Review: The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
‘Haig just knows. He looks at people and humankind at large with objective, appraising eyes and says it how it is, with style, and wit, and humour, and with that little something that leaves us in the tiniest bit of discomfort.'
The more Matt Haig books I read, the faster he is becoming one of my top authors out there, because he has a way of telling stories like no one else out there.
The Midnight Library tells the story of Nora, a woman in her mid-thirties with a dull life and nothing but regrets. One night, in a desperate attempt to end it all, Nora takes an overdose of sleeping pills and waits to die. But to her surprise, she doesn't. Instead she finds herself in the Midnight Library, a place that stores all of the books containing all of the lives she might have had, had she made different choices. An infinite number of books, for an infinite number of lives, based on an infinite number of choices, big and small. Under the watchful eye of Mrs Elm, the God-like Librarian, Nora gets a unique chance to experience every life she could have had, undo all of her regrets and find a life worth living.
The book is an absolute masterpiece, if you ask me. Everything is on point: the writing, the plot, the characters - from Nora's steady evolution out of her suicidal state of mind, to Mrs Elm's enlightened simple truths. I found in The Midnight Library the same style and wisdom I did in Haig's other novel The Humans (if you haven't got your hands on it yet, you haven't lived).
Haig just knows. He looks at people and humankind at large with objective, appraising eyes and says it how it is, with style, and wit, and humour, and with that little something that leaves us in the tiniest bit of discomfort - a sort of 'it's funny 'cause it's true' half laugh that has us painfully remember that we should really be taking all this seriously.
With The Midnight Library, Haig has found an incredibly clever way of addressing one of the most important issues of our times: mental health. Through Nora's story, we're reminded of how easily depression can arise out of isolation and the dangerous downward pull of regrets when we forget to put them into perspective.
But underneath it all, The Midnight Library carries a lot of hope. It's a story about the importance of human connection and kindness, and the small ways in which each and everyone of us can change both our lives and other people's lives for the better. It's also a vivid warning sign for all those of us who find ourselves struggling through life at some point or other, that greener grass might just well be right there under our feet, if we'll bother to look.
The book is one of those bound to stay with you for some time after you've finished it, because it touches upon something profound and oh so real in modern humanity. If you've up for the ride though, fear not. You're in good hands with Matt Haig and you can trust him to guide you expertly through to the end. And the first thing you'll be doing when you're done is go and see what else the author has written, because all you'll want is a repeat experience.
The audiobook version, narrated by Carey Mulligan, is stunningly read and highly recommended.