The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Published by Viking

THE Midnight Library is a book which demands to be reread each time you need it.

In this story of pathways, Matt Haig poses many questions, all stemming from a thought familiar to many: “What would have happened if .…”

In entering adulthood, whether that’s the end of secondary school, university, or leaving home, thoughts of what choices to make can be overwhelming. Everyone has thought how exciting it would be to be able to follow every turn in the road to its conclusion rather than picking just one.

From correcting what feels like a mistake, studying an entirely different subject, or marrying a partner who seemed to get away, this book both indulges in and reflects on it all.

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This exploration is told through the eyes of a lost young woman, Nora Seed. As she gets older, she feels her life has only gone in directions which have led her to something wrong. Unable to see a way out of misery, she contemplates ending her own life, yet the universe has other plans.

On her worst night, Nora wakes up in a library, with an ethereal guide reminiscent of her school’s encouraging librarian. In this space, there are endless books, each of which chronicles the life that would have happened had she made different choices, big and small.

Within the Midnight Library, the freeing space between life and death and sleep and wakefulness, Nora is presented with everything she could have wanted or had.

She is permitted to open these books, and by doing so, be transported to the alien version of herself within them. If she cannot find a life she’d like to live in permanently, she will pass away, but if she can, the fulfilment of whichever wish she chooses will be hers for the taking.

The reader is brought along on all of these journeys which seem both deeply personal to the protagonist’s character and dreams, and excitingly relatable. Whether it’s travel, the thrill of being a rockstar or following through on lost love, the ride is exciting and fast-paced.

As Nora tries to choose a favourite, weighing up the joys and struggles of each road she did not travel, so too does the reader – but there is something more beneath this adventure.

As what the reader will find themselves staying to the very end for – and coming back time and time again for – is the heart of the story’s messages.

Haig tells, with this fun premise, a story which is not really about jumping between ideas and seeing which you like best. Its approach is far less narrow than the hunting down of a perfect life this could have been.

Nora’s story is not one about whether she should have been a singer or a scientist or even looked after her car a little better, it is one about depression recovery.

It is for these themes of hope, acceptance and great appreciation for seemingly small details in getting better and seeing the good in your own world, that so many readers have and will fall in love with this novel.