“The Midnight Library” was the first one of Matt Haig’s books that I have picked up after having heard tons about his other publications and this one just having been released in 2020. It has been chosen by one of my book clubs as the read for the month of January 2021 and I decided to join in to their discussion, in order to finally discover the author for myself.
What instantly stood out to me and what I also read out within other reviews about “The Midnight Library”, was how extremely predictable it was. I personally prefer a story to develop with suspense rather than being able to correctly guess every twist and turn of the plot in advance. This was where my first reduction in the rating came from.
Another thing that will probably be decisive for whether you end up liking the book or not, is its style. It’s written in the simplest possible language, so that I could even see this as a good book for people learning English. For someone who enjoys an intricate style of writing however, it felt a bit too superficial and disappointing. That was another reason for a second reduction in the rating for me. It left me longing for more creative writing, while I struggled through very basic dialogues.
“Oh Joe, poor you. I’m sorry about the break-up. And everything else.”
“You’re all I’ve got, sis,” he said, his voice cracking a little. “I know I haven’t valued you. I know I wasn’t always the best, growing up. But I had my own shit going on.“p. 279
After reading this book, I have learned to appreciate Sally Rooney’s “Normal People” much more. Whereas she managed to masterfully craft conversations between people, Matt Haig’s exchanges between his characters felt forced, a bit cliché and cheesy. Most of the lines that came out of their mouths unfortunately didn’t feel like they were anything anyone would ever say out loud besides some actors in a corny series. Top that off with some very basic humour and you’ll often find yourself cringing while reading page after page.
“It meant a lot to me. And to your brother. To all of us. We had a deal with Universal. Right. There. Album, singles, tour, promo. We could be Coldplay now.“
“‘You hate Coldplay.“
“Not the point. We could be in Malibu. Instead: Bedford. And so, no, your brother’s not ready to see you.”p. 14
The third reduction in the rating, which made me finally settle on 2/5 ★ was the fact that some parts of the plot simply felt too exaggerated and not believable enough. Without spoiling anything, I can say that the story focuses on the possibility of visiting numerous variations of one’s own life thanks to a special kind of library. The dilemma presented itself to me when you came across descriptions of the main character being both an Olympic medal winning swimmer and a popular singer who could perform live in front of a crowd of thousands of people. It left me wondering whether the story really needed to be packed with so many unrealistic extremes to prove its point?
Already the place was erupting. They screamed and roared and clapped and chanted. The response was phenomenal. She felt, momentarily, like Cleopatra. An utterly terrified Cleopatra. […]p. 162
As she sang, she felt alive. Even more alive than she had felt swimming in her Olympic-champion body.
The reason why I didn’t let the rating slide down even further to just 1/5 ★ was because in the end, “The Midnight Library” was just a cute little story, to finish off this review on a positive note. Yes, the writing wasn’t spectacular and didn’t really stand out. Yes, the plot was exaggerated & not very believable, even within the frames of a work of fiction. But! The author still managed to get you thinking about your current life, making you appreciate all its aspects, cherishing the relationships with people, accepting the state they are currently in and motivating you to live in the present moment. I can see it being appealing to younger readers, maybe those who are feeling overwhelmed by the everyday reality of social media, topics such as “likes” and online approval being brought up multiple times within the story. It also has a bit of a feel of a fairy tale for adults, so this might be the right book for you, if you’re looking for something very light and “fluffy” to read 😀
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.p. 48
Edition: ISBN 978-1-78689-272-0
Canongate Books, 2020