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My Life in Middlemarch

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  1,975 ratings  ·  412 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
Hardcover, 293 pages
Published January 28th 2014 by Crown (first published January 1st 2014)
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Maurynne Maxwell No. It actually covers Eliot's life and other works also and is more about engaging with literature--interacting with a book throughout a lifetime. I…moreNo. It actually covers Eliot's life and other works also and is more about engaging with literature--interacting with a book throughout a lifetime. I read Middlemarch when I was very young and remember hardly anything about it--makes me want to re-read some classics, but I have other books I go back to, so the book is engaging in a comradely way.
Also--no such thing as a stupid question. Stupid is NOT asking. :)(less)
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2014 New York Times Book Review
19th out of 54 books — 31 voters
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia AmorusoMr. Mercedes by Stephen KingHamlet, Prince of Denmark by A.J. HartleyThe Bone Clocks by David MitchellMy Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
Audies Nominees 2015
5th out of 102 books — 8 voters

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Community Reviews

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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
"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 Eliot ...more
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
Deborah Markus

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
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 s ...more
Glenn Sumi

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
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
Nancy Brandwein
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
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!

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
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. Au ...more
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
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
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
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
Paula Vince
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
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,
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
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
Michael Meeuwis
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 r ...more
Jun 21, 2014 Melinda rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Beautifully written, well-researched, informative and yet permanently personal - this is such a lovely book.

As an ardent admirer of George Eliot and "Middlemarch" in particular, I highly anticipated this release. It is my opinion that Eliot is very overlooked today and it is such a shame. Her fiction is the most brilliant thing I ever read. "Middlemarch" is a masterpiece, and that is what I found most charming about this book; the underlying love and admiration that seeps through every word.

Kressel Housman
The closest parallel I know to this book is the movie “Julie/Julia,” except while that was one-half Julia Child biography and one-half fan story, this book is mostly a George Eliot biography with fan story at the beginning and end, and excerpts from Middlemarch itself sprinkled throughout. Reading each has its own pleasures, but grateful as I was to learn more about George Eliot/Marian Evans without wading through the intimidating George Eliot a Biography by Gordon S. Haight, I would have en ...more
I read Middlemarch when I was younger and didn't get much out of it - probably because Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility was the story of my youth, and I didn't have the life experience to appreciate what Georger Eliot was trying to convey.

Now in my 30's, I read this book, which discusses Middlemarch in the context both of Eliot's life and that of the author. So much of what Ms. Mead said in this book resonates with me - I believe Middlemarch will be the story of my adulthood, where we see the
Maine Colonial
More of a scholarly biography and study of Middlemarch than the title and description suggest

When I read the title and the book description, I thought this would be a book about Rebecca Mead's experiences and how she related them to George Eliot's life and the lives of Dorothea Brook and the other characters in Mead's beloved Middlemarch. Although that is a theme of the book, it's a minor theme.

The major theme is the life of George Eliot, and how her experiences informed the writing of her grea
In her book, My Life In Middlemarch, Rebecca Mead has accomplished in eloquent prose what I have only been able to allude to in jagged, emotional bursts of sentences: how I feel about George Eliot's Middlemarch - and that is: this book (Middlemarch) only gets better on further readings. It gets better because different parts of it take on new meanings as you read, re-read, and as you look back on yourself and your previous readings.

Mead grew up in an English coastal town not far from where Eliot
I listened to the audio book version of George Eliot's Middlemarch last year and enjoyed it having never read or listened to any of the author's other work. As I enjoy books about books I thought this would be an interesting book to read before I tackled the book itself in print. I was not disappointed. This is part autobiography, describing how the author had been influenced by Middlemarch throughout her life and how her opinions of it have changed as she changed.

The book is also about George E
This caught my eye at B&N on my way to buy my favorite UK magazine. I have owned a copy of Middlemarch since 1994. I continually think "I should read that," when I'm not wondering if I should donate it to the library sale. I loved the Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of the book and have watched it many times over the years. But the book has always seemed forbidding until now.

Author Rebecca Mead has been reading Middlemarch since she was a teenager and talks about what she saw in the book at d
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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.
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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.” 49 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.” 2 likes
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