The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig, is one that has intrigued me for a while, and I finally got around to dropping a credit on it and giving it a go. The concept is interesting – when the main character, Nora Seed, is hovering on the brink of death, she finds herself in an infinite library. If you’re a lover of books, then this might seem ideal… but for Nora, her library holds a different purpose.
If you’re familiar with the concept that every choice we make is played out in a parallel universe, then this is what is happening here. Each book is a life that she could have lived. Given how terribly bad her life is going, she’s offered the chance to sample some of her other lives.
Did she keep going with her music and become a rockstar, or did she keep her interest in geology and become a glaciologist? Did she ever swim in the Olympics? Maybe something a little closer to home, like moving to the country and owning a pub, or just marrying the guy she met at the music shop. Is the grass truly greener on the other side?
This was a heartfelt and rather straightforward story, beautifully told. A small cast of core characters and a simple idea to follow. This is also a story of depression, the root cause of Nora’s problems in her life. Confronting other lives where she appears to be living better to help understand the nature of her depression is such a fantastic way of looking at things.
The narration by Carey Mulligan was an absolute delight. This was my first time hearing her read, and I think she suited the story well. A very minor quality issue with a small SMS-like “ding” in the audio one time that had me searching for my phone.
Overall, a wonderful story that I’m glad I finally got to listen to. I’ll definitely revisit this in the future. I did also note I had a little second-hand embarrassment for Nora during parts of this, as she tried to acclimatise herself to her new life. That also might just be me over-empathising with the character, so your mileage may vary.