I love George Eliot's Middlemarch--always have, since I was first introduced to it as a sophomore in college. I wrote a lengthy contextual paper for that course, and wound up writing my honor's thesis on the book. Each time I read it, I'm amazed by Eliot's grasp of character and her insight into the human condition. And this was one of the first books I remember really seeing myself in the characters (both Dorothea, who one of my nieces is named after, and the sensible Mary Garth).
So when I first read about Rebecca Mead's book, I was intrigued, to say the least. The book is hard to categorize: part literary analysis, part biography of Eliot, part memoir, part book history.
While Mead can occasionally come across as a bit stuffy in the memoir part, I recognized myself in a lot of her experiences (the overly ambitious bookish teenager). And I fully related to her account of finding herself in Middlemarch. I've done that myself, multiple times.
This isn't a book that will appeal to audiences looking for a quick, fast-paced read--but for those who are interested in the ways that books deeply affect the way we live our lives, this is a terrific read. Interesting, insightful, and smart, this book reminded me of all the reasons why I love reading. (And, not incidentally, why I loved Middlemarch so much).