Rebecca Mead read Middlemarch as an adolescent, a young adult, and as someone approaching middle age. Each time she found attributes of the characters that illuminated her own life. In this book she shares her findings. As she matured so did her understanding of the characters, from believing Dorothea Brooks to be the heroine of the novel to, in her middle years, understanding the enduring love of Mary Greaves and the delight of having a home place.
The chapters of the book parallel the chapters of Middlemarch. In each chapter Mead discusses the characters, her reaction to them, and how the novel influenced her life. She also presents vignettes of Eliot's life. She visits places Eliot lived and gives us a glimpse of how these places have changed today.
I found the book thoroughly delightful. It is more than an overview of Middlemarch, although it contains quotations and descriptions of the characters. It contains letters, reviews, and descriptions of Eliot and the life she shared with Lewes. It fits together smoothly and is enhanced by the author's description of how she felt about the characters and the places she visited in her quest to become more familiar with Eliot.
I highly recommend this book. If you've read Middlemarch, it will give you a perspective on how another reader treasured the book. If you've never read it, you can still understand and enjoy the characters and see more of Eliot herself and her relationship to the book. It gives you a glimpse of the creative process. It may even encourage you to read the book and find your own relationship to Middlemarch.
I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.