Book Review: “The Midnight Library” By Matt Haig

the midnight library

Life’s full of choices and decisions, both big and little.

Sometimes the outcomes are good. And sometimes they’re less than ideal.

I bet most of us have had moments when we’ve looked back on a choice we’ve made and wondered what would have happened if we’d done something else. Or even looked back with regret and thought “I wish I had/hadn’t done that.”

If you got the chance to go back and change the choices you’ve made, would you?

That’s what Matt Haig explores in his newest novel, “The Midnight Library”.

My friend is a huge fan of Matt Haig’s novels. It’s really thanks to her constant glowing reviews over the last couple of years that I finally gave his books a go.

Talking of regrets and different choices, I wish I had read them sooner!

Luckily, I got caught up just in time to read “The Midnight Library” not long after its release.

My library offers e-books, which has been a lifesaver this year! (Though e-books are not easy to photograph, nor do they come with new-book smell! A shame!)

She is ready for her life to end

“The Midnight Library” is the story of Nora Seed, a disenchanted thirty-something woman who has had a lifetime of regret.

She has left several dreams by the wayside. Now works a hum-drum job in a small music shop and tutors piano on the side.

Her dull life in Bedford is a far cry from the almost-successes of a band she formed with her brother, and a swimming career that never made it outside of the pool at secondary school.

After a particularly rough day, Nora decides she is ready for her life to end.

What follows is a fantastical trip to the Midnight Library. It’s a Limbo-esque place, where Nora meets a version of her old school librarian Mrs Elm, and is given the option to revisit all the regrets she’s ever had, and visit all the potential lives that she could have led.

Nora gains the ability to choose a whole new story from the library stacks, and step into the pages of her own alternate life – with the caveat that as soon as she is disappointed or unsatisfied with it, she will return to the Library once again.

We follow Nora through some incredible alternatives. She flits between the pages, forever searching for the one choice that will make her truly happy.

And then, she finds it . . .

A wonderful talent for making the ordinary seem extraordinary

Nora is a really interesting heroine.

Matt Haig has a really great way of writing a character who has given up without making her a disheartening person to spend several hundred pages with!

You definitely find yourself rooting for her to find a life that makes her happy.

For a book which has an opening gambit as bleak as this book does, you’ll be pleased to know that it is not a bleak book.

Instead, it’s a captivating read, with a good sprinkling of humour. And it has a really uplifting through-line about learning to appreciate what you have, instead of what you could have had.

Matt Haig’s books often have a very strange or unlikely hook. But they’re written in such a compelling and approachable manner that it’s easy to get suckered in.

I also find in “The Midnight Library”, as well as most of his other books, that he’s able to tackle big subjects like mental health in a realistic and yet very sympathetic way.

He has a wonderful talent for making the ordinary seem extraordinary.

And I’ve yet to come away from reading one of his books without feeling better than when I started.

For more book reviews from the “Friend” team, click here.

Kirsty Souter