Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig | Did it really deserve to be crowned the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards Winner?

You know there are those few books you finish in a blur with a kind of quiet peace in your heart? Those that take a while to sink in and realise how beautiful it was? The Midnight Library was one of those books.

by Matt Haig

Genre(s): Fiction | Age Group: Adult
Series: No

Published: 13 August 2020 | Read: 24 December 2020
No. of Pages: 288

Click here to view Trigger Warnings Suicide attempt, depression, death (pet and family member), alcohol/drug addiction, overdose

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

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The Midnight Library tells of Nora Seed who has given up on life, and then she goes to the midnight library, the bridge between life and death where she has the choice to live all the different lives she could have lived, undo all her regrets.

We can’t tell if any of those other versions would of been better or worse. Those lives are happening, it is true, but you are happening as well, and that is the happening we have to focus on.

Nora’s story is a lot of things. It is of marriage, of siblinghood, of love, of living up to expectations, of dreaming, of loneliness, of clinging on to small hope… despite how messed up she felt she was and despite how different she was, I found that I managed to resonate with her. The character development that Nora goes through in this story is nothing short of phenomenal. But in a rather unique way. She still stays the exact same person, with the same values, same character traits but she manages to realise some deep truths after sliding through the many different lives she might have lived.

At first, Nora was suicidal and could find no way out of her misery. As the book progressed, she found the want to lie and the need to live, and how her journey as fleshed out through was so impactful. Haig mixes philosophy, with Nora herself being a student of it, with quantum physics as to how to explain how The Midnight Library works and fate as to what actually happens in Nora’s imagined lives.

The only way to learn is to live.

The storyline felt a little cliche but it worked wonders. For example, I could clearly predict the ending and for some reason even when my prediction came through, I wasn’t annoyed at the lack of “creativity”. It felt right. Whole. Full. It was the ending that this broken character of Nora Seed needed and I am in awe of how Haig transformed a predictable ending into one that was naturally the part of her journey with The Midnight Library.

Another prominent theme that I loved in the Midnight Library was that of regrets. Nora Seed was burdened by them. As she lived the different lives, I loved how Nora began to realise the concept of fate, I loved how she began to truly ponder about what exactly a better life was, and if she truly reversed the regret, would she still have been happy? Throughout all the lives, Nora was so many different things, from popular to unnoticed, from rich to poor, and I treasured those moments where Nora found the urge to live for herself and not just to appease others, find love as a meaning, and release regrets because some were fate and out of her control.

Maybe that’s what all lives were, though. Maybe even the most seemingly perfectly intense or worthwhile lives ultimately felt the same. Acres of disappointment and monotony and hurts and rivalries with flashes of wonder and beauty. Maybe that was the only meaning that mattered. To be the world, witnessing itself.

art credits Chris Coady,
Haig’s writing was just breathtaking, with so many apt metaphors, and quiet observations and bursts of wisdom here and there that I truly appreciated. The world building in this book was pretty minimal but overall I still enjoyed learning about how this abstract Midnight Library worked with its purpose, its flaws and quirks and at the end unravelling the truth behind it.

Another interesting thing about this book would be the involvement of the side characters, they weren’t really developed I’d say which was totally okay. Their identities and personalities were pretty sporadic and it vibed really well with creating the atmosphere of the different lives Nora lived. A unique and effective way of creating characters to serve the story.

We only need to be one person.
We only need to feel one existence.
We don’t have to do everything in order to be everything, because we are already infinite. While we are alive we always contain a future of multifarious possibility.

Overall, yes, I totally stand by its title of the 2020 GR Choice Awards in the Fiction category! The Midnight Library was such a thought-provoking and mesmerising book about life and its meaning, and I would highly recommend it.

rating // ★★★★

Have you read The Midnight Library or do you plan to? Do you think it deserved the Goodreads Choice Awards Winner title, what about the other contenders in the “Best Fiction” genre?


59 thoughts on “Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig | Did it really deserve to be crowned the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards Winner?

    1. Thanks Saniya! This book is categorised as general fiction, the language is pretty simple but it does deal with some heavy trigger warnings of suicide and depression, taking on a rather dark tone though the book ends on a hopeful note. I would say more mature YA readers would be should be able to appreciate and enjoy this book. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This book is one of the books I desperately want to buy. It sounds so interesting. I love how detailed your review is!!! Did you vote for it??

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely review. I agree with you. I finished reading it yesterday and would give it around 3.75/4. What bugged me was the ending though. *spoiler here, avoid reading* when she couldn’t use her phone to call someone but had the strength to drag herself out! It irked me the wrong way. I enjoyed reading it but felt that it could’ve been shorter and more concise. Just my opinion though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, and I’m very glad to hear that! (SPOILER AHEAD WATCH OUT) I didn’t think of it at first, but looking back thanks to your comment, it is glaringly obvious… for me, I think it was more of the change in Nora’s mental state and the experiences she had which led to that “huge amount of strength”… but you have a good point on how unrealistic it can seem! Definitely, the story did have a tendency to get a little long winded with all the musings haha, thank you so much for this thought-provoking comment, Keira! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful review, Cherelle!! I read this a while ago, and I totally agree with everything you said, especially the side characters! How philosophy played a big part was something else I liked about this book. It definitely deserved the GR award 😍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thank you Rhea! Indeed, the side characters were such a genius move on Haig’s part… and the philosophical element was done so well that even I, whom philosophy is unknown territory to, managed to understand and appreciate much of the message conveyed. Thank you for the lovely comment! 🥰


  4. Honestly I’m a little surprised it got the award 😅 I’m reading another on of Matt Haig’s books (The Radleys) and it’s not bad at all, it just doesn’t promise to be a favourite- it’s a fun read while it lasts, but I most likely won’t cry over it or anything. The midnight library sounds really interesting though, and anything bookish within a book is good ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh it’s interesting to hear from someone who isn’t in the majority of the full-fledged supporters! I know some did find this book a little draggy and borderline cliche, but I still loved it haha. Ohh, I definitely get what you meant, I’m glad that at least you are having fun while reading it! It is, the premise was what hooked me in the first place… ahh I agree, bookish books are the BEST, though I have to give you a heads up to prevent disappointment that while The Midnight Library did incorporate the themes of books, it was not as prominent as I hoped it to be. I hope that you still decide to pick it up and enjoy it haha, thank you for the comment Cherry! 🤗


      1. Thanks Cherelle! I did end up finishing The Radleys and I’ve reserved The Midnight Library now. The Radleys did end up being absolutely amazing! I didn’t expect it at the beginning but it was great 💙 Aw I was looking forward to books in a book. Thanks for the heads up imma go lower my expectations now 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so glad you enjoyed this book Cherelle! I’ve heard such amazing things from friends and the synopsis just blows my mind already! I literally cannot wait to read, amazing review!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. what an amazing review!!!!!!! I loved how u mentioned sometimes it feels good and RIGHT to predict an ending (it’s calming for me lol) ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. haven’t read this but now i really want to! i like that the ending is predictable in a good way – it’s not something you hear very often in a review tbh. but after all, what really matters is how the book left you feeling and it sounds like you had a great experience reading this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, there’s been a lot of buzz about it, especially since it won the GR choice awards! I actually read the paperback copy, so it’s definitely out! I hope that you can get a copy and enjoy it just as much, thank you for commenting Ellie! ❤


  8. I’m glad you enjoyed this one, and I’ve been meaning to read it for forever (along with the other hundreds of people putting it on hold from my library 🙄😂)! It sounds really intriguing, and the quotes you picked out are especially beautiful. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful post Cherelle! A mix of philosophy and quantum physics?! SIGN ME UP. That’s so interesting that the book deals with regrets, it’s always a topic that can be explored from several different angles. I would definitely be interested in reading The Midnight Library, and possibly another of Haig’s books, How to Stop Time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Eleanor! I KNOW, it was incredibly explored in the book, and definitely, books that deal with regrets have the potential to be so resonant and unique. I’m really happy to hear that, ahhh I have heard quite a bit about How to Stop Time as well! I hope that you enjoy both of them if you pick it up, and thanks for dropping by! 🤗

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This is SUCH a wonderful and heartwarming review! I haven’t read this personally but I completely understand the feeling of “quiet peace” and you conveyed it perfectly in this review 💕🥺

    Liked by 1 person

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