Set in Bedford, England, Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library is a fascinating book mixing a variety of genres. It is part sci-fi, with a dash of magical realism. Sometimes it is philosophical and reflective, pushing one to explore and introspect on their own thoughts. It is engrossing, insightful, and filled with brilliant observations about life. I loved the premise and the concept of a library where one could revisit their life.
Nora Seed, the main protagonist, is a single woman in her 30s. Her life is not going in the perfect direction. She feels it is a monotonous and ordinary life where she is unwanted, unnoticed, and unaccomplished. One day, when one after the other unpleasant incidents keep happening, she feels it’s the worst day of her life and decides to end her life. When she wakes up, she is surprised to find herself in a library, The Midnight Library, which is not a regular library, but a space between life and death. Here she meets her Elementary School librarian, Mrs. Elm, who guides her through the library and explains all about the books stacked in there. It is interesting how Nora’s choice of a book leads her to many parallel lives, and in each, she could have lived a different life.
This is where she learns that
“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 different if you have made other choices. Would you have done anything different, if you had a chance to undo your regrets?”
These lines more or less summarize the essence of this book. It’s all about recognizing the endless possibilities life offers and how our choices shape our lives. And at the same time, it is also about letting go of past regrets, learning to move on, and finding meaning in our existing lives.
Haig’s writing is simple, yet impactful at the same time. He has handled sensitive topics of anxiety, depression, and suicide in an appropriate and delicate manner. The pacing is good and the brief chapters make it a fast read.
Since the story is strongly based on suicide, I feel it might be a trigger and can provoke suicidal thoughts in a few readers.
I found the chapter names quite interesting. Unfortunately, the middle part of the novel was repetitive and pedantic in tone, and I couldn’t understand the references to quantum physics and wondered if they were even required.
The Midnight Library is a well-executed book that is philosophical, contemplative, and optimistic in tone. It is a satisfying read and would implore the reader to reflect upon their life and choices.
Wordsopedia Rating 4/5
|Title: The Midnight Library||Author: Matt Haig|
|Publisher: Viking||Publication date: August 13, 2020|
|Genre: Fiction–Fantasy||Format: Paperback|
|ISBN: 9780525559474||No. of Pages: 304|
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About the author
Matt Haig is the number one bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive, Notes on a Nervous Planet, and six highly acclaimed novels for adults, including How to Stop Time, The Humans and The Radleys. His latest novel is The Midnight Library and the audiobook edition is read by Carey Mulligan. Haig also writes award-winning books for children, including A Boy Called Christmas, which is being made into a feature film with an all-star cast. He has sold more than a million books in the UK and his work has been translated into over forty languages.
Know more about the author on his website.