Book Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I don’t often pay good money for a book – having a massive TBR pile from NetGalley downloads and freebies – but a friend had raved about this in our last book club Zoom. Then I saw Matt Haig talking about it himself on the Sara Cox book club programme ‘Between The Covers’ on BBC2 – and it felt like fate was talking to me – so having enjoyed ‘Notes On A Nervous Planet‘ last year – I thought I’d give this a go and downloaded it to my Kindle.

Here’s the blurb:

Between life and death there is a library.
When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret. She feels she has let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change.
The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can now undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren’t always what she imagined they’d be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in extreme danger.
Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?

Initially, in her root life, Nora reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant, in that she was quite a loaner, and a bit sad. Being compared to Eleanor is definitely not a bad thing though!

Then Nora arrives in the Midnight Library – a strange place between life and death where you can enter different books to see how your life might have been different if you’d made alternative decisions.

And thus we enter ‘Sliding Doors’ territory – with far less Gwyneth though!

Nora chooses books to go back and see how her life would have turned out differently if she’d made alternative decisions at various points, so she sees herself as a rockstar, an explorer, a mother, and many, many other guises too. Some of the chapters are quite convoluted – and others really short – and that keeps the momentum of the book.

Nora soon comes to realise, with the help of The Midnight Library custodian (who was actually her librarian at school when she suffered a trauma in her root life and showed her great kindness) that changing her own path has a knock on effect on those that she loves. There is death and destruction to others – when Nora is living a seemingly charmed life, and equally Nora’s own life has different problems in these parallel universes.

Equally the seemingly small, inconsequential, good deeds that Nora has done in her root life, in fact have dramatic consequences when she hasn’t done them.

This book is about the grass not always being greener, and about how small acts of everyday kindness can be incredibly valuable.

Another friend described The Midnight Library to me in a WhatsApp yesterday as ‘comforting like a hot water bottle’ which is just a perfect description – and it is real food for the soul in these tricky times.

This would make a perfect Christmas present for someone – or for yourself if you’re one of the seemingly few people who hasn’t read it yet.

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