I love Middlemarch and I loved Rebecca Mead’s book about it, which I snapped up when it was a Kindle daily deal. It’s part biography of George Eliot, part autobiography of Rebecca Mead, part lit.crit. Mostly though, it’s a book about reading.
There are books that seem to comprehend us just as much as we understand them, or even more. There are books that grow with the reader as the reader grows, like a graft to a tree.
Like Rebecca Mead, I was seventeen when I first read Middlemarch; it was the very copy shown at the end of this post. Considering that it’s nearly fifty years old, it’s in very good condition, with white pages. Publishers must have used better quality paper in those days. I remember then hating Rosamond passionately, blaming her for Lydgate’s failure to achieve what he intended to. But as Mead says,
My Middlemarch is not the same as anyone else’s Middlemarch; it is not even the same as my Middlemarch of twenty-five years ago.
As I got older, I felt sorrier for Rosamond and could see the fatal weakness in Lydgate that led to his downfall. My seventeen-year-old self must have been a little in love with him.
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