Nominated for the 2015 Audie Award for Best Autobiography/Memoir
A 2014 New York Times Editor’s Choice
A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, January 2014
A Library Journal Best Book of 2014
A BookPage Best Book of 2014
One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2014
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, February 2014
A New Yorker writer revisits the seminal book of her youth—Middlemarch—and fashions a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories.
Rebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read George Eliot’s Middlemarch, regarded by many as the greatest English novel. After gaining admission to Oxford and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs, then marriage, and family, Mead read and 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, reportage, and memoir, Rebecca Mead leads us into the life that the book made for her, as well as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure that deftly mirrors that of the novel, My Life in Middlemarch takes the themes of Eliot’s masterpiece—the complexity of love, the meaning of marriage, the foundations of morality, and the drama of aspiration and failure—and brings them into our world. Offering both a fascinating reading of Eliot’s biography and an exploration of the way aspects of Mead’s life uncannily echo that of the author herself, My Life in Middlemarch is for every ardent lover of literature who cares about why we read books, and how they read us.
© 2014 by Rebecca Mead
“A singular and inventive tale…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, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“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.”
Harold Bloom, New York Times bestselling author
“A wonderfully intelligent exploration of a great novel and its great author.”
Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author
“A thoroughly engaging mix of memoir and biography…primarily a literary biography, and a lovely accessible one at that. As she traces the threads connecting Eliot’s life and work, Mead infuses lively insight into both the author and the novel. Her own experiences, peppered throughout the narrative, never overwhelm it; Eliot and Middlemarch remain her primary focus. 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-”
“A beguilingly straightforward, resolutely orthodox and unshowy account…My Life in Middlemarch is an exemplary introduction to the work of George Eliot and a helpful and informed companion guide to Middlemarch…A poignant testimony to the abiding power of fiction.”
New York Times Book Review
“Mead’s middle-aged rediscovery of Middlemarch—and her insights into Eliot’s rich middle age—is not to be missed.”
“Beautifully conveys the excitement of living in a novel, of knowing its characters as if they breathed.”
“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 review)
“Part literary criticism, part biography, and part memoir, this extremely creative book charts the many ways in which George Eliot’s Middlemarch has shaped the life of Mead, who came across the novel for the first time when she was a teenager studying for her university entrance examinations…More memoirist than literary critic, Mead demonstrates through her own story how literature can change and transform lives…Even the reader who has never heard of George Eliot will find Mead’s crisp, exacting prose absorbing and thought provoking.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“[Mead] performs an exhilarating, often surprising close reading of the novel, which Eliot began writing at age fifty-one 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 review)
“A rare and remarkable fusion of techniques that draws two women together across time and space.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The wonderful Kate Reading is the ideal narrator for this quintessentially British audiobook. She’s a master of intonation and offers the most lovely of accents to enliven this unusual text.”
Michael Gorra, author of Portrait of a Novel
“My Life in Middlemarch is both unclassifiable and irresistible: a smart, absorbing glimpse into two lives—George Eliot’s and Rebecca Mead’s—as well as a lively meditation on Middlemarch. Intelligent, insightful, and generous in her judgments, Mead is a delightful guide—winsome and engaging.”
Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
Kate Reading is an Audie Award–winning narrator and has received numerous Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine. She is also a theater actor in the Washington, DC, area and has been a member of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company since 1987. Her work onstage has been recognized by the Helen Hayes Awards Society, among others. She and her husband live in Hyattsville, Maryland, with their two children.
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- Publisher: Blackstone Audio
- Genre: Nonfiction/Biography & Autobiography
- ISBN-13: 978-1-4829-7352-5