Nora is confident this world isn't for her, so she leaves it. However, on the journey to the afterlife, she encounters the Midnight Library, a library full of different lives and opportunities she didn't take. Will she find the life she's dreamed of here?
Thank you to Canongate for sending me a finished copy of this novel before it's publication date (I'm sorry it took me so long to read it)!
If there is one book published in 2020 to make sure you read in 2021, it should probably be this. It wasn't a personal favourite of the year but it sure made an impact on my thinking and it has been widely popular among the reading community. It tackles a very serious theme, suicide, so if you're not in a very good place mentally (and really, who is at the minute?) it might be best to hold off for now. The book does not hide from the deepest lows of depression and self-hatred and I almost didn't enjoy it for that reason, it was brutal and scary to read when most of us this past year has probably felt this way. Personally, I struggled to pick it up for the first 40% because I was addressing my own mental health struggle at the time but I knew from other reviewers that it got better and more hopeful, so I stuck it out.
Nora, the main character, was difficult to warm to but her attitude toward life was closed-off and defensive, meaning that's the reception we got from her to start with as well, which is brilliant writing from Haig. Similarly, he did a brilliant job of creating different realities at the flick of a switch, changing personalities and settings within a single line. The concept is that Nora can visit and experience different versions of her life to try and find a version where she'd be happy. These varied from trekking in Norway, being a rockstar or having a family life, and with each change, Haig keeps us engaged and curious as to how Nora will react. I was particularly fond of the reality with Ash & Molly but I was fearful we'd have the "male saviour" storyline, gladly, this not the case.
Finding a way to end this must have been difficult, there were so many possibilities for closing Nora's story but it was very bittersweet. I'm not sure what was missing for me with this novel, it was beautifully written and gave the reader about four different stories in one but it didn't get to that five-star mark for me. It did leave me with a changed outlook on my life now that I think about it, inevitably we can make all the decisions we like but this is the life we are living and we have to make the most of it, we might not necessarily be happier if we took a different path.
'The Midnight Library' will definitely stay with you, it isn't one of those books that you put on your shelf and forget about, that's for sure.