• Friday, December 16th, 2022

Matt Haig was born in Sheffield, England, in 1975 and grew up in Newark, Nottinghamshire. Haig studied English and History at the University of Hull and Leeds University. He presently lives in Brighton, Sussex, England, with his wife and two children.

After his studies, Haig ran his own internet marketing business. He also worked for a nightclub in Spain. Haig presently spends his time writing for newspapers, including The Guardian and The Independent. He has also written successful fiction books for adults and children, as well as non-fiction.

Matt Haig has won many awards, and his books have been translated into several languages. The Midnight Library, published in 2020, has been optioned to be made into a film by Studio Canal and Blueprint Pictures.

The story is about the British thirty-five-year-old forlorn Nora Seed, who lives in the quiet town of Bedford, England. Nora feels miserable, profoundly depressed and worthless and has low self-esteem. Everything that was keeping her alive has gone. Both her parents are dead; she is dismissed from her job; her best friend Izzy has emigrated to Australia; she has abandoned her boyfriend Dan, her brother Joe is no longer in touch with her, and her cat Volts (Voltaire) has died in an accident.

Nora decides to commit suicide and leaves a note: “Dear Whoever, I had all the chances to make something of my life, and I blew every one of them. Through my own carelessness and misfortune, the world has retreated from me, and so now it makes perfect sense that I should retreat from the world…Bye, Nora”.

Between life and death, at the stroke of midnight, Nora finds herself in a boundless library run by her former school librarian, Mrs Elm. In this strange midnight library, while in the bardo, Nora finds herself surrounded by books on endless shelves, and each volume of these books includes a segment of her life. Mrs Elm informs Nora that she can choose among the innumerable lives she regrets not having lived. She only has to open the book and go back and live one of them.

Regretting being cruel to her boyfriend, Dan and breaking up with him, Nora’s first choice is to go back and marry Dan and help him realise his dream of owning and running a country pub. Unfortunately, things do not turn out as she expects. Disappointed, Nora returns to the library, where Mrs Elm tells her that she still has lives to experience and many other possibilities.

Each time Nora chooses a different life she regrets not having lived, she experiences one disappointing life after another. Like becoming an Olympic gold medalist, a part of an International Polar Research institute in Svalbard and a famous rock star. Eventually, she finds a suitable happy life as a philosophy teacher at Cambridge University and a mother to a little girl called Molly. She is married to a surgeon, Ash, and lives in a comfortable house in Cambridge.

Unfortunately, Nora’s happiness will be short-lived, and she will find herself back in the midnight library with Mrs Elm, who explains why she could not remain in this happy life.

Nevertheless, after “a former curse and a present blessing. Three simple words containing the power and potential of a multiverse: I AM ALIVE. And with that, the ground shook like fury and every last remnant of the Midnight Library dissolved into dust”. This cataclysm happens because Nora wants to be rescued due to her favouring life over death.

Akin to his main character, Nora, Matt Haig has suffered from anxiety and depression to the point of being suicidal, which noticeably transpires in his novel. Through his fictional writing, he emphasises the quiet, lonely suffering of people with mental afflictions which lead them to a breaking point.

The story is powerful, dark and bleak. The author, through his protagonist, is broaching the philosophical and scientific questioning about human existence, the meaning of life, and the awareness of social bonds and well-being. Nora’s awakening leads her to delve deep into herself to find an answer to these queries, a solution to her painful anguish, which has led to her alienation.

Nevertheless, the author brings relief and a message of hope in the story’s happy ending. Through her experimental journey in the midnight library, Nora learns from her inner search to accept herself and assess what is essential. She discovers the importance of life, its value and the consequences of her choices. Nora wants to live. She starts to review her life from a different angle, wanting to succeed in her present and future existence after being granted the extraordinary chance of a fresh comeback.

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Category: Book Reviews
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