The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Those who like a little philosophy and exploration of life with their novels.
In a nutshell:
Nora Seed has decided to stop living. She finds herself in some sort of limbo, a library filled with alternate versions of her life not lived.
“This was it. No one needed her. She was superfluous to the universe.”
“Sometimes regrets aren’t based on fact at all. Sometimes regrets are just … a load of bullshit.”
Why I chose it:
On my first flights since the pandemic started, I wanted to something comforting and interesting to read, and so picked this up at the airport. I ended up being so nervous I just watched movies the whole time, but thought this year I should be sure to read more fiction, so finally cracked it open.
What an utterly lovely book. I have seen author Haig’s books in shops before, but didn’t realize he wrote fiction as well as non-fiction.
I thought this book would be more like The End of Days, which was one of my favorites from last year, but it wasn’t. I mean, there are some shared elements, but it’s a wholly different experience.
We learn very early on that Nora’s life is not going well. Her mum and dad are both dead, her brother seems to not speak to her, she called of a wedding two days before it was meant to happen, she’s working in a job she isn’t particularly good at, and her cat has just died. It’s too much, and she decides she is done. But in the immediate moments after she takes action, she finds herself in a giant library, filled with endless books. And a librarian who teaches her that each book is an alternate life.
So, what happens when you get to glimpse into different versions of your life? What if you’d stuck with piano and became a major star? What if you’d pursued that arts degree instead of the ‘more sensible’ law degree your parents pushed you towards? What if you’d stayed with that perfectly fine girlfriend?
There is so much to absorb in this book, but the overarching theme I’ve taken away from it is that regret isn’t — or doesn’t have to be — something that hangs over us. Sure, there might be some very specific moments of regret in anyone’s life that perhaps might have turned the tides (we all make mistakes), but who is to say that the route you might have gone down would have been any better than the one you chose instead? Moreover, what should we be focusing on in our time here? Is it regret? Is it a search for meaning? Or, at the risk of sounding like a cursive woodcutting purchased on Etsy, should we just focusing on living and loving?
Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Recommend to a Friend and Donate it