Print Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Canongate Books
Before getting my hands on this eBook from Edinburgh Libraries (forever thankful), I have seen rave as well as one-star reviews of this book on Instagram. I own two books by this author – Notes on a Nervous Planet and Reasons to Stay Alive. I would not consider it a complete self-help book, but it is about the author writing his views, thoughts and experiences while dealing with his mental health. Matt Haig is a person who brings forth issues about anxiety, mental breakdown, panic attacks, depression and so on in his books, and The Midnight Library is a fictional story that weaves in all these issues. In this book, we meet Nora Seed, our protagonist who suffers terribly from loneliness.
TW: Suicide, depression, death, loss
The story begins with an introduction to Nora Seed, a 35-year-old woman living in Bedford who attempts to commit suicide. Though the idea of killing herself has been in her mind for a while, what triggers her is the news about her cat’s death. However, after overdosing on sleeping pills before the clock strikes midnight, she does not immediately die. What happens next is she stays in a place that is in between life and death. The place looks like a library, the one she remembers from her childhood. She meets Mrs Elm, the librarian, a person she was fond of when she was a child visiting the library. We see Mrs Elm explaining that all the infinite number of books contained in this library are various possibilities of Nora’s life. Her root life (the one where she committed suicide) is in a fragile state and Nora is given a chance to live other lives that would have been possible if she made different choices. From here we are taken to see the different lives of Nora Seed and how none of them just seems to be the right fit. There are lives where some of her wishes have come true, but she is still unhappy, some decisions that she may have taken simply to impress people she loved but ended up exhausted and unhappy again, and one almost seemed too perfect that Nora felt this does not feel her life at all.
‘Between life and death there is a library,’ she said. ‘And within that library, the shelves go on for ever. 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?‘Mrs Elm
I like this book because it gives a perspective on how we should value the life that is given to us and make the best out of what is available. Making yourself miserable over what could have happened with the infinite ‘ifs’ is a huge disappointment in itself. We do see the result of a journey but rarely take into consideration the hardships one faces when they go through it. There is a cost attached to every single dream, ambition, goal, wish that one makes. It necessarily does not have to be a monetary transaction, but it can be time, effort, failure, disappointment, disagreement, confusion, sanity and so on. Author Matt Haig may have simplified the complexity of mental illness in this book, that changing your perspective can bring a whole lot of changes in one’s life, and it is not that easy. But it is a beginning
Maybe that’s what all lives were, though. Maybe even the most seemingly perfectly intense or worthwhile lives ultimately felt the same. Acres of disappointment and monotony and hurts and rivalries but with flashes of wonder and beauty. Maybe that was the only meaning that mattered. To be the world, witnessing itself.Nora Seed
I would recommend this book to those who like to read contemporary new adult with fantasy or philosophical fiction. Yes, it does bring in many thought-provoking quotes, and you are left feeling better for Nora Seed’s decision in the end. Also, it is a page turner. You will want to read what happens next as quickly as possible. So that is good thing!
Ratings on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being exceptional):
Quality of writing – 7.5
Pace – 9
Plot development – 8
Characters – 7
Enjoyability – 8
Insightfulness – 9
Ease of reading – 9
Photo/Illustrations – NA
Fun Fact: My first internship was with Canongate Books as Sales and Campaigns intern for three months (March-May 2019) in Edinburgh, Scotland. The book was in production back then and there was massive excitement for its launch. It makes me happy to see the book gaining so much admiration worldwide now.
Buy your copy – The Midnight Library
Thank you so much for reading this post. Cheers!
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