Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

I'm going to write about a book that is written about a book. It's book-nerd heaven around here, but if you wanna come back tomorrow I'll forgive you!

I just wanted to write a little about how wonderful I thought Rebecca Mead's My Life in Middlemarchwas in comparison to other literary criticism/memoir books out there. (I'm looking at you A Jane Austen Education.) I found this insightful presentation of Middlemarch, George Eliot, and Rebecca's own personal experiences a really enjoyable read, which is hard to say without the subject matter being treated disrespectfully or dumbed down, while at the same time being applicable to our modern day life in an approachable way.

I think those of us who really love Middlemarch are kind of a breed unto ourselves. We've come to love the novel full of complex characters in which we can see ourselves in, the smallness of the town, the movement of life within it - there is something so unique to the novel that draws you in on at a very deep level. I think it's because Middlemarch so completely creates its own universe which is so deeply relatable, and so very universal. I wonder how many of us have read the novel and felt exactly like Dorothea at the beginning of the story; bursting with untapped ambition to do great things, to help the world, to mine our souls for storied courage and greatness. But as we all age and come to know the truth about life as it really is, we begin to see the other characters, Fred, Dr. Lydgate, Mary Garth, Rev. Farebrother with a different, more sympathetic eye. It is a novel about the truths of life like no other.

Mead approaches the book in a thoughtful, humble fashion which makes it so much more comforting to journey with the characters of Middlemarch again. She does a fine job bringing out key components of the story while mirroring it to the life of Eliot. It was interesting reading deeper into Eliot's life and writing alongside the familiar story. George Eliot was a difficult figure to sum up, but I believe she was treated fairly throughout, with neither pretension or awestruck reverence. Mead's deft hand at bringing in own strands of her life in relation to the novel was well done and didn't override the other aspects of the book, but brought the right amount of relatable personality to the book that I think many fans could relate to as well.

I have the upmost respect for a writer who writes about a novel they love. It must be incredibly trying to bring together a clear picture that does justice to the novel and it's genius author without becoming a complete fangirl. I appreciated both the honesty with which this book is written and it's respect and love for the book I too, respect and love so much. It was really a treat to spend time with another Middlemarch lover, George Eliot herself, and to linger in the town of Middlemarch a little longer. I'd recommend this book to anyone who has loved, or even liked, Middlemarch at one time or another, and to anyone who wants a personal account of how great literature can impact your life; or if you're  tempted to read A Jane Austen Education.

Joining Jessica, at Housewifespice for What We're Reading Wednesdays. 

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  1. Thanks for this! I had heard about the book, and as I love Middlemarch I wasn't sure whether I should definitely read it or definitely avoid it (I tend to get very frustrated with people offering "modern" takes on authors, forcing whatever hobbyhorse they have onto great works - I'm looking at you slave-owning trauma in the adaptation of Mansfield Park) but if it has your approval, I'll check it out!

  2. I read Middlemarch last summer and loved it - perhaps I'll have to check this one out!

  3. I'll have to try this book. I tried reading Middlemarch a few years ago and just could not get through it. I got bogged down in all the political stuff. Saw the BBC miniseries and loved it; felt like I was cheating.

  4. Oh, Middlemarch is my favorite book in the whole wide world! :). I can't wait to read this one now.

  5. I read MM at age 21, now I'm 66. I'm going to read it again after reading your post. Those years do make a difference!


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