The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Website, Twitter, Insta)
Genre: contemporary lit
Setting: modern England/ something like the bardo
I read it as a(n): audiobook
Narrator: Carey Mulligan
Source: my own collection
Published by: Penguin Audio (29 Sept 2020)
Her Grace’s rating: 2 out of 5 stars
When Nora Seed decides to die, she winds up in the midnight library. There, she has a Big Book of Regrets and an infinite number of books, each containing different lives she could have lived if she had made various different choices. The rules are that she can try on as many lives as she wants but can never go back to a life once she’s left it, she can choose one to stay in, she can go back to her original life, or she can die.
I think everyone can appreciate the idea of living a different life, making different decisions. It’s the ultimate “What If?” It would be fun to try a new life just to see, but I wish Nora was a more likeable character so following along in her journey would be more interesting. I found her to be quite weak and needy and as a result, I really didn’t care what life she chose for herself, or whether she chose a life at all.
I didn’t hate this book at all. I also found little in it that I truly liked. The sheer volume of 5 star reviews confuses me because it struck me as solidly mediocre and really not at all memorable. I think sucking readers in with the idea of a library between life and death is kind of gimmicky. Of course readers will be interested in the magic library. We already know the life changing, transformative power of books. So I think a story needs to have more to it than a magic library to carry it.
I do think it is good that depression and anxiety are addressed here. It’s a real problem that millions of people are suffering. Showing that people who have depression aren’t abnormal or victims of abuse or whatever reason people think causes depression is an important discussion to have. Doing so in a book via a character with chronic depression can help people learn to empathize with others who have these conditions. It’s no more a person’s fault that they are depressed or anxious than it is if someone has cancer. So in that regard, this book did well. Sometimes people are just depressed or anxious and there doesn’t have to be some deep, dark trauma in the past to explain it.
I mostly felt that this book was like a Groundhog’s Day life buffet for a person who has completely failed to launch. Didn’t suck but wasn’t that good, either. I’m indifferent to it.