3rd June, 2020

Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Canongate Books)

"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?"

Warning: This book will make you think! About your life, about your life choices and everything in-between. Matt Haig, an author who openly admits to struggling with mental health issues himself and advocating awareness of depression and other mental illnesses, has created a masterpiece that is deep, philosophical and utterly moving. 

It is a tough time for Nora: she has lost her job, her cat just died, nobody seems to need her, years of depression have worn her down, ... and so she decides to die. However, instead of achieving oblivion she wakes up in the Midnight Library, a place between life and death where all your possible, alternative lives are stored. Nora is given the chance to try out different versions of her life with the promise that she may eventually stay in one that she finds 100% desirable. 

You can already guess where this is going. Everyone who has ever asked themselves the famous "What if?" question - and, honestly, who hasn't? - will find themselves in this beautiful novel. Even when the grass at first seems to be greener on the other side of the fence, it hardly ever is. And this is something that Nora has to learn as she explores the books on the shelves. By and by, she moves through her own Book of Regrets, and realises that things are not as easily mended as she maybe initially assumed.

It is clear that this book was written by someone who knows what he is talking about. The Midnight Library is compassionate and emphatic. Haig's inspiring observations are wonderfully nuanced, touching the reader deep in the core of their souls. (Yes, I'm aware that this sounds cheesy but it's the truth, so deal with it. ;o)) This is a book that starts of as a sad story but ultimately turns into a narrative of the joys of life, however small they may be or how insignificant they may appear. 

I very much loved the many references to philosophy, and particularly to Thoreau's Walden, as they gave the story even more depth. For me, it put a lot of things into perspective, and I had to contemplate the book for several days before being able to put my thoughts into this review. “Sometimes the only way to learn is to live.” - I guess, that is the main message of The Midnight Library and I highly recommend it (both the life motto and the novel)!

The Midnight Library will be out with Canongate Books in October. 

Rating: 5/5 stars

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