The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Twenty-seven hours before she decided to die, Nora Seed sat on her dilapidated sofa scrolling through other people’s happy lives, waiting for something to happen. And then, out of nowhere, something actually did.”

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

These are challenging times indeed and I, like many, have found my mental health suffering under the strain of it all. For me, the October half term is a time to rest and reconnect, a time to get out amongst nature and enjoy the autumnal swan song that it brings us. It is one of my favourite times of year. I was particularly looking forward to the break this year, I was feeling tired and a little burnt out. At the beginning of October I came down with a heavy cold and so two weeks of walks, rest and catching up with family was just what I needed.

Then COVID came to stay. On the very last day of the half term I began feeling unwell but I’d also had my flu vaccine so put it down to that and the lingering effects of the cold. On the Monday I wasn’t feeling any better, in fact I was feeling worse and I had developed a cough and my food didn’t taste quite like it should. I’m double vaccinated but even so my test results came back positive.

So, to cut a long story short my half term plans went completely out the window and I spent most of it isolating and unwell. I only get to see family during breaks such as these so it’s always frustrating when I can’t do so. I use the word frustrating, but in truth it always makes me terribly sad to miss out.

There have been so many cancelled plans and I think we are having to come to terms with the fact that life is getting harder and harder to make those plans. We have to adapt and learn to go with whatever the days bring. It’s slightly unnerving and of course it hasn’t really changed but the pandemic has suddenly made us much more aware of the fragility of life.

I have always been an anxious person. If there is something to worry about, I’ll find it and worry about it – I’ll even worry about things I have no need (or place) to worry about. I especially worry about every little thing I do and every choice I make. It’s exhausting and so those moments where I plan to reconnect with nature, do some yoga, go to the gym and just indulge my creative side are very important.

Missing out on those two weeks because of illness really knocked my mental health. It was tired anyway and then I had to deal with not being able to do the things I needed to do. Simple things, but important things.

So of course I had to adapt to the situation. I rested, I ate well and had plenty of honey and lemon drinks. I did some embroidery, watched some tv and slept. Still my mood continued to drop. I began a meditation course on Headspace working on appreciation- something that helps ground us in the here and now. When I was feeling strong enough I spent a couple of hours pottering in the garden. I was at home with two of the people I love most in the world. And still I felt sad.

Then on the last day of the holiday, the Friday night, a gift from a much loved friend appeared on my doorstep. It was a copy of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Now, I love reading, it is a big part of my life, but sometimes I find it hard to settle on a book. My anxious mind finds it hard to rest you see and I can’t quite commit. I currently have about 6 books on the go – all are, I’m sure, wonderful and definitely are books I want to read but at this moment in time I couldn’t settle.

The Midnight Library has been on my radar since it was first published. I enjoy reading Matt Haig so of course it would be but it was so immediately successful that I wanted to wait until the hoo ha had died down. I’m also a great believer that books can often find you when you need them most. And this one found me when I needed it the most.

I began reading it on that Friday night and quite literally devoured it. I felt almost as though I myself had fallen into the book just as Nora does as she explores the many lives she could have lived. It is, quite simply, a wonderfully written story. Expertly crafted but also so full of advice, hope and inspiration.

Nora is at the very bottom of her pit of despair, she can see no way out, no reason to continue living and so she decides to die. She doesn’t die immediately but is suspended in the Midnight Library, a place where, for now, time remains at midnight. It is a place where Nora can look at her book of regrets and then explore some of the other paths that her life could have taken. If she finds one that she feels is truly the one, she can stay there and live her ideal life.

I found that this story was, in many ways, about realising that any life faces it’s challenges. There is no magic path to the perfect life. The grass is not greener on the other side. But for me it was also about choices. The choices we have, the choices we make and the regrets that often follow.

Learning to let go of regrets can bring the freedom to live our very best lives and to know that we are enough, just the way we are. This novel also showed me that our lives have to be earned. The things we go through, the heartache, the mistakes, the triumphs- well they all make us who we are.

In reality there are no other lives we’d better just get on with living this one. But there are books, and through those we can live a thousand lives – just like Nora.

The Midnight Library completely captivated me from the very first page. It was an absolute tonic and I adored it.


Nora’s life has been going from bad to worse. Then at the stroke of midnight on her last day on earth she finds herself transported to a library. There she is given the chance to undo her regrets and try out each of the other lives she might have lived.

Which raises the ultimate question: with infinite choices, what is the best way to live?

Categories: Adult Fiction, Book talk, Fiction, Mental Health Issues, Review

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