What would happen if I stopped to consider how Middlemarch has shaped my understanding of my own life? Why did the novel still feel so urgent, after all these years? And what could it give me now, as I paused here in the middle of things, and surveyed where I had come from, and thought about where I was, and wondered where I might go next?
At the age of 17, Rebecca Mead read Middlemarch for the first time, and has read it again every five years since, interpreting and discovering it anew each time. In The Road to Middlemarch she writes passionately about her relationship with this remarkable Victorian novel—loved by so many—and explores how its characters and their stories, along with George Eliot’s own life experiences, can answer some of our fundamental questions about life and love.
Middlemarch has at its centre one of literature’s most compelling and ill-fated marriages, and some of the most tenderly drawn characters. Mead explores how Middlemarch teaches us to be grown-ups, and to value our ordinary lives. The Road to Middlemarch is a sensitive work of deep reading and biography, for every reader of literature who cares about why we read books and how they read us.
‘A perfectly composed offering of literary love and self-observation. I adored it.’
‘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.’
‘…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.’
‘A rare and remarkable fusion of techniques that draws two women together across time and space.’ starred review
‘Rebecca Mead is tough-minded and has a reporter’s impatience with mush. In My Life in Middlemarch, she gives us several unlikely things at once—a lively reading of George Eliot’s novel, an intimate portrait of Eliot herself, and a book about the consolations of getting older.’
‘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 relation one develops with an author whose work one loves.’
‘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.’
‘Mead’s rekindling of appreciation for Eliot and her books blossoms into a celebration of the entire enterprise of writing and reading, of how literature transforms our lives as it guides us toward embracing “all that might be gained from opening one’s heart wider”.’ starred review
‘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.’ starred review
‘This is a fascinating exploration of the relationship between reader and subject, a book about the primal pleasure of reading that is in itself a huge pleasure to read.’
‘Mead has interwoven Eliot’s biography with an homage to Middlemarch and the way its insights have applied to her life, or can apply to anyone’s, really. She is the best kind of devoted reader: sensitive and admiring without being mawkish, her pages full of intelligent close reading and considered personal reflections. It’s like sitting through a sparkling session of a book group where the brainy person gets to do all the talking.’