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Book Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

“Because, Nora, sometimes the only way to learn is to live.” Matt Haig


This book is a must read. Thought provoking, emotional, poignant, uplifting and ultimately beautiful.

Nora Seed attempts to take her own life but finds herself at the Midnight Library. It’s a place between life and death, one library with infinite lives and it’s Nora’s chance to try and make things right. 

She feels that she’s let everyone down, including herself, she’s miserable and full of regret.

With the help of an old friend, Nora can try on different books, undo every one of her regrets, see what would have happened if she’d made different choices, try to find the perfect life. 

What would have happened had she married and become a landlady in a country pub, what if she’d signed a record deal, or become a glaciologist, or an Olympic swimmer, or simply said yes to that coffee date?

It’s similar to the greatest Christmas film of all time, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, however where George sees what life would be like had he never been born, Nora sees what could have been. It’s built on the whole idea of multiple parallel universes and how one choice has a ripple effect throughout our lives.

How many of us have wondered what could have been? What would our lives be like if we’d made different decisions? I’d guess everyone has. 

I’ve wondered what life would be like had I properly pursued my dream to be a war reporter, I think I’d probably be dead or kidnapped on account of being a little too reckless and spontaneous. 

What if I’d never given up Karate? I’d probably have gotten to black belt; I was agonisingly close and had a brown belt when I decided I’d had enough. I’d have permanently battered boobs I reckon – girls are horrible, they know where to punch. 

What if I’d actually learnt to play the drums properly? Would I have joined a band, and would I have enjoyed gigging?

What if I’d picked print journalism instead of radio?

What if I’d never gotten that job at Ridings FM? Would I even be in journalism now 12 years later? Would I have had the opportunity to experience some of the things and meet some of the people I have? 

Who knows?

What this book teaches us is that we shouldn’t see choices as mistakes. It’s easy to question ourselves and our lives. It’s easy to live with regret; regret can make us see and believe the worst of ourselves and our lives, we’ll all at some point feel we should or could have done things differently.

“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d developed other other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we’d worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia, said yes to the coffee or done more bloody yoga.

It takes no effort to miss the friends we didn’t make and the work we didn’t do the people we didn’t do and the people we didn’t marry and the children we didn’t have. It is not difficult to see yourself through the lens of other people, and to wish you were all the different kaleidoscopic versions of you they wanted you to be. It is easy to regret, and keep regretting, ad infinitum, until our time runs out.

But it is not the lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people’s worst enemy.

We can’t tell if any of those other versions would have been better or worse. Those lives are happening, it is true, but you are happening as well, and that is the happening we have to focus on.” Matt Haig

What Nora learns is that actually a lot of things she felt she should have done or what she regretted not doing were actually other people’s dreams, not her own. She wouldn’t have been happy as a landlady at a country pub, it wasn’t her dream.

Through her journey in the Midnight Library, Nora has to learn to accept herself, to realise that she is enough and, crucially, she’s to learn to face her regrets 

“If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it. And don’t give a second thought when people mock it or ridicule it. Most gossip is envy in disguise.” Matt Haig

It’s probably impossible to read this without thinking about your own life. It’s a timely reminder that our insecurities, mistakes and regrets don’t define us, that no one is ever really stuck in life. It’ll make you take a long look at life; it does have moments of pain and despair, but it’s filled with humour, hope and love. 

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig Leave a comment

  1. This looks like a really good book! Your thoughts on this thoughtful book is very thought-provoking. (I think I should win a record for “how many times you can fight ‘thought’ into a sentence”.) Thank you for such a review.

    Liked by 1 person

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