Title: My Life in Middlemarch
Author: Rebecca Mead
genre: Biography, Memoir
Rating: 4 out of 5
What Is It About?
Aged 17 and desperate to begin life away from her coastal English town, Rebecca Mead was introduced to Middlemarch, often said to be the greatest English novel of all time. The book never left her and, over the course of her life, as she left home and went to college, moved to America and became a journalist, met and married her husband and became a mom, she read it more than once, taking something different from it each time. Here, she revisits the novel, looking at how it reflects Eliot’s life and how aspects of her own life mirror those of the characters.
What Did I Think?
Following on from my reading of Middlemarch, I was really eager to pick up My Life In Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead as I’d heard some great things about it and I was interested to see what she had to say and why the book had affected her so much.
I’m glad I read both books back to back as the original was still very fresh in my mind so I didn’t have to search my memory when Mead references sections of the book and, as my opinions of the characters were still clearly formed, I was able to take a moment here and there to reflect on how her feelings about a character might change mine (or not).
Although I read biographies fairly regularly I do think that they run the risk of being quite dry. By mixing her own life story with Eliot’s, Mead stopped this happening. And her life, for me, was interesting too. This might be because it somewhat mirrored mine. We both grew up in small towns around the same time and longed to escape. Like Mead, I wore thick black eyeliner and ended up in America, married to an American (we can ignore the fact I couldn’t write a book if I tried). At the same time, Mead’s life never takes over from Eliot’s in the narrative . I’ve not read this style of book before, though I know there are a few of this type of biography/memoir out there, and I would imagine it’s hard to find the balance.
I really liked how she related key times in her life to Middlemarch and how her changing situation and/or attitudes changed how she read and thought of the book and Eliot herself, whose life is fascinating. I knew nothing about Eliot before reading My Life in Middlemarch. Now I want to know more. Which, if I had any criticism of this book would be that I don’t feel I got enough. I wanted more when I was done.
Reading a few more pages wouldn’t have been a problem either as Mead has a really nice writing style, conversational and easy to read without feeling “dumbed down”. It fits the content and makes Eliot accessible to a wide audience, people like me who know nothing of her life.
All in all, definitely a recommended read.
Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.