The Midnight Library Book Review: The only way to learn is to live. The concept employed by Matt Haig is both fantastical and real at the same time.
By Geneive D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | May 20, 2021
Book Review: The Midnight Library
Author: Matt Haig
The Essence: The Midnight Library, published in August 2020, was something new for me as a reader. The concept is both fantastical and real at the same time. Matt Haig makes it a comfortable read drawing the reader in through with his smooth style of storytelling. Does Nora Seed survive to live her life? Go ahead, dig into the book!
The Midnight Library Book Review
Nora Seed is a 35-year-old woman, feeling useless and purposeless, who assumes she has nothing to give. She gets fired from her job and loses her cat, all in a day. She loses the one student she teaches the piano to. She has long lost any civil relationship with her brother, her only living relation. Her old neighbour finds other help that doesn’t need her any longer. She and her best friend are miles apart–emotionally and geographically.
She had pulled out of her wedding two days before it. She had given up swimming, which she was brilliant at leading to the bond she shared with her father to snap completely. She pulled out of the band she had with her brother and a friend, leading to the rip in their relationship. This essentially made her a woman with many gifts, but negligible feats. She had given up so much. She lost so much.
And so, late one evening, she decides it all won’t matter anymore, and takes an overdose.
A walk into the real-life
However, Nora is not greeted by death. Instead, she finds herself in a library, which is supposedly a place between life and death. The books in this library confer another shot at life; at what could’ve been her life had she made a different choice in the course of her original root life. She gets a second chance, or many second chances, at a life already lived in some other dimension of the universe, where regrets efface, choices change, and outcomes evolve.
With the help of the librarian, she opens book by book, and delves into the lives of what she could have been, or what might have been her life, had she taken another road. She could be in life for a few seconds, or even months, and will fade out from that life when the feeling of dissatisfaction or disappointment is too great. Many a time, it was a disappointment in the outcomes of each life, and as the librarian makes her realise, she could “choose choices, but not the outcomes.”
You can be anything you want to be
Matt Haig does not focus on the whole theory of there being many different lives in an alternate universe. Rather, he dwells more on the psychological impact and change that comes over Nora after experiencing each life, how her strong unwillingness to live slowly falters which each new possibility, and with each disappointment, ability to discern what would make her happy and content. As her librarian once told her when she was just a teenager, “You could be anything you want to be, Nora. Think of that possibility.”
And so, Nora learns, through every life, every book she goes through, that life has limitless possibilities, and that it was only herself, or her self-pity that restrained her from trying new things, from writing songs, from swimming, from being a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, from doing something with her philosophy degree, from doing everything she was good at or wanted to be good at. She could explore all these possibilities.
The Midnight Library, published in August 2020, was something new for me as a reader. The concept is both fantastical and real at the same time. Matt Haig makes it a comfortable read drawing the reader in through with his smooth style of storytelling.
Does Nora Seed survive to live her life? Go ahead, dig into the book!
(Matt Haig has two more well-known books called The Humans, Reasons to Stay Alive).
(Geneive D’Souza is a student of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, studying Arts. She is passionate about writing, music, playing the piano and La Liga (FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi).