My Life in Middlemarch

Rebecca Mead. Crown, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-98476-0
In this deeply satisfying hybrid work of literary criticism, biography, and memoir, New Yorker staff writer Mead (One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding) brings to vivid life the profound engagement that she and all devoted readers experience with a favorite novel over a lifetime. Her love affair with Middlemarch and its author, George Eliot, began when 17-year-old Mead was growing up in southwest England. Here, she wants to “go back to being a reader,” and sets out to rediscover Eliot, visiting the places Eliot lived, studying her letters, and even holding a journal in Eliot’s own handwriting. In Mead’s rendering, Eliot proves a deeply loving partner and devoted stepmother. Mead’s considerable scholarship is accessible and revelatory to anyone who cares about what Eliot calls “the common yearning of womanhood.” Mead, who identifies strongly with aspects of Eliot’s life and that of the characters in Middlemarch, returns to the novel during various stages of her life: as a young Englishwoman finding her way in New York; in relationships with difficult men; as a stepmother and wife; and eventually as the mother of a son. As Mead writes: “There are books that seem to comprehend us just as much as we understand them… books that grow with the reader as the reader grows.” Passionate readers, even those new to Middlemarch, will relish this book. Agent: Kathy Robbins, the Robbins Office. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/07/2013
Release date: 01/28/2014
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