The Midnight Library by Matt Haig #BookReview


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?

It's my pleasure to be sharing my review of The Midnight Library today. Many thanks to Canongate Books for my advance copy, received through Netgalley.

The Humans by Matt Haig was the first book I ever reviewed on this blog and is the reason I became a book blogger. I've made no secret of how much that book means to me -  I read it a few months after my brother took his life and it became my beacon of light at a dark time. It's a bittersweet coincidence then that The Midnight Library was published on the eighth anniversary of my brother's suicide and that the lead character, Nora Seed should be suicidal herself.
I can't pretend that the early chapters were easy to read - over the course of a few days Nora reaches the point where she decides that she wants to die - but I was reading it during what is always an emotional week for me. As the story progresses, Nora is given the opportunity to explore what her life could have been like had she made other choices or decisions as Matt Haig returns to the life-affirming themes I have come to associate with his books. Written with deep understanding and warm-hearted honesty; The Midnight Library is a thought-provoking, perceptive paean to hope and the power of books.
Nora learns that she can undo her regrets and in her Midnight Library, guided by her old school librarian, Mrs Elms, the books on the shelves are filled with her alternative lives. As she hovers between life and death in her original or 'root' life, she is able to experience what it would have been like to have followed her dreams or even just agreed to a coffee. If she ever finds a life she likes, she'll be able to stay in it and will eventually forget the Midnight Library. She might run a country pub with her husband (the man she jilted just before her wedding in her root life), be a glaciologist working alongside other scientists in the Arctic or perform to packed out stadiums as a world-famous rock star. However, it turns out that no matter how exciting or interesting her life may be, she keeps returning to the library. Although there are an infinite number of lives contained in the books, if Nora dies the library and everything in it will be destroyed. 
My favourite film of all time is It's a Wonderful Life and there are elements of The Midnight Library that are reminiscent of that story. Just as George Bailey was forced to put his dreams on hold time and again, so Nora is filled with regrets for what she has lost or missed out on.  Both George and Nora feel trapped and stifled in their home towns but George has Clarence to show him what he means to the people of Bedford Falls and it can't be a coincidence that Mrs Elms is there to guide Nora towards finding out that her actions affected more than just her own life in Bedford. This is an uplifting novel but like It's a Wonderful Life, it has a darker side and doesn't forget that life can be difficult and painful. There is no Mr Potter here but Nora's own personal villain is her depression and that she has allowed her regrets to define who she believes she is; as always Matt Haig writes about mental health issues with compassionate insight and sensitivity. 
The Midnight Library may be a fantastical premise but it is never false and through an accessible and engaging mix of quantum physics. philosophy and love, Matt Haig tells a beautiful, poignant and empathetic story of redemption and hope. The Midnight Library is the perfect reminder that even when times are tough, it can still be a wonderful life. 

The Midnight Library is published by Canongate Books and can be purchased from Amazon, Waterstones and Hive but please consider supporting independent bookstores if possible.

About the Author

Matt Haig is the number one bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive, Notes on a Nervous Planet and six highly acclaimed novels for adults, including How to Stop Time, The Humans and The Radleys. The audiobook of The Midlnight Library is read by Carey Mulligan. Haig also writes award-winning books for children, including A Boy Called Christmas, which is being made into a feature film with an all-star cast. He has sold more than a million books in the UK and his work has been translated into over forty languages.