Favorite genres are traditional mystery, police procedurals, espionage, Eurocrime, literary fiction and nonfiction history, especially WW2 and Cold War. I write about crime fiction at Read Me Deadly (www.readmedeadly.com)
When I read the title and the book description, I thought this would be a book about Rebecca Mead's experiences and how she related them to George Eliot's life and the lives of Dorothea Brook and the other characters in Mead's beloved Middlemarch. Although that is a theme of the book, it's a minor theme.
The major theme is the life of George Eliot, and how her experiences informed the writing of her greatest novel. We learn about Eliot's girlhood as Mary Anne Evans; her love of scholarship; her rejection of religion and the rift it opened between her and her beloved father; Eliot's relationship with George Lewes and his children; their friends, the Pattersons, and speculation that the Pattersons were the models for Middlemarch's Dorothea Brooke and Casaubon. And, every now and then, we also learn about Rebecca Mead's life and the parallels she sees between it and George Eliot's.
In her note about the book, Mead expresses the hope that she has written a book that can be read by people who haven't read Middlemarch. I have read Middlemarch, and I would say that although this book can be read without having read Middlemarch, I would definitely not recommend it. At the very least, the potential reader should read the Wikipedia entry on the book and get a good grounding in the book's characters and themes first.
One of the reasons I decided to read this book is that it kept popping up everywhere and getting a lot of favorable press. When that happened a couple of months ago with Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, I gave in and read it and loved it. I decided I should do that with this book and maybe I would get the same result. But I didn't.
While the book was interesting and conveyed Mead's great admiration for George Eliot and Middlemarch, it did it in a sort of detached, scholarly way that left me feeling emotionally distant from the book. I'm not at all sorry I read it and I do feel it enlarged my knowledge of George Eliot and the experiences that went into her writing, but it didn't engage me at a more visceral level.
If the book had been marketed more honestly, I might have appreciated it more.