The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig
Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
“The Midnight Library” is my fourth read by Matt Haig. I loved “How to Stop Time” and was looking forward to giving this latest offering a read. The book was chosen as the fiction book of the month for the Women’s Literary Collective which gave me the perfect excuse to get my hands on a copy!
I had high expectations, but I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed this book. It didn’t blow me away and I wouldn’t say it was fantastic, but it was still a really great piece of magical realism that I binged in a couple of sittings.
Nora Seed is living a life full of regrets and she feel that suicide is her only way out. On attempting to take her own life, Nora magically finds herself in a library managed by her old school librarian Mrs Elm, offering her the opportunity to try all of the lives that she could have lived should she have made different choices throughout her life. By picking one of the infinite plain green books on the shelf, Nora is instantly dropped into this new life and left to pull together the pieces of who and where she is. I thought it was a really nice touch that this book was plain green underneath the dust jacket and with no identifying features, it would have fit in perfectly in The Midnight Library.
It’s such an interesting topic to think about. What would your life have been like if you chose to study a different subject, if you turned down an invitation, if you didn’t take that trip? In this magical world, all of these lives are running in parallel and Nora finds herself discovering what could have been.
“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d developed other other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we’d worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia, said yes to the coffee or done more bloody yoga.”
The book follows Nora as she dips into these parallel lives, each as engaging as the last. I found this book quite difficult to put down as I wanted to see what the next book was going to offer her. I think it’s always a good sign when you’re able to speed through a book, but I can’t help but feel that some of the lives were lacking in the depth required to make them memorable for me. One of the most memorable was a life in which she had become an Olympic athlete, following her childhood talent of swimming.
Sure, a lot of these lives were quite unrealistic, but the genre of the book allows for this. All of Matt Haig’s books are full of beautiful, quotable writing and a lot of the content is very powerful, making your appreciate the life you are living. This is definitely a thought-provoking read and it’s one that makes you sit back and think about how you’ve got to the place you are now, hopefully positively.
The book does feature depression and mental health issues and when discussing this at book club, I found it really interesting to hear varying opinions on how this was covered and whether it was appropriate. For me personally, I think it was done well, but I completely appreciate that those with more of a personal experience will likely view this book differently.
“It is not difficult to see yourself through the lens of other people, and to wish you were all the different kaleidoscopic versions of you they wanted you to be. It is easy to regret, and keep regretting, ad infinitum, until our time runs out.”
Overall rating: “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig is a really quick read that’ll plummet you into a magical world. I really enjoyed the concept and the thought provoking questions that it sparked. Some lives were more memorable than others but this is still a really great five stars from me.
See my other reviews of books by Matt Haig here: