When a novel starts with a quote from famous American poet Sylvia Plath, high expectations are set from the beginning. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig follows the life of a woman, Nora, who commits suicide and ends up in a library represting the space between life and death. The library allows Nora to explore parallel worlds where she made different life choices. The novel finds some value through the conceptual, however, the rest fell flat.
The plotline was disappointing as it stuck closely to conventions with a predictable ending. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol seems to be the obvious source of inspiration with the main character seeing the consequences of different choices. Stories like this have been told over and over, but this may be enjoyable for some readers who find comfort in repetition and predictability.
“You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live it.”
“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.”
Uniquely, the exploration of Nora’s parallel lives had some interesting moments through her exploration of various career paths and relationships. The different possibilities of Nora’s life reflects the power of the novel as a gateway into other worlds and as a way to live different lives through the act of reading.
Unfortunately, Haig fails in fully developing any of the characters. As a result, there is a lack of emotional investment from the reader. Nora is defined solely by her love for swimming, piano, and philosophy without much depth. With better characters, this novel would be more interesting.
“Love and laughter and fear and pain are universal currencies.”
The most intriguing character takes the shape of Mrs. Elm, Nora’s childhood librarian, to act as a guide in the library. Through Mrs. Elm, Haig is able to express valuable ideas on the meaning of life. These ideas make the novel interesting when paired with the exploration of what could have been.
Other characters, especially Nora, frequently reference philosophers as a way to search for the purpose of life. The references add something deeper to the story, but the overuse of the philosophical ideas can be overbearing at times.
“There are patterns to life… Rhythms. It is so easy, while trapped in just the one life, to imagine that times of sadness or tragedy or failure or fear are a result of that particular existence… sadness is intrinsically part of the fabric of happiness.”
Despite the weaknesses, the plot has a worthwhile message on life choices and regrets making the reader feel better about living a life defined by choices. This novel might be a good option for college students stressing about major life decisions and the future. However, similar novels may be a more beneficial source for enjoyment.
Spinnaker rates this book 2.5 out of 5 Spinnaker Sails.
For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected]