The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I finished this one a few days ago, but it took a while to settle on the review. It wasn’t a question of if I liked it (I did); it just took a while to figure out if I just enjoyed it, or if I enjoyed it a lot. The book drew the short straw in my reading queue: it came after Caste. Any book following that was going to be in for a bit of a rough ride.

In the Midnight Library, we meet Nora Seed on the day she decides to commit suicide after a series of unfortunate events that seem to follow on from a number of wrong turns taken at critical junctures during her life … well, that’s how she sees it anyway.

Nora’s suicide attempt is only partially successful, and she finds herself transported to the Midnight Library. The library contains an infinite number of books, each one representing a different decision or a different circumstance that would have taken her down a different path. Stuck perpetually in the moment she attempted to take her own life, Nora can open a book and slip into any life to see how things would’ve have been different …

Okay, not exactly an original idea, but as with any good book, it’s not just the story, it’s how the story is told, and in my humble opinion, the story is told very well. The prose is light and very easy to read, focussing more on the characterisation than on burying the reader in flowery expression. Obviously, Nora being the central character, her emotional confusion forms the central thread, and this sometimes led to the feeling that parts of the book had faded a little into the background. The other characters are seen from Nora’s viewpoint, so it’s fascinating to watch them change as their importance to Nora changes.

I also enjoyed the whole concept of the library as a kind of waiting room to the afterlife. As I said, not a particularly original idea, but it was a fresh take that I did enjoy.

I think the problem I had with the book was that after a while, Nora’s jumping in and out of versions of her life got a little bit repetitive, with some instances being interesting, while others didn’t really move Nora’s perspective forward.

But it is a book that makes you think about your own life and some of the decisions you’ve made, and how things may have been different if you, like Nora, had followed a different path.

I’m not going to ruin it by telling you what the final message is, but it’s definitely one that applies to us all.

Seven out of ten.

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