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My Life in Middlemarch

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  3,500 ratings  ·  715 reviews
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 ...more
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 mor…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)
AZ BOOKS Rebecca' Mead's book is titled Questions about my life in Middlemarch…moreRebecca' Mead's book is titled Questions about my life in Middlemarch(less)

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Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Turning Yearning Into Learning

Aspiration is easy to confuse with a desire to move on in life. Aspiration implies a change into something else; this is antithetical to becoming more of oneself, to mature in other words. Aspiration becomes a virtue only when the idea of personal authenticity has been abandoned. At that point we enter into the delusion that we can shape ourselves into anything we choose - or more accurately what those around us, society, have chosen as worthwhile.

George Eliot never
Dec 03, 2013 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
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
Imagine your favourite food (or drink), now imagine a book written about it. From the first this has to be a Platonic exercise in love with the shadows on the cave wall.

Very much a your mileage may vary kind of book, but I liked it fine, I would say for me it was a comfortable three star kind of book, completely satisfying, but equally not great or outstanding in any way, if I was a school teacher grading this I might give it an A, maybe even an A+ (view spoiler)
Glenn Sumi
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing

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
Aug 14, 2013 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 Eliot ...more
Deborah Markus
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it

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
Nancy Brandwein
Jan 13, 2014 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
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
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
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!

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
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: victorians, lit-crit
Really lovely. An exploration of George Eliot's life, her great novel, Middlemarch, and how this novel has been a powerful influence in the author of this book's, Rebecca Mead's, life.

Mead, a journalist, has read Middlemarch many times since she first studied it as a teenager, but, in her forties, she embarks on the project of this books to examine...

"What if I tried to discern the ways in which George Eliot's life shaped her fiction, and how her fiction shaped her? I wasn't so naive as to think
Michael Meeuwis
Mar 02, 2014 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 r ...more
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
You don’t have to have read Middlemarch to enjoy this book lengthy 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, brie ...more
Apr 05, 2014 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
Jan 29, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
My Life in Middlemarch is a rather niche book; I think the only people who think that they must read this book are (1) people who have read Middlemarch, and (2
Feb 12, 2016 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
Oct 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: rth-lifetime, 2014
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
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: booksaboutbooks
The useful and enticing bibliography at the end of the book shows thorough research. The book is also a very personal essay that interweaves Mead's own life with Eliot's and with Eliot's characters. Mead talks thoughtfully about coming back to a favorite book with a reading reshaped by experience and about how reading informs how she thinks about her life. It was also great fun trailing around with Mead to Eliot's homes and haunts and to rare book rooms.
A favorite passage: "She shows me that re
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I must confess: when I first read about this book (a recommendation here on Goodreads), my reaction was, 'Who does the author think she is?' But the need to talk to somebody about 'Middlemarch' was so great that I was looking for any talks on it on YouTube, and found Rebecca's, and realized she is actually a clever and understanding researcher, not somebody trying to make money on a famous novel. I enjoyed 'My life in Middlemarch' so greatly I kind of feel sorry I've finished reading it and cann ...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
Nov 16, 2013 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. Au ...more
Laurel Hicks
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Neither biography, critical essay, nor personal memoir, this book combines all three, providing just enough of each.
James Murphy
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I first read Middlemarch many years ago, I was inspired to read a biography of George Eliot. I was curious to know where such a fine novel came from. But I never satisfied that itch. When I reread the novel recently I was aware of My Life in Middlemarch high on a shelf in the basement and knew I'd read it soon. It's supplied the biographical details of Eliot's life I wanted as well as information about how and why the novel was written. Much more, really, because it's also a combination of ...more
Paula Vince
Aug 09, 2014 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
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 hav ...more
Richard Epstein
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Good book. I am not generally a fan of books which intertwine events from the author's life with a reading of some greater book. They mostly seem like an attempt to catch a ride in someone else's cargo hold. But this is a thorough, intelligent reading, which sheds its light both ways. And Middlemarch is big enough to accommodate a lot of passengers. ...more
My mother mentioned this book to me after she finished reading Middlemarch last year. (Apparently in a fit of youthful, but misguided enthusiasm I had gifted a copy of George Eliot's masterpiece to her. But last year it fit nicely into one of her library reading challenge slots, so perhaps it was meant to be after all.)

I immediately ordered it, but I will confess that I had expected it to be more about the author Rebecca Mead than about George Eliot. I am fond of the memoir genre, so I was mildl
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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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48 likes · 11 comments
“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.” 69 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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