Book Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

A delightful idea done extremely well, this novel sets you thinking about your own life and mindset wondering if it can be the best it can be.

It opens with the main character, Nora Seed whose life spirals from a pivotal point in her primary school years when her library teacher Mrs Elm breaks the news of her father’s sudden death.

Nineteen years later, Nora’s life is a mess and she convinces herself that her life is not worth living. Instead, she finds herself in a place between life and death in a library where the shelves are filled with the opportunity to try another life in order to see what might have happened if she’d made different choices. Her old library teacher, Mrs Elm is there to guide her through the many regrets Nora has about her life. She takes the opportunity to discover what she could have become but more importantly to view the consequences of those choices on others around her. She learns about herself as she journey’s though the various lives.

Her book of regrets includes such things as not becoming an Olympic swimmer, a glaciologist, Dan’s wife, a mother, the lead singer of the Labyrinths, or just a good person. These and many regrets reflect how lost she was during her life. I couldn’t see her as a glaciologist or philosopher or an Olympic swimmer and neither could she. And this is the brilliance by Haig in casting that uncertainty and for the reader to cheer for Nora.

This novel is not all gloom. There are some truly moments of hilarity as Nora is dropped into the middle of situations where she must adapt and bluff her way through. And when she realises it’s not the life for her after all she finds herself back in the Midnight Library. At times the book became a little moralistic delving into various philosophers such as Nietzsche, Sartre, and Thoreau. There was even some quantum physics thrown into the mix which at times, lost me yet somehow seemed quite profound.

Nora in one of her lives tells a person, ‘There was no way of living that can immunise you against sadness. And that sadness is intrinsically part of the fabric of happiness. You can’t have one without the other.’

It’s a beautifully written and crafted novel and for some, could be quite impactful, and divisive for others.  The author makes you think and reflect. The only down side is that I did begin to tire of the lives as it became a little repetitive, but not for long.

I enjoyed this easy-to-read book.

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