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Book review #23: The Midnight Library

I read The Midnight Library first in December 2020 and I remember loving the book so much that I started binge-reading Matt Haig’s other books. It has since become a huge phenomenon and I’ve forgotten why I loved it so much. On the first week of January, I decided that I was going to read 6 books that were read & recommended by Namjoon (RM) of BTS and The Midnight Library was on the list. So I thought I’d read it again..

[I finished this book in January but I’ve been too distracted to actually write and post a review! So here goes:]

The story starts with Nora Seed (who’s been feeling very low for some time) losing her cat. The next day when Mr Banerjee, her neighbour, told her that he doesn’t need her help to collect his pills from the chemist anymore, Nora felt it. It was the last thing that was needed to push her over the edge. That feeling of no one needing you, that you’re just taking up space, not contributing anything and perhaps the world is better off without you. And then, there’s that feeling of not wanting to reach tomorrow. At half eleven that night, Nora made up her mind – she’s not made for this world. She writes a note and ends it all.

[This book could potentially be very triggering and upsetting for some people. So go in with caution. If you feel like you’re in a very low place, like you’re not ready for something like this then perhaps don’t read this yet.]*

Nora then wakes up in a strange place with her watch stuck at midnight, 00:00:00. And that’s when Mrs Elm comes about, explaining the concept of the ‘midnight library’.

”Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be different if you had made other choices..”

Going through her thick Book of Regrets, Nora decides to try on the different lives she could be living if she’d made different decisions at different points of her life. Undoing all her regrets. 

I enjoyed it although not as much as when I read it the first time. Most who don’t like this book (I think) are the ones who go in with certain expectations – thinking this was meant to be a book about some magical otherworldly place that opens up new opportunities for Nora or something along that line. To me, its fantasy / parallel worlds element is not the main point.

Some say this is more like self help book than a fiction and perhaps there’s some truth in that. And for me, it’s good that way. This book feels like a supportive hand on the shoulder of someone who’s feeling low and can’t see a way out, someone like Nora Seed. It was a comforting read at a time when I was feeling very low and so I read, wept and loved it.

Reading it the second time round made me understand why I loved it so much before, reminded me of how I was feeling at the time and how this book helped me in a small but meaningful way.

I liked how it touches on depression and reminds you that when you’re depressed, you do “wallow in self pity” (reference to a quote in the book). Like no one else is more alone and pathetic than you. It consumes you. Depression is not about what you have or don’t have. It doesn’t matter that you have a house or a job – you are sad and that’s that. And it’s not as easy as to just change your resolve/ mindset and problem solved. But that’s a start.*

So that said, I wish he (Matt Haig) didn’t dwell so much on all the lives she tried on and expanded the ending more. Still, I’m truly glad to have read and experience it at two different phases of my life. I’m also proud to say that I think this is not my favourite book from Matt Haig and perhaps I’ll re-read his other books to find out which one is!

Some quotes I resonated with, loved or thought about:

“she wondered if her parents had ever been in love or if they had got married because marriage was something you did at the appropriate time with the nearest available person.”

“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”

“To be a human was to continually dumb the world down into an understandable story that keeps things simple”

“But maybe there are no easy paths. There are just paths”

“We spend so much time wishing our lives were different, comparing ourselves to other people and to other versions of ourselves, when really most lives contain degrees of good and degrees of bad”

“Life begins, Sartre once wrote, on the other side of despair”

“We only need to be one person. We only need to feel one existence. We don’t have to do everything in order to be everything”

So, have you read this yet? What do you think?

*If you are feeling depressed or suicidal, contact your local GP or a trusted friend for urgent help now. Here are some useful links/numbers for those in the UK:
1) Call NHS 111
2) National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK: Call 0800 689 5652 / or check out other links on
3) Samaritan (available 24 hours): call 116 123 (free phone) or text SHOUT to 85258 or chat online HERE
4) HOPELINE UK (for children and young people under the age of 35 who are experiencing thoughts of suicide or anyone concerned that a young person could be thinking about suicide): call 0800 068 41 41 or 07860 039967 or
5) MIND . org . uk : click here for their resources


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Aziza Aini

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