And her personal connection to Middlemarch is very touching. As someone who has loved books her whole life, My Life in Middlemarch has a lot of meaning for me. I certainly recommend this book to anyone who loves literature and is the least bit curious about George Eliot. You will love it!
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on March 2, 2014
I had high hopes for My Life in Middlemarch and was not disappointed! Rebecca Mead writes with a lyrical and intelligent voice and brings a book closer to the reader who might have otherwise left it at the sidelines in favor of any Austen novel. I know, I shied away from it for a long time. To follow her own experiences, her own growth and development coupled with the developments in the story, her wonderful analysis of characters and plot lines is a delight to read! I had bought it as a ebook, but as a true bibliophile I will buy it as a hardcover too. Rebecca Mead is a writer I would love to sit down with over a cup of tea and chat about life, books and the many struggles we go through until we find some answers to the questions of the meaning of love and life.
As always, the books which touch us the most uncover our own tender sensitivities, our own recognition of the pains and joys we ourselves have to deal with.
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on May 22, 2014
Her book was so well written that I bought the original book written by George Eliot, Middlemarch. I wanted to know how a novel could be a plumbline for her life at different stages of her life. I get it now. When you are young and immature you think your theories of life are valid. As you mature you learn how naive you were and the pain or consequence of the immaturity.

The journey helped me to be introspective regarding my life. I enjoyed this book; it was not a typical book for me. I am glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone. I am a better reader and person because I did.
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on March 20, 2014
MIDDLEMARCH showed that an English village need not be dull, long before PBS tried the same argument. Rebecca
Mead shows that not only might an English Village not be dull, but written beautifully it can be a guide to a wider world
many years down the line.
I was a big fan of MIDDLEMARCH when I first read it so many years ago. I must say it is personal, but Rebecca Mead's observations on how this book paralleled her life were spot on. When she made her way through the book I was reminded
of how we often let cliches affect our own choices. George Eliot made it quite clear that all that glitters is not gold, but fool's gold.
I recomment this book to the serious fan of great literature. How it can move us and enlighten us.
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on February 2, 2016
I absolutely loved "My Life in Middlemarch," and think it is a brilliant achievement. Mead interweaves scenes from the novel with biographical and critical material on Eliot, and explains how Eliot's commentaries helped Mead understand stages of her own life. (Of course, a reader has to have read Middlemarch.) Mead leaves no stone unturned as she explores all the George Eliot sites she can find in England, and, in addition, visits descendants of George Henry Lewes, with whom Eliot shared an idyllic union for twenty-four years. The book added a whole new dimension to my understanding of George Eliot. I did not know that she helped raise the four Lewes children as if they were her own, and drew upon their lives for material in her novels, or that her own "marriage" was egalitarian and fulfilling, a sharp contrast to the marriage of Dorothea and Casaubon!!!
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