A Place to Read

My Review of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

This week I have been delving into the latest offering from Matt Haig, The Midnight Library.

The Midnight Library, Matt Haig, front cover.
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd 
ISBN: 9781838852870 
Number of pages: 304 
Dimensions: 220 x 162 mm 
Hardback signed edition £16.99 at Waterstones

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY – THE BLURB

Between life and death there is a library.

When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret. She feels she has let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change.The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can now undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren’t always what she imagined they’d be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in extreme danger. Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY – MY REVIEW

I’ve been waiting for this book as I’m a big fan of Matt Haig. (I will list my other reviews below.) I was really excited to purchase a signed first edition copy.

inside cover of book including signature and image of library card.
Inside cover and signed page of book

I love the image of an old fashioned library ticket on the inside. The book is already overdue!

Of course, as a former librarian, I couldn’t wait to delve into this story, but it had other attractions too. Matt Haig writes such touching stories which really make you take stock of your life and realise what you have.

Many years ago I discovered Paulo Coelho and after enjoying The Alchemist I moved on to Veronika Decides to Die. The book has stuck with me for a long time because it’s main premise being a young woman who decides to take her own life simply because she cannot understand why life is worth living. Sometimes even when you have everything it may not be enough.

The Midnight Library is about a woman, a little older than Coelho’s character, who feels she has made all the wrong decisions in life and is full of regret. So much so, that she decides to die. This is the main difference between the two. Full of regret, or not, life can still be too mystifying for a person to carry on living it. This is what depression can be like, it doesn’t really care what you do, or don’t, have.

I found the Midnight Library a bit of a strange in-between world, maybe a little less complex than some I’ve encountered in other novels. Quite simply, Nora, the main character, gets to work on her regrets and see if things would have turned out better, or worse. She does this by choosing the book of her life that could have been.

What do we do when we have exhausted all paths though. Is it time to rest forever, or would we have learned too much? Will Nora die, is she dead already? Can you add one more regret to your book by regretting how it all ended.

I found the story a real page turner and couldn’t wait to read what would happen to Nora next.

If there is one thing I will take from this book it’s that we will always have regrets, but not all of them are as bad as we think.

Reasons To Stay Alive and The Humans – Matt Haig

The Radleys and How to Stop Time – Matt Haig

To Be a Cat – Matt Haig

A Place to Read

What I read in September – Matt Haig and Margaret Atwood

This month I’ve been reading Matt Haig and Margaret Atwood.

Back to my current Matt Haig addiction I finished Reasons to Stay Alive. I listened to it on Audible, read by Matt himself which I really liked. But it is definitely something that needs to be kept in a paper copy, particularly by your side at all times so you can remind yourself why it’s worth living at all times. It is about half the size of his regular books though.

I will be buying myself a ‘hard copy’ as I’m certain I will read it again.

How to Stop Time – Matt Haig

On to my fourth Matt Haig book. I didn’t read it straight after Reasons to Stay Alive, but I guess it needed to be written about next. There was definitely some cross over.

If you can bear with me for some personal opions, I have often thought about how long you could actually want to go on living. There has to be a point when you get fed up of it all and feel comfortable with it being the end of your life.

In this story the main character is over 400 years old. He’s lived many lifetimes and aged slowly. He has loved then forbidden himself to love again and over the years he has lost the reason to being alive. He has stopped feeling alive.

I love how the story intertwines the present day with his history. One minute he’s teaching his class in a London school and the next we are transported back to a different century while he reminices on the most significant events of his life.

The reason he has stayed alive is because he knows that he has a daughter, who is also blessed, or cursed with a long, long life. He’s lost her and he’s desperate to find her again and that’s what keeps him going.

But then it’s all turned on it’s head when he meets a lady that he has feelings for. He has stopped feeling for such a long time.

The ending feels a little rushed and unbelievable. But then that’s not the point of the story. Is it believeable that someone could live for hundreds of years? The story is to help him understand why he should live. Again, reasons to stay alive but in a different format.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

I’ve not seen the television series or the film, but I did get drawn into the story and decided to buy myself a paperback of this classic tale by Margaret Atwood. Straight away I was drawn into the story and the life of the main character Offred. It’s certainly a strange tale, and has so many more questions than answers. I do enjoy stories that look into a future though, whether they are utopian or dystopian, and this tale is definitely dystopian.

Offred tells of her current situation in a matter of fact way while having flashbacks of a different life before Gilead became about. This different life is the one we would be used to now.

I found a lot of the story quite harrowing and the repression was stifling. The whole concept of the story is pretty terrifying. I decided I would like to watch the television series after reading the book but was dismayed to find that to watch it I had to pay Virgin an extra £19.99 to watch just the first series, and the other two were even more expensive!

I will console myself with the new Margaret Atwood book, I’m not sure whether to get the book or the audible copy. At least I won’t have waited as long as those who read The Handmaid’s Tale when it was first published.

The Testaments audible copy

I’m already started on my next book, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. This is a paperback which I bought second hand. The problem with books is that I cannot crochet and read at the same time.

See My other Book Reviews.

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A Place to Read

What I’ve been reading in August, Matt Haig.

With the kids around I’ve not been able to read so much. That and the fact that I’ve been a teensy bit distracted by Netflix. I did manage some reading on holiday but not as much as I’d hoped. I thought I’d be spending time sitting on the beach reading, but sadly it wasn’t as hot and sunny as I’d have liked, so we spent more time visiting places than sitting around. Having time to read isn’t good but I have managed to indulge a little in a couple of books by Matt Haig.

Matt Haig

How to stop time, kiss. How to travel in time, read. How to escape time, music. How to feel time, write. How to release time, breathe. Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive.

In May, I read my first my Matt Haig book, The Humans.

I really enjoyed it, it certainly gave you a different perspective on human qualities good and bad. Since reading it I was determined to read more of Matt Haig, I loved his gentle story telling.

The Next Matt Haig book was a little different. I decided to read The Radleys.

The Blurb

Life with the Radleys: Radio 4, dinner parties with the Bishopthorpe neighbours and self-denial. Loads of self-denial. But all hell is about to break loose. When teenage daughter Clara gets attacked on the way home from a party, she and her brother Rowan finally discover why they can’t sleep, can’t eat a Thai salad without fear of asphyxiation and can’t go outside unless they’re smothered in Factor 50.

With a visit from their lethally louche uncle Will and an increasingly suspicious police force, life in Bishopthorpe is about to change. Drastically.

My Review

I’m a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy, which is probably why Matt Haig appeals to me. I’m also a fan of psychology and Matt Haig likes to take his characters apart and look at how they work. This family is a little unusual as they are Vampires. I know that’s a spoiler but you find out pretty soon in the book so it’s not a secret or twist in the plot.

Not only are they vampires, they are vampires trying to fit in with human society and are abstaining from drinking blood. I love that you get little snippets from the abstainers handbook, it took me right back to my Terry Pratchett’s Reformed Vampyre’s Diary from 2003. (I have all of Terry Pratchett’s Diary’s, even the one published after his demise, which is the only one I just couldn’t bring myself to write in.)

Matt Haig is a lovely story teller, he has such a gentle way of getting things across, even horrific things. His depth of character is what draws you in and you learn about the things that make humans human.

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

The next book I chose was Reasons to Stay Alive

The Blurb

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEEL TRULY ALIVE?

Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again.

A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

“I wrote this book because the oldest clichés remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it . . . Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.”

My Review

First Confession, I’ve not finished reading this yet.

Second Confession, I really don’t normally go for memoirs.

I was keen to know a little more about Matt Haig though and what makes him write the way he does. I am listening to this book on Audible and it’s narrated by Matt himself. Already, I feel I know so much more about him.

Depression is such an awful illness, it’s so much more than just feeling sad. And mixed with anxiety it can be really debilitating and ruin your life. Overcoming depression is a huge achievement and I’m so glad that Matt is sharing his story.

Set in relatively short chapters, some are even just lists, the book is easy to digest…but the words will stay with you much longer.

I know that it’s only my family that keep me here. I know that I’m passive suicidal, personally I don’t care if I live or die. I’ve prepared for my death and I know it’s inevitable. It sounds morbid I know, and I know I battle depression. I wouldn’t commit suicide because of the damage it would cause my family. Sticking around is what I really need to do for them. Seeing them grow up is my greatest wish. I have my reasons to stay alive, but I need to have MY reasons to stay alive too.

This is not a self-help book, it’s a memoir and sometimes it’s pretty dark. But, if you read about someone getting through such an awful illness, you may be able to see your own ‘light at the end of the tunnel. ‘

EDIT: I have finished the book now and I know it’s one I will want to keep to hand. My first impression was that it wasn’t a self help book, but as it progresses it does give you lots of self-help strategies and, obviously, reasons for staying alive.

Final Words

I’m becoming a true fan of Matt Haig, and I may even stalk him a little on Social Media. I’m so glad that I have a few more of his books to digest. I may even go on to his children’s books and share them with my Little Man.

Click the link to see more of Matt Haig Books on Amazon.

 
 Amazon.co.uk Widgets

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