Next to Jane Austen, I love no author and works better than those of George Eliot’s. I have often been teased or side-eyed, especially when I lead in with Silas Marner. What can I say? It’s easy to love Silas when he’s played by a Jack Russell terrier in a pint-sized costume:
Wishbone introduced me to Silas Marner in eighth grade, and then I read and fell in love with Middlemarch in college. I briefly declared it my favorite novel above Pride and Prejudice, and then reconsidered–but it’s in my top three novels of all time, for sure. I connected with Dorothea especially, and I found her misguided earnest desire to make the world a better place both heartbreaking and inspiring.
So when I saw the audiobook for My Life in Middlemarch, I was intrigued. I wondered how Middlemarch impacted author Rebecca Mead’s own life, and I was intrigued by the connections she would make. Mead mirrors her own book with the novel itself, and each chapter is titled after each of the books that comprise the whole novel. In it, we find insights into the novel, Eliot’s own life and writing, and, in much smaller detail, Mead’s own real-life connections.
Initially, I was disappointed that the book did not seem to live up to its conceit. I at first knew very little about how Mead’s life and philosophy were impacted by Middlemarch. But I did find out a lot about her life with her longtime partner, George Henry Lewes, one of the great and unexpected literary love stories around. I gained a lot of insight into the novel, and I fell in love with it–and Eliot–all over again.
It’s beautifully written and insightful. If you at all like classic novels or books about books, you will greatly enjoy this book. I’ve already requested the Middlemarch audiobook for my school travels, because it’s time to read it again.