Bibliophile | Live multiple lives in Matt Haig’s ‘The Midnight Library’

The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig
Canongate

Sixteen year-old Nora Seed sat in the warmth of the school library in Bedford, playing chess with the librarian Mrs Elm. Nora was worried about her future but felt she could talk to the librarian who had so much wisdom to share. Suddenly, there was a phone call and it was the last time Nora felt safe.

Jumping to nineteen years later, Nora’s life had dealt her some harsh blows. As she sat on her dilapidated sofa scrolling through other people’s happy lives in her ‘eco worrier’ t-shirt and tartan pyjama bottoms, a knock at the door brings more bad news. This is 27 hours before she decides that she wants to end her life.

With a degree in philosophy and a liking of Thoreau, she knows that she should be going confidently in the direction of her dreams to live the life she has imagined. Unfortunately, feeling she has let everybody down, she can’t see a way out of her misery and is being sucked into a black hole.

The next thing she knows is that she is being told by her favourite librarian, “Between life and death there is a library … and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices” and had the chance to undo your regrets.

So it would appear that Nora is some sort of twilight where she can decide on a new life. As soon as she feels disappointed with that life, she can return to the library and choose another. She becomes a detective in a series of alternate lives and realises that mediocrity and disappointment didn’t have to mark her destiny.

As Nora explores other possibilities, pages in her book of regrets started to disappear and barriers that stopped her seeing the truth about herself started to fall away. Hanging onto Sartre’s maxim that life begins on the other side of despair, Nora slowly navigates her way towards an awakening.

Matt Haig’s deeply moving story will appeal to so many people, as who among us doesn’t have a book of regrets that they carry around and indulge in on occasion? Nora’s journeys from the midnight library allow her to share life lessons that will inspire the reader want to be the best person they can possibly be.

Lezly Herbert


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