cover image Middlemarch and the Imperfect Life

Middlemarch and the Imperfect Life

Pamela Erens. Ig, $14.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-63246-131-5

George Eliot’s Middlemarch is a guide to life’s ups and downs according to this delightful mix of memoir and literary criticism. Novelist Erens (Matasha) suggests that Middlemarch offers a blueprint for those “finding ways to make the best of their imperfect lives,” and, indeed, she writes of how after discovering the novel in college, it helped her as she struggled with an eating disorder and has become a touchstone she’s returned to at pivotal moments in her life, most recently during the pandemic. Erens gleans plenty of insights from the work, focusing particularly on Eliot’s generosity toward her characters: “That Eliot finds human beings amusing, absurd, and lovable is her story.” Erens deduces from her readings that if the narratives one constructs for oneself shatter, as they do for Eliot’s Dorothea and Lydgate, then it’s possible to pick up the pieces and start anew. “Life stories are like kaleidoscopes.... We can change them... we can select one pattern over another, can shake the elements into different configurations,” Erens writes. The connections between Middlemarch and Erens’s own life are original and surprising, and her belief in the power of books is a balm in troubled times. Middlemarch fans old and new will want this smart account on their shelves. (Apr.)