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My Life in Middlemarch

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3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  2,559 Ratings  ·  537 Reviews
A New Yorker writer revisits the seminal book of her youth--Middlemarch--and fashions a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories.

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 En
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Hardcover, 293 pages
Published January 28th 2014 by Crown (first published January 1st 2014)
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Barbara I listened to this book prior to listening to Middlemarch. I think that listening to (or reading) this book first makes more sense. There is a lot…moreI listened to this book prior to listening to Middlemarch. I think that listening to (or reading) this book first makes more sense. There is a lot more in Middlemarch than in Mead's book. I found it helpful to have the basic structure and main characters and plot lines in "My life in Middlemarch" made Middlemarch more enjoyable. There are much more details and characters in Middlemarch. (less)

Community Reviews

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Laura
Mar 13, 2014 Laura rated it liked it
Do the people who write the book descriptions actually read the book before writing, or do they go by a proposal? Here's why: this book's description ("A New Yorker writer revisits the seminal book of her youth--Middlemarch-- and fashions a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories.") doesn't match the contents.

Don't get me wrong, this is an engaging book that gives readers great insight into M
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Rebecca Foster
I loved this learned, all-encompassing tribute to a cherished work of literature. Call it an homage, call it a “bibliomemoir”; whatever the label, I call this kind of book absolutely delightful. (I feature this one in a BookTrib article about journeying into favorite books.)

At age 19, I read George Eliot’s Middlemarch as a study abroad student at the University of Reading, England. At the time I was far too busy taking field trips to Stonehenge and Jane Austen’s Bath, exploring nearby Oxford, go
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Melanie
Mar 22, 2014 Melanie rated it really liked it
"No wonder it’s so easy for Mead and all the rest of us to see ourselves in this book. Eliot had perfect psychological pitch; I am not sure any other writer has ever captured with such precision what it is like to be a member of our species. When it comes to committing private consciousness to the page, Woolf reigns supreme; but Eliot wrote us down as we actually live, inward and outward at once, selves in a society. Her perceptiveness is a huge part of the pleasure of Middlemarch, but for ...more
Deborah Markus
Apr 08, 2014 Deborah Markus rated it really liked it
This review is brought to you by THIS BOOK IS OVERDUE AT THE LIBRARY! SOMEBODY HAS A HOLD ON IT! FINES ARE RACKING UP AS WE SPEAK! HURRY UP AND WRITE YOUR DANGED REPORT, ALREADY!

Okay. So.

This book is a biography of a book. Specifically, it’s the biography of one woman and how she and a life-changing novel matured together.

For the record, I was not one of those kids who was reading James Joyce and Herman Melville when she was nine. I was reading novels with deathless titles like The Cat Ate My G
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Glenn Sumi
Apr 10, 2015 Glenn Sumi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction


I’ve only read George Eliot’s Middlemarch once, back in university. It was required reading for an English course, and I remember loving its quiet, perceptive look at various lives intersecting around an English town in the mid 19th century.

Today, some *mumble mumble* years later, the novel’s characters – idealistic Dorothea Brooke, pedantic Casaubon, sensible and funny Mary Garth, the Vincy siblings, the talented and ambitious Dr. Lydgate – continue to stay with me, as do its complex treatment
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Anmiryam
Rebecca Mead's literary exploration of 'Middlemarch" is not the self-focused memoir that the title might lead you to expect. Instead, within these pages she entwines literary analysis, research into the life of the unconventional genius who wrote this most empathetic of 19th century british novels, and her musings on the mutability of her own encounters with 'Middlemarch' as she returns to it at different points in her own life. This is literary criticism for non-academic readers done well. It ...more
Nancy Brandwein
Oct 17, 2015 Nancy Brandwein rated it it was ok
I was deeply disappointed in this book. I reread Middlemarch mainly in anticipation of the pleasure I would get from reading Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch. What I expected, given the title and pre-publicity blurbs, was a real look into Rebecca Mead’s life through the lens of Middlemarch—how the characters and book spoke to her at various stages of her life and how, in turn, her life—or her perception of that life—
changed as a result. Instead, what I got was a thin biography of George Eli
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Ellie
I was thrilled to win My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead from Goodreads First Reads program. I love Middlemarch by George Eliot, the Middlemarch Mead's book refers to and have read it several times over the course of 30 years. I was interested in reading what another person's engagement with the book was like.

I was delighted with the experience. I came to feel a kinship with Read (who writes for The New Yorker). Mead's prose is a pleasure to read: lucid, balanced, often vivid. And her tone i
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Lizzie
So… George Eliot is my person. I love her. She gets me. Her books are really good. The way most Goodreads people seem to feel about Virginia Woolf, is how I feel about George Eliot. I like her so much that I even like the things that, when you read enough tellings of them, are annoying or dumb or snotty or flawed. I like them all. This is going to skew everything I ever read about her and her novels, so there is my disclaimer.

I've looked forward to reading this book for a long time, you guys!

Thi
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Trish
Rebecca Mead manages to sort George Eliot’s personal life from her fiction, enlightening us on both:
"[Eliot’s] most straightforwardly autobiographical character is Maggie Tulliver, and as a grown woman Eliot discussed with a friend the ways in which The Mill on the Floss was inspired by her own history. Everything in the novel was softened, she said; her own experience was worse."
This nonfiction is a hybrid of criticism and biography, but I argue it may be best viewed as a series of connected
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Cynthia
Apr 05, 2014 Cynthia rated it really liked it
I found “My Life in Middlemarch“ to be an unusual blend of memoir and literature. Eliot’s “Middlemarch” is fondly remembered by Mead with a focus on how it impacted her at different times in her life as she reread it over the years. When she was a young girl aspiring to an elite English education coming from a working class background it represented hope for the future, a different way of being, and unknown adult world. As an unmarried woman searching for love it provided various ways of finding ...more
Diane Challenor
Lovely, lovely, lovely. This book was my reward to myself when I attained my personal challenge of reading Middlemarch, which is part of my "List of Betterment Project". I'm pleased to report I "successfully" read Middlemarch, and it's a story that remains with me weeks after I turned the final page. Now, having read both Middlemarch and Rebecca Mead's book "The Road to Middlemarch" I feel like I've joined a literary club of Middlemarch fans. It's been a really interesting journey. Aren't books ...more
Rebecca Foster
I loved this learned, all-encompassing tribute to a cherished work of literature. Call it an homage, call it a “bibliomemoir”; whatever the label, I call this kind of book absolutely delightful.

At age 19, I read George Eliot’s Middlemarch as a study abroad student at the University of Reading, England. At the time I was far too busy taking field trips to Stonehenge and Jane Austen’s Bath, exploring nearby Oxford, going to West End shows, getting dirt-cheap student tickets to Love Actually and ot
...more
Kathleen
Jul 13, 2016 Kathleen rated it really liked it
Shelves: women-writers
How can I do justice in a review of a book so good about a book so good? My Life in Middlemarch captures the spirit of Middlemarch and when finishing it, gave me a similar sigh of contentment.

Rebecca Mead has successfully accomplished what many Middlemarch fans might wish to do. She has immersed herself in the story and its meaning, explored George Eliot’s letters, homes, traveled streets and even the views the author gazed at out of her windows in order to better understand this masterpiece an
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Jennifer
Jan 05, 2014 Jennifer rated it liked it
I received this book via a Goodreads giveaway. The blurb for this suggested it could be either wonderful or terrible: "A New Yorker writer revisits the seminar book of her youth--Middlemarch--and fashions a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories." This had the potential to go off the rails as a self-dramatizing memoir with occasional references to George Eliot, and I'm grateful it didn't. ...more
Michael
Rebecca Mead grew up in a coastal town in England and often dreamed of escaping to somewhere more exciting. She gained admission to Oxford and later become a journalist in the United States. When she was young Middlemarch was a favourite of hers and now as she re-reads this classic she is sharing her story along with it. My Life in Middlemarch is told partly as a bookish memoir, but also explores the life of George Eliot and her novel Middlemarch.

This book started off really well; in the prelude
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Jaylia3
Jan 29, 2014 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing
You don’t have to have read Middlemarch to enjoy this book length reflection on and study of it, but My Life in Middlemarch may make you want to get your hands on a copy of George Eliot's classic novel. Layered and deeply considered, My Life in Middlemarch is a fairly brief (278 pages of text) and accessible book fully worthy of its insightfully rich subject. The writing manages to transition gracefully between the book’s three roles: memoir of the author’s experiences reading Middlemarch, brief ...more
Michael Meeuwis
Mar 02, 2014 Michael Meeuwis rated it did not like it
I have to admit I was rather savagely disappointed in this. Although the author acknowledges the book's sustained and lasting contributions to her life, the language she uses to describe, well, everything--and particularly the effects of the book on her--seems at once impersonal and flat, bordering often on banal. ("She turned her yearning into learning," the book says at one point of Eliot's late-youth language learning, in what I'd put good money on is the dumbest sentence about Eliot you'll ...more
Alex
Jan 02, 2015 Alex rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014, rth-lifetime
Well-written biography of George Eliot combined with analysis of Middlemarch. I'm not a huge fan of biographies, so those parts were cool but not ravishingly cool for me. Earlier this year I read What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved and I was super into that book's detailed examination of how Austen uses weather and shit; I guess I was hoping for that sort of deep dive into the mechanics of how Middlemarch is so great, and I didn't quite get that. Which isn't the book's fa ...more
Dorothy
Mar 28, 2015 Dorothy rated it really liked it
Having recently read Middlemarch for the first time and 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. Sh
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Paula Vince
Aug 10, 2014 Paula Vince rated it really liked it
Many of us have one or two formative books which have influenced how we've shaped our lives. For Rebecca Mead, it was George Eliot's 'Middlemarch' which she kept returning to ever since first reading it in her teens, discovering new significance for different phases of her own life's journey. As I loved reading MM during my English classics phase as a young adult, I enjoyed reading this reflective memoir about how Mead decided to trace the footsteps of her former idol, George Eliot, visiting all ...more
Ed
Mar 08, 2015 Ed rated it liked it
I set out to really like this book given its topic and the praises I had heard heaped on it. I was pretty disappointed. Yes there is some good material in here but not nearly enough of it. It is really three threads: some literary criticism of Middlemarch George Eliot's fine novel that I have read twice. A biography of George Eliot. And finally how the reading of Middlemarch shaped the author's life experience. Her literarcy criticism of Middlemarch is actually quite interesting and I would have ...more
John
Perhaps should be 3.5 stars, but not four, from my experience (yours may vary).

From the blurbs, you'd expect a book where the author relates her own life via her love of the book Middlemarch, an you'd be right ... partly. That aspect is interspersed throughout, though not exactly a "central theme" for framework; by and large, Mead's own story worked fine for me. A significant portion of the work serves as a biography of George Eliot, which I thought well done - four stars on that angle from me,
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Sherwood Smith
A pleasant, articulate exploration of George Eliot's life and work, centering around Middlemarch, organized loosely around Mead's three major rereads over the course of her life. I think the book is best enjoyed by those who have read Middlemarch at least once, and possibly a biography and the letters, though I might be wrong in that.

There were interesting tidbits to learn: letters left out of the correspondence, and especially recorded impressions of Eliot in luminaries (and would-be luminaries
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Melinda
Jun 21, 2014 Melinda rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
I have always had an affinity towards British Victorian literature, without saying Middlemarch and Eliot are among my favorites. I was thrilled when I learned someone wrote a book regarding their intimate events reading Middlemarch. Mead provides the reader with such detail on Eliot along with her esteemed peers.

Mead is a competent writer possessing a style that's attractive and enthralling. Her words glide across the pages in such a sleek manner only boosting the entire narrative and overall r
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Jillian
Jul 19, 2016 Jillian rated it it was amazing
Really excellent!
 ~Geektastic~

While I’ve read probably close to a dozen books that can be classified as bibliomemoir, this is the first I’ve encountered that focuses on a single book as opposed to a selection or progression of many. Rebecca Mead has both physical and emotional ties to Middlemarch, having grown up in the same sort of provincial English town that lies at the heart of George Eliot’s work. Like Eliot and her creation Dorothea Brooke, in her youth Mead was full of restless ambition and saw in Dorothea a mirror of
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Cici
Mar 28, 2014 Cici rated it it was amazing

To proclaim one’s love for a particular writer is a tricky business. One may easily come across as a literary fan at the level of “I love your books! You are so great!!” type of absurdity. Yet the earnestness and true affection that an intelligent reader bestows on her favorite book and its author is a far better read than the ruthless dissection of a mean-spirited critics. It is a rare find to read such a book carefully balanced between one’s own deep emotional investment in a book and an autho
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Cara
Sep 29, 2016 Cara rated it it was amazing
"Middlemarch" was not a groundbreaking or really all that interesting book to me when I read it. There, I said it. All my intellectual friends, especially English majors, may now lower your opinion of me if you wish.

I was out for a walk with a friend of mine who is highly educated and loves "Middlemarch." She was gentle with me as I revealed my true feelings regarding the book. Essentially I said, "I don't get it." She kindly recommended "My Life in Middlemarch."

I still don't love "Middlemarch.
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Sue
Nov 04, 2014 Sue rated it liked it
For as long as I can remember I have loved Victorian literature, which was a special discovery when I was a teenager blessed with long summer days to spend with a book. I’ve read George Eliot’s masterpiece Middlemarch twice, the second time not so long ago. I was amazed at how differently I responded at a remove of many years – with many intervening experiences of life to temper my reactions. This is surely a measure of the depth of the book.

What I expected, from the title My Life in Middlemarch
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Huntsville-Madiso...: Staff Pick - My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead 1 5 Jul 15, 2014 09:01AM  
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Rebecca Mead was born in England, and educated at Oxford and New York University. She is a staff writer at the New Yorker, and lives in Brooklyn.
More about Rebecca Mead...

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“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. 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.” 61 likes
“What's your favorite book?' is a question that is usually only asked by children and banking identity-verification services--and favorite isn't, anyway, the right word to describe the relationship a reader has with a particularly cherished book. Most serious readers can point to one book that has a place in their life like the one that 'Middlemarch' has in mine.” 5 likes
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