REBECCA MEAD is a staff writer for The New Yorker. She is also the author of One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding and recently contributed a foreword to the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition of Middlemarch. She lives in Brooklyn. From the Hardcover edition.
New York Times Bestseller New York Times Book ReviewEditor's Choice A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year A Huffington Post Best Book of the Year A BookPage Best Book of the Year A Chicago Reader Best Book of the Year A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year A Library Journal Best Book of the Year Featured on the Entertainment Weekly "Must" ListOne of The Guardian (UK) Ten Best Books of the Year-So-Far "My Life in Middlemarch is a poignant testimony to the abiding power of fiction." Joyce Carol Oates, 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." Priscilla Gilman, O Magazine "Part memoir, part biography, part literary appreciation, My Life in Middlemarch is pure pleasure." NPR "Mead s middle-aged rediscovery of Middlemarch and her insights into Eliot s rich middle age is not to be missed." The Atlantic "My Life in Middlemarch, which I loved, follows not just the different things Mead got out ofMiddlemarchat different times in her life, but her personal, even tactile attempts to better know Eliot." Washington Post If Eliot s work is the candle, Mead s is the bright sconce reflecting the flame. Boston Globe "It would be difficult to find a novel more likely to reward multiple rereadings than Eliot s or a richer, more complete or more moving demonstration of its lasting power thanMy Life in Middlemarch." Laura Miller, Salon "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 "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." Slate"[Mead] invites empathy, an exercise of which George Eliot would be unmistakably proud." Emily Rapp, Boston Globe"Mead's work stands out for its brevity (beside its voluminous source), for its calm (no violence and few sudden moves), and for its perfect match of writer and subject." San Francisco Gate"'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 cementsMiddlemarch sstatus as a work of profound genius and inestimable import, but she returns the humanity to its pages." The New Republic "Mead beautifully conveys the excitement of living in a novel, of knowing its characters as if they breathed, of revisiting them over time and seeing them differently. She conveys, too, not at all heavy-handedly, the particular relationship one develops with an author whose work one loves .There is a meticulous underlying order to the book, structured to mirrorMiddlemarchitself, but as in a letter, the effect is of spontaneous movement, the particular thrill of following a mind untrammeled." Claire Messud, Bookforum "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." Newsday "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 "This is, quite simply, heaven in book form." The Sunday Times "This is Mead s life inside a book, inside the fictional Midlands village Eliot created. By the end, though, this could be your life, too. As Mead writes, 'She makes Middlemarchers of us all.'" Newsweek Though Mead's regard for Eliot is obvious, you don't need to be aMiddlemarchfan to appreciateMy Life in Middlemarch.If a book has ever truly spoken to you, you'll be able to relate. The Week "Gracefully executed." Kathryn Schulz, 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 It is delightful that a writer as thorough and serious as Mead draws attention to so many types of joy, including the larger vista, a landscape changed by books, reshaped by reading that might be the ultimate joy that comes from reading. That s whatMy Life in Middlemarchoffers: a landscape changed, a powerful joy. The Rumpus 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. Vogue.com "[Mead's] captivating and lucid book mixes biography, memoir and close reading to symphonic effect." Financial Times A combination of thorough research, elegant writing, and a willingness to admit when things remain unavailable or obscure makes Mead a commendable guide InMy Life in Middlemarchshe is committed to telling the full truth of what she uncovers, resisting the temptation to downplay context and complexity to suit her own purposes. The result is highly rewarding a reflection on the novel that contains compelling depths of its own Her thoughtful tribute to the power ofMiddlemarchwill send any reader back to Eliot s work with eyes newly opened to its treasures. Commonweal "There is lots more to quote in this eminently quotable book, especially Mead s many insightful reflections on the various characters besides Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch. 'The greatest benefit we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies, ' she quotes Eliot. My Life in Middlemarch is Mead s exploration of this benefit as well as an ambitious agenda for a memoir. I feel pleasurably enriched to have read it." Arts Fuse "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 "If there is a perfect book to start the year with it has to be Rebecca Mead s My Life in Middlemarch." The Edge "Ambitious, elegant, intense and absorbing even if Middlemarch is not your favorite book." Literary Review "Mead's long experience of profile-writing shows in the effortless ease of her prose." The Evening Standard "Rebecca Mead s new book is thought-provoking, wonderfully insightful and satisfying. It speaks to any reader who may reflect upon the subliminal touch a remarkable book may have had on one s own life." The Frederiscksburg Freelance-Star Mead is both learned and astute; on the page she comes off as an inquiring mind, on par with Eliot and her beloved heroine, Dorothea Brooke: sensitive, cunning, and winningly relatable My Life in Middlemarchachieves what good criticism strives to accomplish: it compels the reader to seek out the original text and experience it for herself Mead reminds us why one is a book person in the first place. Harvard Review Online "In this deeply satisfying hybrid work of literary criticism, biography, and memoir, New Yorker staff writer Mead brings to vivid life the profound engagement that she and all devoted readers experience with a favorite novel over a lifetime....Passionate readers, even those new to Middlemarch, will relish this book." Publishers Weekly (starred) "A rare and remarkable fusion of techniques that draws two women together across time and space." Kirkus Reviews(starred) "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) "[Mead] performs an exhilarating, often surprising close reading of the novel, which Eliot began writing at age 51 in 1870. And she takes a fresh look at Eliot s daringly unconventional life, visiting the writer s homes and casting light not only on the author s off-the-charts intellect but also her valor in forthrightly addressing complex moral issues, cutting sense of humor, 'large, perceptive generosity, ' and the deep love she shared with critic and writer George Henry Lewes and his sons. Mead injects just enough of her own life story to take measure of the profound resonance of Eliot s progressive, humanistic viewpoint, recognition of the heroism of ordinary lives, and crucial central theme, 'a young woman s desire for a substantial, rewarding, meaningful life.'" Booklist (starred) "In the wonderful and thoughtfulMy 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 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 Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things"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"Not quite biography, not quite memoir, not quite literary criticism, My Life in Middlemarch is a wonderfully intelligent exploration of a great novel and its great author. I loved Mead's empathy, her insight and her restraint and I devoured her deliciously readable pages." Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy"Rebecca Mead s marvelous book tells us everything we need to know about the greatest of all English novels. She gives us Middlemarch s characters their marriages, their world and she gives us George Eliot herself, a woman whose self-doubt led her into wisdom.But that s just the start.Mead reads with passion and care, and she allows the novel to irradiate her own life to tell her, with each successive rereading, just who she is and how she s changed. Indeed she suggests that Middlemarch is the book that made her grow up, and in showing us the difference it s made to her she shows how it can make a difference in your own life too." Michael Gorra, author of Portrait of a Novel "My Life in Middlemarchis both unclassifiable and irresistible: a smart, absorbing glimpse into two lives George Eliot s and Rebecca Mead s as well as a lively meditation onMiddlemarch. Intelligent, insightful, and generous in her judgments, Mead is a delightful guide winsome and engaging." Adelle Waldman, author ofThe Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. From the Hardcover edition."