A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
These were my questions before I read My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead:
Would I find a book about a woman’s relationship to a single book interesting?
How much of Middlemarch by George Eliot would I remember?
Despite reading several strong reviews and hearing another on National Public Radio, I wondered if My Life in Middlemarch could retain my interest. The topic seemed rather narrow. I need not have worried. The subject matter as presented is broader than it first appears. I would estimate Mead’s book is 45 percent about George Eliot, 35 percent about the characters and events in Middlemarch, and 20 percent about Mead herself. Of course, it is all tied together in such a way that any one paragraph or even sentence could be about all three. The story keeps turning and evolving so that specific topics are fresh. I never wavered in my desire to keep listening.
It has been a long time since I read Middlemarch. I also saw the 1994 BBC miniseries twenty years ago. I only remember Patrick Malahide in the role of the cold Reverend Edward Casaubon. Until I looked up the credits, I could not name any others from the cast, though I now see numerous actors that I recognize. Thinking that I remembered little, I wondered whether discussion about the characters would make any sense to me. Again, I need not have worried. Mead introduces the characters through descriptions that stimulate memory. (I don’t know how it would be for someone who has no knowledge of Middlemarch.) I remembered much more than I would have thought.
The surprise for me was that the book is about George Eliot more than anything else. At least, that is what I get from reading My Life in Middlemarch. I think it serves as an entertaining introduction to the 19th century author’s life, coming from a scholarly admirer, tempered but still passionate in admiration. I now want to read or listen again to the novels of Eliot. I only see Silas Marner on my spreadsheet. That does not seem right. Surely I have read more. Whatever, it has been too long. – Review by Rick