Book Review #36: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (2020)

Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: The Midnight Library: A Novel
Author: Matt Haig
Published: 2020 (Viking, Random House)
Pages: 288 (Hardcover)
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Science Fiction, Adult, Mental Health
CW: death, addiction, mental health topics, suicide
Link Here

My borrowed copy of The Midnight Library with a view of the park I was reading at in the background

I just finished my next read with a beautiful view on a clear day in the park (pictured above). On the West Coast, the weather is not too shabby this time of year in the fall! It did not take me long to finish the new fiction release, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. This is the first book I’ve read by Haig, but I heard a lot of good things about his writing. His latest book has a lot of hype over the internet. He is a children’s book and speculative fiction author who is widely known for his writing, and commentary on mental health.

Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?” – Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

By the end of this contemporary novel I was hooked, and couldn’t put it down! The story centers around Nora Seed, a young woman who is having a difficult time and contemplates dying. She then finds herself in the Midnight Library, a place between life and death where she can change her circumstances, and live a different life in a number of parallel universes. She faces her regrets, and begins to see things as they really are throughout the book as she decides which ‘book’ or universe she wants to live in. Nora slowly learns what makes life worth living, and rethinks her outlook. The characters and story are enchanting from start to finish. There’s a fantastical but dismal quality about Haig’s writing not only from the plot.

A person was like a city. You couldn’t let a few less desirable parts put you off the whole. There may be bits you don’t like, a few dodgy side streets and suburbs, but the good stuff makes it worthwhile” – Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

My first thought was that this book reminded me of a more contemporary It’s a Wonderful Life. But it’s a female protagonist, takes place mostly in a cosmic library, and not meant to be shown around Christmas time… among other reasons. Haig appropriately describes mental health issues through Nora with honesty and succinct directness. This novel makes great points about putting life and the choices we make in perspective. It was encouraging with a lot of quips that sounded like they were from an inspirational book, and also a little saddening at the same time. I also found myself connecting to the characters almost immediately, and they felt incredibly human.

Maybe it wasn’t the lack of achievements that had made her and her brother’s parents unhappy, maybe it was the expectation to achieve in the first place” – Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

This book was a little hard to get into at the beginning, but once the details and plot lines started to connect, the story became more engrossing. The structure of the novel is definitely contemporary, and causes the reader to really follow the details. And Haig has a surreal writing style which I loved, and definitely added to the fantastical realism elements. I also liked how he describes small, everyday details with such purpose. The ending itself though was my favorite part, and basically made the rest of the book worth it. I won’t give any spoilers away though.

“If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it. And don’t give a second thought when people mock it or ridicule it. Most gossip is envy in disguise” – Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

Why should you read this book? If you’re a fan of contemporary fiction with magical and cosmic parallel universes addressing life’s greatest problem which is navigating it itself, this is the book for you.

I give this book a 4 out of 5!

_Elizabeth


Also, on a complete side note, I’ve decided to start linking the books I write about on one of my favorite sites, Bookshop, instead of Amazon. I don’t know if it will be a permanent thing on my blog yet, but I just learned about them and I love the organization. It’s a one-stop book seller to support independent book stores across the US and UK, they donate most of their sales to independent bookstores. You can also buy from a specific bookstore on the site or have the proceeds from your sale sent to the store directly.


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