Read if you’re: Wanting to escape, but still contemplate
Genre: Fantasy fiction
Year released: 2020
Author: Matt Haig, author of Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet et al.
“Every life contains many millions of decisions,” or so says Mrs. Elm, the librarian our protagonist meets in the namesake place of this fantastical, contemplative and highly readable fantasy novel. You see, Nora, our (anti)hero has attempted suicide after a string of misfortune and instead of this ending it all, she finds herself in a place of infinite possibilities. Enter: The Midnight Library. A gateway to multidimensional travel and a journey, as it would transpire, into the self and the meaning of what meaning brings to life.
“Some big, some small. But every time one decision is taken over another, the outcomes differ. An irreversible variation occurs, which in turn leads to further variations. These books are portals to all the lives you could be living.” Mrs Elms elaborates, essentially laying out the foundation of the novel.
For those of us who’ve ever mused about what could have been had we made slightly different choices, this is a tantalising prospect, non? A fantasy that Haig deftly, if very straightforwardly, plays with here in a snug doorway into speculative fiction.
As Nora flits between her endless parallel lives, attempting to undo all her regrets, she is ultimately forced to choose the life she wants to step back into permanently. So whilst she lives 100s, if not 1000s of lives, she ultimately can only have one. Like the rest of us.
It’s true that this #1 New York Times bestseller deals with meaty topics — depression, anxiety, the meaning of life — but it does so in such a fashion that it feels light and satisfying. A subtle hint to the possibilities of reading too — the endless worlds we can discover on the shelf. And we’d argue, the perfect companion to sink into while sipping cocktails by the pool on your next holiday.