Day 461: My Life in Middlemarch

Cover for My Life in MiddlemarchMy Life in Middlemarch is a difficult book to categorize and an unusual effort. It is part memoir, part literary criticism, part literary history and biography, part thoughtful examination. Its focus is on George Eliot’s greatest novel, Middlemarch.

New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead muses about what the novel, her favorite as it is mine, has meant to her during different periods of her life, how different parts of the novel and different characters have spoken to her and how her sympathies with characters and comprehension of the novel’s themes have changed as her life was in its varying stages. She also examines events in Eliot’s own life—how they and the people she knew may have contributed to her works.

This book is about all things Middlemarch. Mead visits the towns and homes where Eliot resided and places where she may have set the novel. She reports on the ways that literary criticism of the novel changed over time—how it was immediately popular and then fell out of favor in later years to be rehabilitated, partially by the appreciation of Virginia Woolf. The book provides interesting insights into the novel and into Eliot’s life and possible thought processes as she wrote the novel.

http://www.netgalley.comFor those who have not read Middlemarch, the book still may hold some interest, but a lot will be lost. To those who have read and loved it, you will probably, like me, be compelled to pick it up again and reread it. I’ll be doing that soon.

10 thoughts on “Day 461: My Life in Middlemarch

  1. Naomi January 27, 2014 / 12:36 pm

    I have thought that the premise of this book sounds interesting, but I confess to not having ever read Middlemarch. So, Middlemarch comes first, I think.

    • whatmeread January 27, 2014 / 12:39 pm

      I agree. Although she relates parts of the plot and explains other things about the book, you’re probably not going to get as much out of it without reading Middlemarch.

  2. Carolyn O January 27, 2014 / 3:33 pm

    I’ve heard only good things about this book — glad you’re on board too! What makes Middlemarch your favorite book?

    • whatmeread January 27, 2014 / 3:38 pm

      Hmm, I don’t know. It’s very rich in characters and ideas. I am not at all like Dorothea, but I sympathize with her so much, how her blind idealism gets her into this horrible marriage, how she thinks her husband is going to be her mentor and they are going to have a partnership. And I also like intelligent, sensible Mary a lot. I like how she even shows that the characters who seem like villains are human, too.

      • Carolyn O January 27, 2014 / 3:44 pm

        All great reasons!

  3. Cecilia January 27, 2014 / 9:21 pm

    Middlemarch is on my to-read list but I am thinking now that I should push it up. I’ve also heard only amazing things about it. I’d love to read that and then Mead’s book afterwards.

    • whatmeread January 28, 2014 / 9:07 am

      It’s a hefty read, but I think it’s really good. Definitely do it in that order.

      • Cecilia January 28, 2014 / 12:31 pm

        Yes, the length is what’s been intimidating me…but it sounds like it is totally worth it.

  4. Audra (Unabridged Chick) January 28, 2014 / 10:15 am

    I have Middlemarch on my Classics Club TBR but I’ve also started this one — the author assured me one can ‘get’ it having not read Middlemarch. So far, the first few chapters have resonated, mostly because I get being a geeky, bookish girl — I wonder if I’ll stop ‘getting’ it as I go on?

    • whatmeread January 28, 2014 / 10:45 am

      It’s hard for me to tell. I was okay with it even though I hadn’t read Middlemarch for several years. So, maybe it’ll go okay. She explains the things she needs to, but I just think it would mean more to someone who had already read it.

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