Title: The Midnight Library
Author: Matt Haig
Published: 29 Sept. 2020
I was a bit disappointed with this book. The concept sounds amazing! ‘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?’ Well Nora Seed gets that chance. At the beginning of the book, she decides to kill herself and afterwards, she is left in a library and a lot of heavy regrets. Through it all she goes through many possible lives to find a life that is fulfilling enough to live and stay.
The blending of sci-fi and fantasy was quite well done, and Haig is a great writer. Yet, I didn’t feel much of a connection with Nora nor with the book in general. It wasn’t a bad book but not one I would write home about or really recommend.
After a while of Nora choosing lives to go in, it starts to feel a bit repetitive. Haig does have a section where he lists the many, many lives Nora lives through, so it does speed up. By the end, Nora doesn’t actually choose any of those lives, instead, she goes back to her root life and decides to live.
As someone who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in high school, I understand the issues Nora is going through. I also think it is important to have books like this that feature characters who deal with mental health issues. However, I felt like the ending was too happy, everything tied up with a bow, and we all leave stage left. I’m assuming Haig wanted to leave readers with a hopeful lookout on life and have everything tied up in the end. But, I think this can be achieved while also representing the idea that depression and anxiety don’t go away just like that.
The one book that I think pulls off the balance of hopeful but recognizing the lifelong illness that depression/anxiety can be is Alice Oseman’s Solitaire. She writes “I mean, I’m still not one hundred percent sure that I really want to wake up tomorrow. I’m not fixed, just because Micheal’s here. I still want to get into bed and lie there all day because it’s a very easy thing to do. But right now all I can see are all these kids prancing about in the snow and smiling and waving like they haven’t got exams and parents and university choices and career options and all the other stressful things to worry about. . . . I can’t say that I feel happy. I’m not even sure if I would know if I was. But all those people down there look so funny and it makes me want to laugh and cry and dance and sing and not take a flying, dramatic, spectacular leap off this building. Really” (Oseman, 384).
I do appreciate the fact that the book was focused on Nora’s on agency and her regrets, most of which were not something she needed to regret. The most important part is that at the end, it wasn’t any one person that made Nora wanted to live, she wanted to live for herself. I love this idea; however, I think it’s also important for people with mental health or addiction to know that sometimes it’s hard to live for yourself and it’s okay to live for others until you get to the point of living for yourself. Again, another Alice Oseman quote from Solitaire that I think relates to this: “All I know is that I’m here. And I’m alive. And I’m not alone” (392).
Overall, The Midnight Library had some great ideas but I think I missed something towards the middle and throughout the rest of the book.
Happy Reading, Lovelies!