Words by Sophie Fennelly
‘The Midnight Library’ follows the 35-year-old Nora Seed on a day of her life filled with misery on which she decides to kill herself. Having overdosed, Nora finds herself in a vast library filled with endless books, that has no entrances or exits. She is accompanied by Mrs Elm, her high-school librarian who presents her with a ‘Book of Regrets’ (the book filled with every regret Nora has ever had) and informs her that each book on the shelf is filled with a version of her life and that by reading them Nora can experience a world where she has undone a certain regret.
Understanding the premise of the book, and being familiar with Haig’s other work, one would expect this to be a book that has a heavy focus on mental health. But it doesn’t. This book is no more about mental health than any other book that I have read this year, or than any book at all that focuses on human life. But that’s not to say that it is not filled with emotion, or that it is not, sometimes, difficult to read. We feel Nora’s hopelessness in the wretched day where everything has gone wrong for her and we cry with her over the loss of a cat that we have only met a couple pages before, even if we are not cat people. Haig’s writing allows us to feel every disappointment and triumph alongside Nora.
But in spite of all the heartache and pain that Nora experiences in her journey through different versions of her life, this is not a book about hopelessness. On the contrary, it is about regret and its futility, about embracing kindness, and most of all, it is about hope and the endless possibility it creates. Although we may all feel a little lost sometimes, the question of ‘whether a life could really be judged from just a few minutes after midnight on a Tuesday’ serves as a reminder that with some time, even just a few hours, everything may not be as bad as it seems.
This book could not have come at a better time. In a year where we are all feeling a little stagnant, and a dark and dismal month in which we are entering our second national lockdown, it is easy to feel as if there is no hope: let this book give you some solace. Once you have picked it up, you will feel glued to it, and you will not want to put it down until it is finished, making it the perfect means of escape.