Pop Culture Princess

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rebecca Mead hangs out with George Eliot to live My Life in Middlemarch

For readers, there are certain books that are considered not just classics but milestones in our lifelong literary journey. While some of them may be seen as  mainly the reflections of a certain time period or the personal musings of this or that author, the true masterpieces tend to resonate to more than one generation and amongst those select few is George Eliot's Middlemarch.

Writer Rebecca Mead takes us on her personal path through the life of the mind she still experiences with that particular book in My Life in Middlemarch(which I received from Blogging For Books in exchange for a honest review). Mead first read the novel during her young student days,where she felt very much like Dorothea Brooke, the heroine of MM.

Dorothea is  a studious sort who wishes to prove her worth instead of simply settling down to the expected society marriage like her sister Celia. Instead of taking up with her wealthy neighbor Sir James Chattam, she marries Edward Causbon, an elderly scholar who is forever working on a book that he will most likely never finish. You could almost say it's what it would be like if Pride & Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennet was as pedantic as her sister Mary and decided to marry Mr. Collins:

Mead not only talks about the novel, she also blends a bit of biography about George Eliot(aka Marian Evans) who was well respected for her writing but caused a few eyebrows for her living in an unofficial married state with George Henry Lewes.

There are points where Mead compares some of her experiences to Eliot, as such the possibility of becoming a stepmother as Eliot was to Lewes' sons and other times, she discusses her travels to see some of the places and things that still remain from Eliot's life and times such as Nuneaton House, where she grew up and a statue of the author that stands in the town square:

 I must confess that part of my reason for reading this book was to see if it would encourage me into actually reading Middlemarch.

I have read a couple of George Eliot's other renowned works(Silas Marner and Daniel Deronda,which I highly recommend) but Middlemarch is held up as her greatest work and for a person like me who is big into English literature, it feels almost like a crime that I haven't read it yet.

However, Mead provides an inviting voice into that realm of author fandom that doesn't get as much attention perhaps as Jane Austen or even Charles Dickens(one of Eliot's contemporaries). Her tours to sites that have been greatly changed by the modern world are amusing at times as some of them have been less than faithfully preserved.

 Also, by going through the paces of the large plot  and vast array of characters that make up Middlemarch, she presents the book in a manner that is more accessible to a new reader. There is more to the story than Dorothea's love life, although seeing if she and her cousin by marriage Will Ladislaw get together is a sweetly strong enticement there:

So, I have to say that My Life in Middlemarch did the trick for me and Middlemarch will be included in my fall reading schedule(as soon as I am finished with Wives and Daughters,that is). I can't say how well Mead's book will go over with those already into George Eliot but I suspect that they won't be entirely disappointed.

I think what Rebecca Mead intended for her take on Middlemarch to accomplish was to get folks talking about and reading and/or rereading this most personally influential novel and in that regard, she seems to have done well. Books about books are alluring to readers but books about books and the people who love them are the very best literary company of them all:

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