There’s no getting around it: there are an awful lot of vampire books out there, especially ones that are aimed at a younger audience (though I’m not entirely sure this one is). So in my view, it takes an enormous amount of chutzpah to crank out another one. I mean, can The Radleys possibly offer anything new?
Okay, so what have we got? The Radleys are your fairly typical family living the suburban village dream. The parents are sick of each other and their teenage children are sick of their parents. On top of this, there’s the added complication that the parents, Peter and Helen, are “abstaining” vampires hiding out in rural England. This less-than-idyllic life comes to an abrupt end when their daughter Clara comes of age and accidentally kills a boy from her school.
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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.
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