The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

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The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Olivia Mitchell
Reviewed by Olivia Mitchell
Summary: A thought-provoking book about a library between life and death that shows a woman who wants to die all the infinite lives she could've ever lived - whether she wants to or not - forcing her to think about every regret she's had, and what she really wants from life.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: August 2020
Publisher: Canongate Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1786892737

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Between life and death, there is a library. And so, 38 minutes after Nora decided to die, she finds herself in the Midnight Library. Everything that could've gone wrong in Nora's life has. Her cat died, she lost her job, her brother won't speak to her, her parents are dead, the boy she teaches piano to no longer cares about piano, she called off her wedding, and old Mr Banerjee next door no longer needs her help. She gave up on all the things that would've let her escape the wet, cold town of Bedford and given her life some purposeful direction. So at 23:22, she realises that she isn't made for life and decides to die. But instead of death, she finds the library. Each infinite shelf is filled with books, each book providing a chance to try another life she could have lived, in a parallel time. And so, just after midnight on Tuesday the 18th of April, Nora Seed begins to live every life she could've.

Nora is a character marred by regret. She lives her life believing it to be a lack of.. anything. love. purpose. happiness. She is situationally depressed, having never amounted to anything she could've - anything she should've. She gave up swimming when she could've made it to the Olympics. She broke up a band that could've made it big. She never studied Geology to become the glaciologist she'd always dreamed of being. And yet, as she experiences all the infinite lives in the infinite universes presented to her by the library, she becomes faced with many questions - about what success, happiness, love, and everything really mean to her. How so many things she thought she should've done weren't the right choices after all. She learns that spending time worrying about the other lives you could've lived is no way to live at all. Her evolution as a character is fascinating to read and opens up our minds as readers in many important ways. She is engaging as a character, and watching her move from being set on dying, to learning what she really wants from life makes a very engaging read.

The other characters in the book - in all their variations in all of Nora's lives - provide excellent insights into Nora and how minuscule decisions can completely change the nature of our relationships. Strangers in one world can be spouses in another. They create a wonderful perspective.

The book is written in many short chapters chronicling Nora's journey. The language in this book is engaging and easy to digest. The plotline is wonderfully addictive. Watching Nora, and every other version of her, live and watching 'root' Nora learn from these is a great read. It is a book that really makes you stop and think about life, about what we are doing with our time and what we really want, deep down. It's a truly thought-provoking book, interspersed with much of philosophy's pondering on life and physics' thinking on parallel universes. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

An addictive, enjoyable and thought-provoking book about philosophy, science, regret, life, love and the true meaning of happiness and success.

Further Reading:

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig - a clever and life-affirming book from the same author Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - a much less supernatural story about loneliness, trauma and the power of a little kindness

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