My Life in Middlemarch | Penguin Random House Canada

My Life in Middlemarch

Publisher: Bond Street Books

Rebecca Mead was a young woman in a coastal town of England when she first read George Eliot's Middlemarch. After gaining admission to Oxford, and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs and then marriage and family, Rebecca Mead 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, reporting, and memoir, Rebecca Mead leads the reader into the life that her favorite book made for her, as well as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure that perfectly mirrors that of the novel, My Life in Middlemarch takes the themes of Eliot's novel and brings them into the world. Offering both a fascinating reading of Eliot's biography and an uncanny portrait of the ways in which Mead's life echoes that of the author herself, My Life in Middlemarch is a book for who wonders about the power of literature to shape our lives.

From the Hardcover edition.


Named USA Today’s February 2015 Critic’s Pick
Globe and Mail Best Book of 2014
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2014
“Very charming.” ―Flavorwire
“[S]mart, delightful blend of biography, memoir, reportage, and a celebration of George Eliot's most famous novel.” ―USA Today

My Life in Middlemarch is a poignant testimony to the abiding power of fiction.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Clearly, this book was a pleasure for Mead to write—it’s personal, intimate yet rigorously researched—and it seems to have deepened her relationship with the novel she loves so much. Her passion proves infectious for the reader as well, and My Life in Middlemarch will surely encourage readers to discover Eliot’s masterpiece for the first time—what an enviable experience—or, like Mead, to regard it as a lifelong and steadfast companion.”
USA Today

“Fans of this Victorian mainstay—or, really, any book lover in a passionate long-term relationship with a novel—will find Mead’s research and analysis deeply gratifying. And if you haven’t ever read Middlemarch, Mead’s lucid writing will send you straight to the bookstore . . .  A-.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Anyone who believes that books have the power to shape lives and that ‘our own lives can teach us how to read a book’ will respond with fascination and delight to Mead’s evolving appreciation of the richness and relevance of Eliot’s masterwork.”
O Magazine

“Part memoir, part biography, part literary appreciation, My Life in Middlemarch is pure pleasure.”

“Mead’s writing will make you want to read Middlemarch if you haven’t, and re-read it if you have. Mead’s is a wonderful close reading of not just a book, but also a life, and a life in reading.”

“[Mead] invites empathy, an exercise of which George Eliot would be unmistakably proud.”
Boston Globe

 “My Life in Middlemarch, which I loved, follows not just the different things Mead got out of Middlemarch at different times in her life, but her personal, even tactile attempts to better know Eliot.”
Washington Post

“In this nuanced look at Middlemarch, Mead offers a fresh and vibrant portrait of Eliot, an entrancing memoir and a passionate homage to the riches of rereading.”

“Mead’s journey is in the service of an intellectual pilgrimage, her attempt to ‘discern the ways in which George Eliot’s life shaped her fiction, and how her fiction shaped her.’ There are pleasures to be gleaned from this quest. For one thing, My Life in Middlemarch serves as an astute primer on the novel.”
—Chicago Tribune

“Though Mead’s regard for Eliot is obvious, you don’t need to be a Middlemarch fan to appreciate My Life in Middlemarch. If a book has ever truly spoken to you, you’ll be able to relate.”
—The Week

“‘Generating the experience of sympathy was what her fiction was for,’ Mead writes of Eliot. And that is precisely what Mead’s own book accomplishes as well. Mead not only cements Middlemarch’s status as a work of profound genius and inestimable import, but she returns the humanity to its pages.”
The New Republic

 “Gracefully executed.”
New York

“One need not read the [lengthy] 1874 classic to appreciate this new work, which pays tribute not only to Eliot, but also to all book lovers who see novels as good friends worthy of frequent revisits.”
New York Post

“Mead elegantly intertwines the novel’s intersections with Eliot’s biography, as well as with Mead’s own plotline: First as an intellectually curious adolescent in provincial England, yearning for life’s adventures to begin; then as an aspiring journalist in New York, dating an older man and facing disappointment, professional and personal; and finally—and most movingly—as a mother and stepparent opening her heart to an unruly brand of joy.”

 “My Life in Middlemarch has a third major theme as well—the enduring power of literature. ‘Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it’s a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book,’ Mead writes. ‘But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and when a reader is grasped and held by a book, reading does not feel like an escape from life so much as it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself.’ Anyone who agrees with that sentiment is likely to enjoy this engaging book.”
Associated Press

“Mead demonstrates through her own story how literature can change and transform lives. For this reason, even the reader who has never heard of George Eliot will find Mead's crisp, exacting prose absorbing and thought-provoking.”
Library Journal (starred)

“In the wonderful and thoughtful My Life in Middlemarch, Rebecca Mead revisits her love of George Eliot’s novel to consider what makes it great—and the ways life and art inform and imitate each other. The result is a lively, wide-ranging appreciation of one of the greatest novels in the English language, through the lens of Mead’s observations on its shifting resonance throughout her own life.”
Shelf Awareness

“Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch, an extraordinary mixture of literary criticism, biography and personal memoir combined to form an irresistibly fresh appreciation of one of the most famous novels of the English language. . . . My Life in Middlemarch is a deeply sympathetic and intelligent account of one woman’s “profound experience with a book”, without doubt a love letter to Eliot’s masterpiece, but also an important meditation on how our life experiences shape our reading, and our reading shapes how we choose to live our lives.”
The Daily Beast

“It is such a well-rounded tribute that Mead manages to give readers their own reasons to love Eliot and Middlemarch.”
—The Windsor Star

“George Eliot is the heroine of this biography woven with memoir, in which she is lovingly rediscovered for a new generation as a novelist and mentor just as relevant to our lives now as in her own mid-Victorian times.”
The Times (UK)

“It is elegant, thoughtful and readable, written with clarity and a gentle sympathy that seems a reflection of Eliot’s own generous wisdom, while veering away from some of Eliot’s more astringent asides. Mead is determined to make the novel that Virginia Woolf famously described as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people” accessible again, to a culture whose definition of maturity has altered over the 150 years since Middlemarch was published. . . . If Mead assists Middlemarch in flowering for new readers, as she assuredly will, then she has more than done her job.”
The Guardian

“Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch is a wise, humane and delightful study of what some regard as the best novel in English. Mead has discovered an original and highly personal way to make herself an inhabitant both of the book and of George Eliot’s imaginary city. Though I have read and taught the book these many years I find myself desiring to go back to it after reading Rebecca Mead’s work.”
—Harold Bloom, author of The Anxiety of Influence and Sterling Professor of the Humanities and English, Yale University

“Rebecca Mead has written a singular and inventive tale about her favorite book, and how it has changed—and changed her—over many years of reading and re-reading. Anyone who has ever loved the characters in a novel as dearly as we love our own families will recognize the passion, the devotion, the intimacy and the joy of returning again and again to a revered classic. Both a memoir and a biography, both an homage and a homecoming, My Life in Middlemarch is a perfectly composed offering of literary love and self-observation. I adored it, and it will forever live on my bookshelf next to my own precious paperbacks of George Eliot.”
—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of The Signature of All Things

From the Hardcover edition.