For May and my 12 in 12 Challenge I am reading about Words, Books and Writing. I was surprised to see how many books on my to-be-read shelves had this as a theme and I have easily found 12 for the challenge although a few are quite long so it is going to take some effort to get through them. So far, however, I have reached the target of 12 for the first four months (although with hours to spare in the case of April !).
The first book I have chosen was on my shelf but I have no idea where it came from or where I got it. It is The Road to Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead. It is a biography of the author, a biography of George Eliot and a review of Eliot’s greatest work, the novel Middlemarch. Somewhat surprisingly, the author brings this all together into a slim and delightful volume.
You really do have to have read Middlemarch to understand this book as the novel is central to the narrative. Fortunately it is a book I have read a couple of times, most recently via audio. I can appreciate it as a great and well written novel and I enjoy it but it doesn’t generate the same feelings of enthusiasm in me as do the works of Jane Austen. You don’t have to know the novel particularly well but the author refers to events in the story and characters which will be meaningless if you don’t understand the context.
The author starts by explaining how important Middlemarch has been in her life and how her engagement and understanding of the novel has changed over the years. She links passages and characters to the life of George Eliot and manages to make it into a coherent narrative which illuminates the book and informs the reader about the life of Eliot. Obviously this is not a critique of Middlemarch and nor is it an in depth biography of its author but there is enough information there for a general reader – I have studied Middlemarch as a text and read a biography of its author but I still found it interesting and liked the way that Rebecca Mead linked it to her own life. This book very much emphasises the face that a book is interpreted by its reader and that each person reads a very different novel.
This unusual book was fascinating and I think it was an excellent start for a month reading about words, books and writing.