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The Midnight Library

by Matt Haig

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,9621633,523 (3.88)130
Recently added bymartianinmiami, JRMANDRAGON, lisaspicer, chazzard, Rennie80, private library, TMullins, jmcarlozzi
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» See also 130 mentions

English (159)  Dutch (3)  All languages (162)
Showing 1-5 of 159 (next | show all)
“This library is yours. It is here for you. You see, everyone’s lives could have ended up an infinite number of ways. These books on the shelves are your life, all starting from the same point in time. Right now. Midnight. Tuesday the twenty-eighth of April. But these midnight possibilities aren’t the same. Some are similar, some are very different.”

After attempting suicide, Nora ends up at the Midnight Library, where each book is another life based on a decision made (big or small). She may now read any book she so chooses and if that life truly makes her happy, she may stay there to live out the rest of her life. But upon trying life after life, Nora is slowly figuring out what it truly means to live and to be human.

This is one of those that really makes you think, especially about philosophy and the reason for living. In other words, it hit me hard. As someone who has battled with depression for most of her life, I found myself setting aside the book for a few moments to really think about what Nora was going through.

This is the first novel I’ve read of Matt Haig and I love how he stitches together magic, emotions, quantum physics, philosophy, and literature. What a crazy premise to have a book of regrets that, at what could be the end of your life, you get to read and possibly erase.

Haig also wrote Nora beautifully. I felt all of her emotions, good, bad, dark, and light. She’s desperately fragile, adventurous, talented, a loving sister and friend, and a good teacher. And, in the end, she’s a strong survivor.

At the end of reading this book, it almost felt like a small weight was lifted off my shoulders. Nora really found out what it meant for her to live and all the potential she still had left in her, no matter where she’s at in her life. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of that.

“Never underestimate the big importance of small things.” ( )
  oldandnewbooksmell | Sep 24, 2021 |
I pick up almost any book with "library/librarian" in the title.
I was expecting fantasy, but got some lovely magical realism.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig reminds me of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, but on a smaller, more personal scale: No world-changing historical effects from experiencing different lives, but rather smaller, but no less important, ripples in one woman's surrounding life.

I can't claim to totally understand all of the philosophical underpinning in the story, but I enjoyed the introduction and found the ideas surround the multiverse intriguing.

Hope. That's the emotion I was left with after reading this novel. Open-ended hopefulness. ( )
  deslivres5 | Sep 23, 2021 |
3.5 stars to be exact. It’s a strong concept but certain comparisons of a few characters made me uncomfortable and turned off. ( )
  violetbaleine | Sep 22, 2021 |
A mash of Quantum Leap and Sliders, to teach one person on the brink of death the value of living life, even the bad bits. The philosophical themes reminded me of other works such as Sophie's World and just about any existential work you can think of.

The library (which was the reason I picked up this book) is merely a connecting theme (other "sliders", for example, see a video store), so the read offers little in the way of insight in the merits of books and libraries. ( )
  dono421846 | Sep 19, 2021 |
A Hallmark card expanded to novel length. I didn't hate the book – it's so earnest and worthy and inoffensive, circulating all the right buzzwords around 'mental health', that you're almost obliged to nod your head and say 'well done'. But it reads like a pamphlet on depression you might read in a doctor's waiting room. 'Nora felt sad', 'her cat had died', 'she needed to know that the people around her were there for her', and so on.

Maybe I'm just a curmudgeon, but I find that kind of thing suffocating. Worthy, and correct, for some people – but Christ, people who are really struggling with that hollow feeling, which is inexplicable to those who have no experience of it, need more insight than the prose equivalent of a 'hang in there' cat poster or Instagram post. And surely a novel should provide that insight? If a writer is just regurgitating stuff anyone could think up, why should we read their book? Surely we want a writer to be an original, touched with genius, showing us something we didn't know or couldn't see? Instead, we get "just be kind" – author Matt Haig's advice on two separate occasions; the second occasion followed up with an Insta-worthy line about how we just have to look up from wherever we're standing and notice that the sky goes on forever (pg. 278).

Even after I accepted the underwhelming, shallow splash in Haig's depths, and had built up a tolerance for the regurgitative motivational stuff, I was extremely disappointed by the fact that The Midnight Library is meritless as story. I've not read any of Haig's other works, but if he has any storytelling ability, it deserted him completely here. The concept is pretty unoriginal, and Haig doesn't make any attempt to develop it (neutering a promising sci-fi angle) beyond a Copy + Paste about Schrödinger's cat. The plot and ending are entirely predictable. The characters are cookie-cutter (recalling that doctor's waiting room pamphlet again…) and the dialogue is some of the clumsiest exposition I've read in a good while. Maybe that's because I tend to stay away from contemporary fiction – and with good reason, perhaps, considering The Midnight Library has been lauded by what passes for literary culture nowadays. If this is a bestselling modern great, I'll stick to the old stuff, thanks. Immune to the hype, I can only conclude that The Midnight Library is superficial (though tolerable) in its ideas, and completely valueless as a piece of fiction. This is not a novel, but a crudely-fictionalised therapy session. ( )
2 vote MikeFutcher | Sep 17, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 159 (next | show all)
If you’ve never pondered life’s contingencies—like what might’ve happened if you’d skipped the party where you met your spouse—then Matt Haig’s novel The Midnight Library will be an eye-opening experience. This gentle but never cloying fable offers us a chance to weigh our regret over missed opportunities against our gratitude for the life we have.... [Haig's] allusions to multiverses, string theory and Erwin Schrödinger never detract from the emotional heart of this alluring novel.... Haig brings her story to a conclusion that’s both enlightening and deeply satisfying.
 
Few fantasies are more enduring than the idea that there might be a second chance at a life already lived, some sort of magical reset in which mistakes can be erased, regrets addressed, choices altered.... The narrative throughout has a slightly old-fashioned feel, like a bedtime story. It’s an absorbing but comfortable read, imaginative in the details if familiar in its outline. The invention of the library as the machinery through which different lives can be accessed is sure to please readers and has the advantage of being both magical and factual. Every library is a liminal space; the Midnight Library is different in scale, but not kind. And a vision of limitless possibility, of new roads taken, of new lives lived, of a whole different world available to us somehow, somewhere, might be exactly what’s wanted in these troubled and troubling times.
added by LondonLori76 | editNew York Times, Karen Joy Fowler (pay site) (Sep 29, 2020)
 
...“between life and death there is a midnight library,” a library that contains multiple volumes of the lives she could have had if she had made different choices.... Haig’s latest (after the nonfiction collection Notes on a Nervous Planet, 2019) is a stunning contemporary story that explores the choices that make up a life, and the regrets that can stifle it. A compelling novel that will resonate with readers.
 
An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.... This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable. A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.
added by LondonLori76 | editKirkus Reviews (Jul 14, 2020)
 

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Haig, Mattprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mulligan, CareyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones, and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life.
--Sylvia Plath
Dedication
To all the health workers. And the care workers. Thank you.
First words
Nineteen years before she decided to die, Nora Seed sat in the warmth of the small library at Hazeldene School in the town of Bedford.
Quotations
She knew she should be experiencing pity and despair for her feline friend – and she was – but she had to acknowledge something else. As she stared at Voltaire’s still and peaceful expression – that total absence of pain – there was an inescapable feeling brewing in the darkness. Envy.
The universe tended towards chaos and entropy. That was basic thermodynamics. Maybe it was basic existence too.
Bertrand Russell wrote that ‘To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three-parts dead’. Maybe that was her problem. Maybe she was just scared of living. But Bertrand Russell had more marriages and affairs than hot dinners, so perhaps he was no one to give advice.
A person was like a city. You couldn’t let a few less desirable parts put you off the whole. There may be bits you don’t like, a few dodgy side streets and suburbs, but the good stuff makes it worthwhile.
‘Want,’ she told her, in a measured tone, ‘is an interesting word. It means lack. Sometimes if we fill that lack with something else the original want disappears entirely. Maybe you have a lack problem rather than a want problem. Maybe there is a life that you really want to live.’
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