The Midnight Library is the brand new novel from British author and positive mental health campaigner Matt Haig. His memoir Reasons to Stay Alive was a number one bestseller, staying in the British top ten for an incredible forty-six weeks. His children’s book A Boy Called Christmas is currently being adapted to screen by Studio Canal for Netflix and is scheduled to hit screens this December.
We meet Nora at the lowest point in her life, hours before she decides to kill herself. After letting down her brother and his best friend, walking away from her fiancee, giving up on a professional swimming career, being stuck in a dead end job and now, finding the body of her beloved cat, what’s she got to live for? If no one will miss her and living is one pain after the next, why not let her situational depression win and bow out?
However, after the world fades to black, another world comes to light. She’s in a stunning library, with books in every shade of green you could imagine. The library is deserted apart from one woman, Mrs Elm, her former school librarian.
Mrs Elm explains that Nora is frozen in time in the Midnight Library. Balanced on a thin line between life and death, she has the opportunity to choose another life. Every book in the library holds another version of her life; an infinite world of possibilities where she could fix all the mistakes she’s made. She takes the opportunity to find the right path and starts with testing out the marriage she walked away from.
“Between life and death there is a library… Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived.”
I’ve been a massive fan of Matt Haig’s work since 2013 and a proof copy of The Humans was sent to me at the bookshop where I worked. The Midnight Library manages to capture some similar themes to The Humans in a new refreshing way, and this is just one of the many reasons I adored it.
The Midnight Library is an uplifting novel made up of brief chapters that keep you hooked. I’ve struggled with concentration and reading for long periods during lockdown and these bite-sized chapters really helped. As with all his books, Matt’s beautifully fluid writing makes for effortless reading and gives the impression that the whole book possibly just flowed out onto the page in a few days (while I’m sure isn’t the case!).
I think every reader will find something to relate to in the lead character, Nora. We’ve all hit hard times when we’ve been unable to see the positives in our lives because they feel so outweighed by the negatives. She’s so convinced that her ‘mistakes’ have ruined her life, that she’s of no importance to anyone and she just can’t pull herself out of that mindset. However, the Midnight Library allows her to correct those ‘mistakes’; highlighting how the grass is not often greener (even if the books are). It’s only after she’s tasted so many different lives does she begin to understand just how beautiful her original life was. She was loved and loved in return, but that important fact had gotten lost in regrets.
The Midnight Library is an incredible story about seeing the beauty all around us and the kindness we should give ourselves and others. If lockdown has left you a bit jaded or you simply want to read something uplifting, then this is perfect; heart-warming without being twee and with a wonderful message that never feels preachy.
With The Midnight Library, Matt Haig has written a mental hug of a novel that we could all do with right now.
If you liked The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, you’d love The Humans by Matt Haig.