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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So we have not one but two good writers to enjoy when we take up this book
This is a book that does three things: firstly, it takes you on a guided tour of places associated with George Eliot, and tells you all about her life, and her struggle to escape the limiting parameters she had grown up with. Secondly, it is a considered appreciation of the novel and guides you in your understanding of why this book is rated so highly. Thirdly, the...
Published 2 months ago by lesleyegg

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read MIddlemarch instead
This is a largely inoffensive read, but contributes nothing to our knowledge about Middlemarch - there are much better studies of the book itself, and of George Eliot's life, available to us. Good criticism doesn't have to be inaccessible to the general reader: writers like John Sutherland and John Mullan manage to write entertaining and approachable works which are also...
Published 3 months ago by Hugh Forbes


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So we have not one but two good writers to enjoy when we take up this book, 21 Oct 2014
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This review is from: The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot (Kindle Edition)
This is a book that does three things: firstly, it takes you on a guided tour of places associated with George Eliot, and tells you all about her life, and her struggle to escape the limiting parameters she had grown up with. Secondly, it is a considered appreciation of the novel and guides you in your understanding of why this book is rated so highly. Thirdly, the narrative also acts as a kind of autobiography, telling you about the development of Rebecca Mead as a writer and as a woman.

So we have not one but two good writers to enjoy when we take up this book. Eliot is quoted liberally from her letters and novels, and Mead takes the role of a knowledgeable guide to her life and works who is also prepared to open up to the reader and share her personal experiences, some of which are similar to Eliot's.

I have to quote from the book to give you a feeling for how it works, and for me it works beautifully and is a delight to read, but I have had to cut it a lot:

"One morning in late spring I caught the train from London to Nuneaton. I'd only been to the Midlands once before, when I was eighteen, on a week-long school trip spent on a barge that wended its way through the area's network of canals.... The journey takes about an hour on the fast train, which further flattens the fields and pastures and turns the canals into leaden streaks alongside its tracks.
The Midlands are lacking in drama, topographically speaking, and George Eliot is the great advocate of the loveliness to be found in their modest plainness. In chapter 12 of Middlemarch, she paints a picture of the land in which she grew up that is as attentive to each facet and flaw of its subject as the portraits by Dutch masters she admired. "Little details gave each field a particular physiognomy, dear to the eyes that have looked on them from childhood," she writes. "The pool in the corner where the grasses were dank and the trees leaned whisperingly; the great oak shadowing a bare place in mid-pasture; the high bank where the ash-trees grew..."
"The countryside I saw through the train window wasn't at all like the coastal English landscape of my youth,... , but the note of nostalgia in Eliot's description resonated with me. It was more than twenty years since I'd lived in England, and returning always induced a melancholy in me... These days when I took the train from London to my hometown I was always struck by the understated beauty of the countryside. I'd failed to appreciate it when I was immersed in it...
"I first moved to New York to do a graduate degree in journalism, expecting to return to England after a year... Much of the time I felt like I was wasting time. But I also got a part-time job at a magazine where I did research for writers and answered the phones and even wrote a few short pieces, learning skills and gaining experience that only a real deadline and a real pay cheque could provide....
.....
"My train arrived in Nuneaton, a market town ten miles north of Coventry. There's a bronze statue of George Eliot in the centre of town, where she sits on a low wall, awash in long skirts, thick hair resting on her shoulders, eyes cast down, a book at her side. Not far away, past slightly dilapidated chain stores, there's a pub named for her, the George Eliot hotel...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who was Ladislaw?, 27 Nov 2014
Fascinating, illuminating; I taught 'Middlemarch' to adult students for years but this told me several things I didn't know. I was especially interested in George Eliot's relationship with her stepsons, who undoubtedly gave her some ideas for the character of Fred Vincy, a person so unlike herself. But I think that Will Ladislaw was suggested by Millais, a young and charming artist with a foreign surname who falls in love with his benefactor's wife. The parallels between 'Middlemarch' and the Ruskin/Effie/Millais story are extraordinary.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Enduring Power of Literary Fiction, 13 Mar 2014
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Rebecca Mead first read George Eliot's 'Middlemarch' - the novel famously described by Virginia Woolf as one of the few English novels written for grown-up people - when she was seventeen years old, and having derived so much pleasure from the book has returned to it on many occasions during the past thirty years. At that first reading, the novel's heroine, nineteen-year-old Dorothea Brooke, spoke volumes to the then seventeen-year-old Mead, who tells us that 'Middlemarch's' theme of a young woman's desire for a rewarding, meaningful life resonated with her and made it seem as if George Eliot was speaking directly to her. On subsequent re-readings Mead has found herself re-evaluating and discovering something new with each of these re-readings. She writes: "Every time I go back to the novel, I feel that - while I might live a century without knowing as much as a handful of its pages suggest - I may hope to be enlarged by each revisiting."

For the purposes of this book, Mead, a British-born staff writer for the New Yorker, took time out to rediscover George Eliot, visiting the author's homes, reading and re-reading her novels and correspondence, and studying Eliot's handwritten journal - and, as she does so, Mead reflects on her own life and on how certain aspects of her life identify with George Eliot's life and the lives of some of her characters. Mead tells us that in writing this book, she hoped to discern the ways in which George Eliot's life shaped her fiction, and how fiction shaped George Eliot; Mead also wondered what would happen if she stopped to consider how 'Middlemarch' had shaped her understanding of her own life. Part memoir, part literary biography, part literary criticism, Rebecca Mead's 'The Road to Middlemarch' makes for interesting, enjoyable and thought-provoking reading and also serves as a reminder of the enduring power of literary fiction. Recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great read, 30 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot (Kindle Edition)
I really enjoyed this book. The author has masterfully dealt with her own memoir as well as that of George Eliot and the characters in Middlemarch. One has to have read the Middlemarch to fully appreciate this book. Her insight into the characters is informed by extensive research. She has read biographies,letters and critics to name a few. I would recommend this book to any reader of Middlemarch seeking to understand George Eliot and her characters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book - a detailed and personal examination of the ..., 13 Oct 2014
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This review is from: The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot (Kindle Edition)
An excellent book - a detailed and personal examination of the effects that literature can have on an individual's imagination. Sure to appeal to fans of George Elliot and what is surely her greatest novel.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars bought this as a way into Middlemarch - turns out it is really enjoyable on its own merits, 21 May 2014
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Thoughtful, interesting and well paced. The personal journey through George Elliot's history and the descriptions of her other writing and relationships is easy to absorb - I ended up feeling as though I had learned quite a lot through osmosis rather than study. I enjoyed the author's writing style and did search out some of her articles as a result of reading this book.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Heaven in book form' Sunday Times, 13 Mar 2014
I couldn't agree more with The Sunday Times - this is a wonderful blend of memoir, literary biography and a lively re-reading of one of my favourite classics. A book that not only brings Middlemarch to life in a new way but shows how books can shape, mould and speak to our lives.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read MIddlemarch instead, 18 Sep 2014
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This review is from: The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot (Kindle Edition)
This is a largely inoffensive read, but contributes nothing to our knowledge about Middlemarch - there are much better studies of the book itself, and of George Eliot's life, available to us. Good criticism doesn't have to be inaccessible to the general reader: writers like John Sutherland and John Mullan manage to write entertaining and approachable works which are also informative and - crucially - not so self-indulgent. This isn't a 'way in' to Middlemarch, as several readers have suggested: it is a way in to Rebecca Mead, who, although undoubtedly charming, is not the same thing. If you are considering this book as a bridge to Eliot, have more faith in yourself: read Middlemarch instead.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Road to Middlemarch, 23 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot (Kindle Edition)
If you know the novel well it is a fascinating mix of insights about the book and about George Eliot's unconventional life. It is also interesting to hear Rebecca Mead's involvement with the book at different times in her life and why it have ant so much to her.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 29 Oct 2014
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Speedy delivery and product as described
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