Matt Haig’s magical fourth book for adults is a rare and timely treat – brutally honest and excruciatingly sad, while also being one of the most uplifting books I’ve read this year. Quite the achievement!
Nora wants to die. Her life hasn’t gone the way she had hoped it would and she’s quite frankly had enough. An attempt to end her life results in an exploration of ‘The Midnight Library’; a place where every life she could have dreamed for herself can become a reality. All she must do is open a book.
This book comes with a trigger warning which I have detailed below, it’s a big spoiler so read with caution – but if you’re feeling sensitive then it may be worthwhile to have a look to reassure yourself.
A book with so many levels I’d need one of those library ladders to truly appreciate each one (think Beauty & The Beast…) At a surface level, this is a wondrous story of a woman who gets to re-do every regret she’s ever had. She lives the lives most of us only dream of; from Glaciologist to Olympic Medalist to Rock Star, and everything in between. Haig transports the reader into each new reality with wonderment and a sense of adventure. But, as is the style of this incredible writer, there are lessons to be learned from each one and Nora embarks upon a journey of self-discovery to which many will metaphorically relate.
I love Haig’s writing. When a story is this special, it’s easy to get lost in the pages and feel that sense of loss when it’s over. That’s how I felt while reading this book and I’m not ashamed to say that the last few chapters completely broke my heart but in such a way that I came out of the book coma feeling both lighter and wiser. I connected with Nora in such a profound way; this will be a book that stays with me for life.
Matt Haig has become somewhat of an authority on mental well-being recently and talks often about his own past, but the way he takes these experiences and weaves them into his works of fiction is quite simply breathtaking. This novel, obviously written for an adult audience, is magical. It places you in the mindset of ‘anything is possible’ whilst highlighting the very important topics of suicide and depression. In the current coronavirus-adled world in which we live, it’s these little pockets of positivity that can make the difference between a good day and a bad one.
For almost all of the book, Nora’s lives do not involve children. She explores her life without needing to go down the same old road of ‘married with kids’ until almost the end. When she did finally choose a life in which she had a child, I was ready to throw the book across the room! But I’m so glad I didn’t because that isn’t where the story ends. I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone so I’ll finish with a line from the book that has reverberated around my skull every day since…
“Do not regret the children you didn’t have”.
Yes, I am in tears again now.