The Midnight Library (Book Review)
by Matt Haig
2 / 5 Stars
I listened to this book on Audible. The narration was fine - Carey Mulligan did a good job with what she was given.
I will say one thing before I explain my rating: I can understand why people like this book. It’s definitely a story of hope and of learning to value not only yourself but what you have, which I can see people finding uplifting. I’m not saying it’s a bad book, but it just wasn’t for me. I might use inflammatory language, but if I didn’t the review would be boring. As such, this will not be an attack review, but I will explain why it didn’t jive with me in blunt terms.
The story follows Nora, a woman who is down in the dumps about her life. Feeling useless and depressed, she tries to commit suicide. Instead, she wakes up in this place called the Midnight Library, which offers her the chance to choose another life from all the infinite possibilities out there. Which one will she choose?
My biggest issue is that it felt like a self-help book in fiction form. It’s like It’s a Wonderful Life but without the Christmas aspect (and the “What do you mean the bank is out of money” scene). Don't get me wrong, I love that movie.
This will contain spoilers. Stop now if you intended on reading this book.
Unlike It's a Wonderful Life, the novel is bland and predictable, with a painfully obvious ending. I knew the entire plot from probably ten percent in - nothing about it surprised me.
My dissatisfaction could also be because the whole “quantum wave theory”/parallel dimensions/multiverse concept is nothing new to me, so there was too much explanation of the concept. The fact that it took Nora what felt like years to understand this quite simple premise drove me crazy. If she studied philology in university, you’d think she would have come across this concept before. Likewise, it seems like the only philosopher she studied was Thoreau since she quotes him all the time (which got a little tedious). My lack of enjoyment with the book could also be because I found Nora very annoying. Not because of her depression or ennui or lack of fulfillment, but because she acted like an idiot in each new scenario. Every time she entered a new life she reacted in such an overblown way when she discovered someone was dead or something was different - I understand this being strange the first or even second time, but by the third or fourth you’d think you’d expect it and stop with the “whhhhattt?” and stammering and getting emotional, especially if you’re trying to fool people you’re the real deal. She was so irritating. I also disliked how she was taking over the body, but not the memories, of her other life Noras. Firstly, where did THOSE Nora’s go? Secondly, she RUINED a few of their lives with her incompetence, which was frustrating to read (that melodramatic speech during the swimming life was so cringy). Thirdly, why wouldn’t she have the memories? This wasn’t clear to me, and quite frankly, made it unbelievable.
One thing I did enjoy was when Hugo called himself a “slider”, which I’m assuming is in reference to the show Sliders, which is basically the same idea but slightly different context. Great 90s TV there. I should have just watched that.
Overall, if you’re in a bad place and need a pick-me-up, this book might work for you, but for me, it was quite didactic and rather dull.