Preface: This book review does contain spoilers, furthermore it is also contains my thoughts on the book as well as the lessons that I learnt from the book. If you disagree with my thoughts on the book, don’t take it out on the book itself. Have a read because I think this book is brilliant! Every single chapter of the book was a good read and this is a rare thing for a book. Even some of my most favorite books have a few boring chapters in there but not this one.
For a long time I was searching for an exciting book to get cozy and read during lockdown. However, I never really found that special book that I was looking for. Despite the fact that I couldn’t do much about it I continued reading any book that I could get my hands on because of the fact that I am taking part in the 2021 reading challenge on Good Reads. An interesting challenge that keeps me motivated to read more and more. Last year was the first time that I took part in the annual reading challenge and as you might have guessed, I joined late. Therefore, I only read 15 books. Which isn’t all bad since the average person reads 12 books a year but at the same time it wasn’t anywhere near the amount of other people.
Some of my friends, or ‘mutuals’ on the Good Reads app have casually read 115 books so far in the 2021 year alone! Some of them read 200 books a year. This is very motivating for me yet I chose a humble 35 books a year to read in 2021 and so far I am ahead of the schedule. If all goes well, (fingers crossed) I should be able to read maybe even 40-50 books this year. Going back to The Midnight Library. As I continued reading different books I randomly came across the Good Reads Awards and I saw that there was a book called The Midnight Library that was voted the number 1 book of the year. 5,674,480 Votes Cast and this book won! I instantly became interested in the book and decided to read the blurb.
“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
Already from the blurb I thought, what a very interesting book this must be. I began imagining myself walking through a library and opening different books, each of these being a different possibility of my own life. I also liked the whole title and blurb of the book because for book lovers, a library is a comfortable and familiar place to think about. I imagined previous libraries that I used to visit in the past, like the library that used to be next to my old house, Acocks Green Library. From the blurb I imagined walking through the Acocks Green Library and imagining that it had ‘endless shelves’ and books containing different possibilities of my own life. This blurb that I have read is certainly very attractive compared to the blurbs of other books, this is because it attracts the reader in a very unique, indescribable way.
As I mentioned before, the title of the book is a very special imaginative title which always leaves the reading imagining some sort of midnight library. Even after reading the title, I thought to myself what is a ‘midnight library’ and what exactly does it entail? The questions that I asked myself about the title forced me to open up the book and read the book so that I could at least discover what exactly this midnight library was at the minimum. The cover of the book gave me a unique feeling. On the one hand it looked warm and inviting (which greatly matched the warm and cozy title of the book) but on the other hand it gave me a feeling that the book had a darker side to it. This feeling came from the book cover as it has a dark and apparently gloomy colour. Yet purple is also a colour that has a feeling of ‘calm’ in there as well and maybe the writer will have a warm happy ending.
That is not to say that purple is a gloomy and depressing colour but it sometimes just sends me that sort of message. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, however, since it could have been the authors way of sending a silent and cryptic message to the reader. Perhaps the main character has a gloomy life? Perhaps the main character/s get caught up in a gloomy situation? Perhaps the main character suffers from a gloomy death? How would I know? Once again, the excellent presentation left me with no option other than opening up the book and finding out exactly what is happening in this story?
Furthermore, the pictures were profound in their own way. The pictures on the cover of the book showed different windows where different things were taking place. No doubt this linked back to the blurb of the book. The images (I correctly assumed the first time when I stared at them) must have represented the different possibilities of life for the main character/s. One window showed an airplane leaving, another showed wires connected to a mic, another showed a woman entering and leaving whilst carrying books, another showed what appeared to be distant mountains, another showed a novel, another showed some sort of sea, another showed some sort of animal entering and leaving, another showed a pawn from a chess board with a woman entering from the other side and the last one showed a car.
There are so many things to infer from these images alone. So I continued asking myself more questions. Perhaps the main character tried out different life possibilities and of them being very different from the other. In one life the main character could have travelled the world, in another the main character could have could have become a lead singer, in another the main character fell in love with a highly educated woman (wrongly assumed at the time), in another the main character did some sort of nature work in the mountains, in another the main character wrote a best-selling novel, in another the main character became a traveler on the sea, in another the main character joined a zoo and took care of animals, in another the main character was manipulated like the way pawns are manipulated and in the last one possibility of life the main character owned a car. These were all (at least most of them) wrong assumptions but the beauty of the book was that it had these imaginative images that made me want to read and explore the book.
Other factors that drove me to read the book
There have been other factors that have drove me to reading this interesting book. The first obvious factor is that it was voted as the number 1 fiction book of 2020. As a fan of fiction, this definitely drove me on to reading the book but another factor was that I discovered that the book was also directed at people who were giving up on life. This definitely touched me, not because I am suicidal, but because from time to time I do feel like life is too much. I often do feel sympathetic towards people who do commit suicide because that means they were at a really horrible place and I wish I could have changed something for them. It reminded me of how Vincent Van Gogh was a genius and amazing painter and the way his life ended was tragic. In one doctor who episode, the Doctor goes back in time and meets Van Gogh. From there, he brings him into the future and shows him how widely admired he was.
The fact that this book was dedicated towards people who had mental health problems was incredibly touching and amazing. By then, I was sure that I was going to pick up the book and read it. In fact, I moved all my other books to a side and decided to focus on reading that book alone. Another reason was that the book was a fiction genre and I love fiction. Fiction is one of my favorite genre’s of all time and I often think about how so many fiction books become a part of pop culture and end up becoming immersed in society. Its amazing that an author can put so many amazing lessons into a story. In fact, we have always been story tellers since the dawn of time. These stories were ways that every society would teach their values to their children. The fact that this book was a story was interesting to me an I wondered what lessons I would end up learning.
I have decided to split my review into three different sections to make it easy for you as the reader to take in. The first section is Nora (the main character) without The Midnight Library in her life, Nora’s life with The Midnight Library and Nora after. My aim is to make the review as detailed as possible so that you can fully get a vibe of what the book is like. Furthermore, if you are a book lover who might be interested in reading the book you can easily go to the link at the bottom of the page where you can purchase the book from Amazon using the link that I have provided. This book contains so many important lessons that it would be nice to have the book on your shelf at home so that you could refer to it every once in a while after you are finished reading it. My plan is to write a book review that is very detailed and not a review that takes you 5 minutes to read. So sit back and enjoy my review of the book and if you like this book review go ahead an subscribe below.
So without further ado, lets go and take a look at the first section of the book, Nora before The Midnight Library.
Section 1: Life Without The Midnight Library
The first section of the story was incredibly touching. Every chapter was a countdown. “9 hours before I decided to commit suicide, 8 hours”….etc. I felt incredibly saddened because Nora was a person like everyone else in the world. Someone who just wanted to be happy but because of the fact that every aspect of her life made her feel worthless, because of the fact that she was full of regrets, this ended up with her feeling like she couldn’t and shouldn’t bother with life anymore. To make matters worse, her pet died and people in her life (like Ravi) were incredibly (and unnecessarily) rude to her and this would just make life more difficult for her and it would put more pressure on her already weighty shoulders. At this point her mental health was spiraling out of control.
I have to pause here and mention how profound this all is and how I learnt so many lessons about people from Nora’s viewpoint of the world. Everybody knows that the proper thing to do is always be kind. It is like theory knowledge that everyone has somewhere at the back of their heads. Everyone knows that they should always be there for their family and friends. Everyone knows that they should try to see things from other people’s perspectives but how many people go on to apply that knowledge? Not many apparently. Nora’s best friend Izzy wasn’t there for her when she needed her most and another friend in her life, Ravi, was saying hurtful and unfair statements to her. Furthermore, her brother decided to cut her off even though that they were family and didn’t seem to care for her at all despite the fact that she asked for him.
Before these terrible things happened to Nora, she was already another innocent person in the world who was on the verge of suicide and yet everyone in her life chose to let her down anyway and made her feel like she was the one who caused all the issues that were in her life. It showed me that people who are on the verge of ending their lives didn’t do anything wrong? That they were not the cause of the reasons why they felt like taking their own lives. That if you have a family member in your life you should probably do your best to stay involved in their life. That if you have a friend, you probably shouldn’t take out your feelings of life frustrations out on them by saying hurtful words. That if you have a friend, you should be there for them when they need you. That maybe you should be kind to strangers because you don’t know what they are going through in their personal lives because just like Nora, she ended up taking her own life because of the above reasons and so many more complex reasons.
Section 2: The Midnight Library
Section 2 is the longest and most interesting part of the entire novel. It is essentially the crux of the story. After attempting suicide she wakes up in The Midnight Library. A library which had shelves that went on for eternity. On each shelf there were endless amounts of books. Each book represented a possibility of her life and she could try out each of these lives by opening up the book and jumping straight in. Although she would not have the memories of the her that lived in that life so she would be improvising. The library was run by a librarian (of course) called Mrs. Elm. A woman who comforted her and showed her kindness the day her father passed away. Mrs. Elm was working as the librarian of her school in the past as well. Present at the library was also a book called the book of regrets which showed Nora all of the regrets which were in her life.
Nora lived many different lives. In one life she married someone she was dating and supported him in his dream of opening a pub at the country side, in another she made her father proud by becoming an Olympic swimmer, in another she pleased her friend by moving with her to Australia etc. She tried out many different lives and in the process her book of regrets began to clear out as she realised that she didn’t truly have any regrets since she didn’t really want to live those other lives. Eventually she found what she considered the perfect life, a life where she attained a masters degree from Cambridge in philosophy and married a Surgeon who was really kind to her. She had a beautiful daughter that she loved but eventually she faded from that life as well. She learnt afterwards that she did want to live. Once she learnt that she received another chance and she came back to her life.
Whilst she was trying out different lives, Nora met someone else who noticed that she came from The Midnight Library. She met him whilst working as a scientist. He mentioned that he met many other people like her and that he called people like her ‘sliders’. He explained that everyone has a different ‘Midnight Library’ as his had a completely different setting and ‘Librarian’. He also explained that the ‘Librarian’ figure was someone who showed you kindness in your root life. Nora eventually disappeared from that life but left knowing that she doesn’t want to end up like the man she met. She wanted to resolve this issue that she had whether that meant death, settling in another life or returning to her root life.
There were so many lessons that she learnt as she was trying out different lives. I won’t even be able to list or explain every single lesson that she learnt but I can mention as much as I can. Well Nora learnt that she shouldn’t compare her life to others at all. In the book its written that “In one of her lives Nora was a lead singer of a band. She was famous around the globe and she entered a podcast. During the podcast she was asked: “I mean, do you ever wonder what your life would have been like if you had decided to take a different path?’Nora listened to this as she stared at the bubbles rising in her mineral water.‘I think it is easy to imagine there are easier paths,’ she said, realising something for the first time. ‘But maybe there are no easy paths. There are just paths. In one life, I might be married. In another, I might be working in a shop. I might have said yes to this cute guy who asked me out for a coffee. In another I might be researching glaciers in the Arctic Circle. In another, I might be an Olympic swimming champion. Who knows? Every second of every day we are entering a new universe. And we spend so much time wishing our lives were different, comparing ourselves to other people and to other”. Here Nora learns not to compare her life to others as it really is futile and a total waste of time.
Another equally important lesson that I learnt from the book was that suicidal people don’t know that they don’t really want to die. In the book Nora is told by the Librarian that “Suicidal people don’t want to die. “Trust me, Nora. If you really didn’t want to be here, you wouldn’t be here. I told you this right at the start.” This is so important because a lot of the time, when people hear of a suicide they assume that the person hated their own life and they wanted to die but this is a very bold and unfair assumption to make of a complicated situation. Maybe deep down, the person who committed suicide doesn’t actually want to die? Maybe the person was plagued with so many negative thoughts and mental health issues that they assumed that there was no other way out? Maybe it is best to assume positive thoughts about someone who is going through issues and to be kind to them.
Another equally important lesson that I learnt from the story was not to live your life for others. In the book it is written that “Never live for others Every life she had tried so far since entering the library had really been someone else’s dream. The married life in the pub had been Dan’s dream. The trip to Australia had been Izzy’s dream, and her regret about not going had been a guilt for her best friend more than a sorrow for herself. The dream of her becoming a swimming champion belonged to her father.” People will sometimes throw down what they believe a good life is and therefore try to mentally pressure you into going down that road just to please them. This can come from family as well as it did with Nora’s father and though they might mean well, it might be a bad idea because years down the line you might wake up one day and be completely sick of the life you lived for someone else and be wishing you lived for yourself.
The last and most important lesson (and reason why this section of the book is important) is the lesson about never giving up. The librarian gives Nora a powerful speech about never giving up. In it she says “Never give up and the thing you need to realise is this: the game is never over until it is over. It isn’t over if there is a single pawn still on the board. If one side is down to a pawn and a king, and the other side has every player, there is still a game. And even if you were a pawn – maybe we all are – then you should remember that a pawn is the most magical piece of all. It might look small and ordinary but it isn’t. Because a pawn is never just a pawn. A pawn is a queen-in-waiting. All you need to do is find a way to keep moving forward. One square after another. And you can get to the other side and unlock all kinds of power.” Eventually Nora realised this powerful analogy saying “Mrs. Elm was right. The game wasn’t over. No player should give up if there were pieces still left on the board. She straightened her back and stood up tall.”
The last speech was so important because it is what every person needs to hear from time to time, particularly the person who is having suicidal thoughts and anyone who is feeling hopeless in their lives. Life is not over until its over. If there is one thing that we do learn from The Midnight library, is that the possibilities for your life are endless and this is what makes life exciting, you never know where your future will take you and this is why you should never throw in the towel too early. As long as you are still breathing you should keep going forward and you never know, eventually something amazing might happen which will turn you from a pawn into a powerful piece.
Section 3: Life After The Midnight Library
After having an adventurous experience leaving The Midnight Library, Nora goes back to the most important life of all, her root life. In this, there is lessons as well, we shouldn’t hope to live in other life possibilities. That isn’t the Librarian was trying to teach Nora. We should be happy to live in the life that we are living in now. You who is lucky to be reading my thoughts on the book right now should take a moment to stop and be grateful for the positive things in your life now. Literally, right now, look around and take in everything around you. Take in this miracle that we call life and enjoy every second and every breath because you’ll never know what will happen next. Live, Laugh and Love.
Nora goes back to her private life and is a completely different person to the Nora that nearly passed away. She fixes the wrongs that are in her life and amends broken relationships. You can tell that Nora is someone else completely. She enjoys every moment of her life and is grateful for every second. Nora also is visibly excited about the future. Not just about her future, but the future of the loved ones around her. She returns from The Midnight Library as someone with incredibly wisdom. Someone who has almost transcended life completely. Someone who is a lot more genuinely cheerful, present and bold about what she says and the decisions that she makes and I think that is the sort of person we should all be in our lives, and for me this book was a clean 5/5 and everyone should definitely read this book at least once in their lives.
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