The Midnight Library: Dead Cats, Dead Philosophers and Living People.

The reader is sometimes shoved and, other times, gently nudged down the rabbit hole of suicidal thoughts, transformation, decisions and regrets in Matt Haig’s fantastical novel, The Midnight Library

A dead cat, a brother who hates you, and past trauma leads Nora Seed to attempt to take her own life. On the brink of death, until Nora can choose a path in life, she dwindles in a place of in between, known as the Midnight Library. 

This novel puts the fears of a generation into words in a comforting and encouraging way.

The Midnight Library, published by Penguin Random House, is Haig’s warm welcome after the first lengthy lockdown of 2020. The book is his 24th and is perfect for our young audience here at The New Collection! Having just completed a three-month volunteer role with Championing Youth Minds, I am all too aware of the issues young people are facing with their well-being. Post lockdown in 2021 has been intense on people’s mental health, and this novel puts the fears of a generation into words in a comforting and encouraging way.

For me, this book was one I struggled to put down; every page drew me further in, not just to understanding Nora, but to understanding my own mindset. Although we follow the story of Nora Seed, the library invites the reader to reflect as if they are conversing with a kind friend or mentor. A perfect companion for well-being. Haig flawlessly captures the chaos of a spiral to the sudden realisation of a bad relationship. The book discusses the decisions we make and the complicated and delicate spider web of friendships and relationships we build in our lives. For such dark subject material the narrative is surprisingly wholesome. Haig traverses intensity to euphoria with the ease and understanding that readers of his work will be familiar with.

One thing I really loved was how I could read the book in both a more analytical way as Haig discusses philosophy and the meaning of life, but also in a candid way as Haig’s writing is so accessible. I think this is excellent, and it can be brilliant, not coming close to anything pretentious. Especially if you have not read in ages, this is a great novel to kick back and take your time with! Haig’s writing is electric and totally engaging, you realise that you are not just reading about Nora but you’re learning about yourself.

These are some of my favourite passages from the book:

‘It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d developed other talents, said yes to different offers.’

‘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.

‘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 because we are already infinite. While we are alive, we always contain a future of multifarious possibility.

So, if you are a reader who wants a profound book about philosophy, or a personal story about well-being and decisions, this would be a great choice! It has something for everyone.

Thank you for reading!  P.S. after reading The Midnight Library, I have started to read Notes On A Nervous Planet, which would be a great companion and tackles Haig’s solutions to his mental health!

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Jamie Styles

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