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.
THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY
by Matt Haig
Genre(s): Fiction | Age Group: Adult
Published: 13 August 2020 | Read: 24 December 2020
No. of Pages: 288
Click here to view Trigger WarningsSuicide 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The only way to learn is to live.
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.
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.
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.
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.