by Matt Haig
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
17/25 (68%) 3 stars.
This is one of these weird reviews where I have to say that while I think this is ‚objectively‘ a good book, it still wasn’t the book for me. Yes, it was a page-turner once I had time to focus on it. But only then. If I compare it to The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – and I have to compare it to Addie LaRue – yes, the basic concept, the idea behind this book totally worked for me. It hooked me. But while I was head over heels in love with The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, my feelings for this one are lukewarm at best. Why? Because I am in love with the concept, nothing more. That’s it. It’s like a relationship based only on physical attraction. Or, to say it with the book itself:
„We had great times. But there is more to life than fantastic sex.“
Yes, the pitch is great: Nora, the protagonist, is in a really dark place emotionally, overwhelmed with regrets about the decisions she’s made in her life. And she gets a chance to live a life where she hasn’t made the wrong decisions, where she doesn’t end up in that dark place – and who can’t relate to that? Having regrets is a very human thing. Regrets are one thing that sets humanity apart, because nothing else on this planet has regrets. Well, I think my cat may regret that it wasn’t born as a tiger, but I can’t be sure of that, so it doesn’t count.
So that’s the pitch. The pitch works, because every single one of us can understand Nora. We all regret something, be it that we didn’t ask a certain person on a date, that we didn’t choose another job, that we didn’t bet a lot of money on the Patriots when they were down 3-28 in the Super Bowl. Life is full of regrets, so we can relate to Nora, just like we can relate to Addie: we all regret things, and we all want to be remembered. Pitch: check. Everything else: sorry, didn’t care.
Yes, I didn’t care. It’s a cute book, I enjoyed it, but – cold-blooded, stone-hearted monster that I am: I didn’t care. Because I knew where this was going to end, and because the road there wasn’t intriguing enough to make me enjoy it. Yes, there were some heartbreaking moments had to face, but in a way I kept thinking: this isn’t real. No matter how often Schrödinger’s Cat was mentioned, I didn’t feel this was real. This wasn’t like Harry and Dumbledore at King’s Cross, this couldn’t make me feel for the characters. It does for a lot of people, but not for me.
The prose isn’t my thing. It’s too reduced to reach me, it’s… bland? Not sure I can say that. But it never enchants me, and there are only two quotes I marked while reading this book:
„A person was like a city. You couldn’t let a few less desirable parts let you off the whole. There may be bits you don’t like, a dew dodgy side-streets and suburbs, but the good stuff makes it worthwhile.“
„And the thing you need to realise is this: the game is never over until it is over. It isn’t over if there is a single pawn still left on the board. If one side is down to a pawn and a king, and the other side has every player, there is still a game. And even if you were a pawn – maybe we all are – then you should remember that a pawn is the most magical piece of all. It might look small and ordinary, but it isn’t. Because a pawn is never just a pawn. A pawn is a queen-in-waiting. All you need to do is find a way to keep moving forward. One square after another. And you can get to the other side and unlock all kinds of power.“
The latter one sounds like a real good pep speech, I’ll try to use it for my football team at some point. Anyway, the bottom line is: it obviously works for a lot of people but it didn’t work for me. It failed to deliver the X-factor, it never managed to enchant me – three stars.
Writing Style 3