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 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 described as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up
people,” offered Mead something that modern life and literature did not.
In this wise and revealing work of biography, reportage, and
memoir, Rebecca Mead leads us into the life that the book made for her, as well
as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure
that deftly mirrors that of the novel, My
Life in Middlemarch takes the themes of Eliot’s masterpiece—the complexity
of love, the meaning of marriage, the foundations of morality, and the drama of
aspiration and failure—and brings them into our world. Offering both a
fascinating reading of Eliot’s biography and an exploration of the way aspects
of Mead’s life uncannily echo that of the author herself, My Life in Middlemarch is for every ardent lover of literature who
cares about why we read books, and how they read us.
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