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 if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.
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?
The Midnight Library is the kind of plot I really enjoy – those ‘what if’ plots that make you think how everything can change if you make one different choice. Nora Seed is struggling with depression and has decided it’s time to end her life. However, as she slips away, she enters ‘another world’: The Midnight Library, where there are endless volumes of books that represent different versions of her life, each one a result of a slightly different path Nora could have taken in her life. Nora has lots of regrets, and so she decides to visit some of these alternative lives to see if she could be happy if she hadn’t made certain choices – such as breaking up with her fiancé right before their wedding, decided not to go to Australia with her best friend, or continuing with her swimming and turning it into a successful career.
Of course (and I don’t think this will be a spoiler to anyone, as it’s quite easy to guess) these other lives, although each with their benefits, aren’t quite right for Nora and don’t make her happy. You can see from a mile off what the end result will be, but it’s a lovely experience getting there! And Nora does learn a lot about herself from ‘visiting’ these lives, and it makes for an interesting, heartfelt read. It also made me pause for thought at times, and I definitely felt a little emotional at times too.
Although I could guess where a lot of it was going, that’s not really the point of this novel (or so I felt). It’s about the journey Nora takes and the way she realises that even her regrets have helped make her who she is, and her ‘root’ life (the life she was in originally) may have had many, many issues, but having regrets is pointless. However I did feel oversimplified at times considering what a complex topic mental health is.
I listened to this novel on audiobook, and I find that if a book can keep my attention in audio format then it’s definitely got something about it. The narrator – Carey Mulligan, no less! – is brilliant and portraying Nora’s thoughts in her engaging but calm voice. It’s a philosophical novel without being ‘too much’, and it’s a touching, poetic and thought-provoking whilst also being very readable. Though it’s a bit obvious at times, I still really enjoyed it.