Blurb Book Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (spoilers ahead)

48693877. sx318
Yes, I did get this image from Goodreads.com

I loved this book so much that when I was done I wanted to write the entire thing myself. I wanted to marinate in this universe, explore every option, and exhaust every possibility of every life the main character could have lived. There’s even a smattering of envy that the author wrote this instead of me. Why did I like it? Well, let me tell you a little about it first.

Nora Seed is not enjoying life. The book chronicles several disappointments in her life, culminating in the decision to take an overdose. Rather than outright dying, she ends up in a library filled with green books. The librarian resembles a librarian from her childhood, Mrs. Elm, and shows her The Book of Regrets. This book is heavy, as regrets tend to be, and filled with every regret Nora has had from birth to the overdose.

Mrs. Elm tells Nora that she can peek into another life, another Nora, one where the original Nora didn’t have a particular regret. Nora’s first decision is to eliminate the regret of leaving her partner Dan, and opening a pub with him instead. The librarian hands her a book, she starts reading, and pops into the Nora that lived in the timeline where these events occurred.

This concept fascinated me. I’ve spent a fair amount of daydream time considering how much I’d love to travel back in time and redo an event or unmake a decision, or even make a decision rather than sit idly by. The author’s take was that Current Nora would inhabit Other Nora’s body on the same day as it is for Current Nora. So, no going back in the past. Also, Current Nora didn’t have any of the knowledge that Other Nora had. She had no history in this timeline, so a lot was unfamiliar, including her own body, to some degree. But she did retain knowledge of her original life, so she viewed each new life through the lens of her old life.

The longer she stayed in one place, the more memories would come to her. If she felt any disappointment or desire to return to the library, off she went and met up with Mrs. Elm again. If she decided that this was the life she wanted, she would get to stay.

As long as she was in between life and death, she was in the Midnight Library and could access other timelines. As soon as something happened to her original self – like she died or woke up – the library would vanish and she’d go back to her original body or be dead.

Nora explored many options, everything from Olympic swimmer to famous keyboardist/songwriter in a band to a life working with dogs. The more lives she explored, the more she understood that she had no right to take the life away from Other Nora, and that what she thought was a good life was also fraught with negativity. The whole story reminded me of the phrase: if we all put our problems in a pile, we’d each take our own rather than someone else’s if given the choice. Nora got a nice glimpse into many lives, but ultimately knew the best one was her original one, if the overdose doesn’t kill her first.

The book hooked me immediately. I loved the author’s voice, how the choice of words seemed to bring a lot of information while saying relatively little. Each chapter is small, nicely bite-sized, so I never felt bogged down or like I was slogging through, as I sometimes do with long chapters.

I borrowed this book from the library, but I think I’ll go out and purchase it so I can read it again and again. Maybe even write fanfiction about it so I can live in the world a little longer.

Blurb Book Review: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (spoilers ahead)

26892110
Image from my favourite source: Goodreads.com

I put this book on hold at the library because I read a review that said it was weird and that there was nothing quite like it out there. I’m looking for comparable titles for my own book, so I thought this might fit. It doesn’t, not quite, but it was an amazing read. So amazing that I’d like to buy a copy just to have on hand.

The story starts out normal enough. A person named Carolyn is walking down the road, covered in blood and barefoot. She had just murdered someone but wasn’t ruffled at all. Very quickly, the reader learns that she’s something called a librarian but didn’t start out as one, and that she had vague memories of being American.

Information is doled out in little packets. We learn that her cul-de-sac was hit by something when she was young, the neighbourhood children survived, and became librarians with specialties known as ‘catalogues’. Her catalogue was languages; past, present, imaginary, and real.

The author weaves in dimensional realities in a way that felt natural and, well, right. Not once did I feel lost, not once did I have to go back and reread something to confirm information. I was instantly engrossed in the story of Carolyn and her quest to search for Father, the entity that trains the children on their catalogues. He’s missing, and Carolyn and her siblings cannot access the library to search for him.

Carolyn does more than search for Father. She sets up a series of events so she may murder Father and take over his reign. I was absolutely thrilled that she wasn’t thwarted at all, that she did succeed, that her brothers and sisters were eradicated in this process. It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine, to read how the protagonist is constantly having to alter the plan and change tactics because of a worthy adversary. Some stories suit this well, but this one had enough going for it that constant threats to her plan would’ve been tiresome. I know that I just gave away the ending, but really, the book is worth reading page by page simply for the experience of existing in this universe.

The author also ensured the reader never forgot the fantastical nature of the world. Carolyn and her siblings never quite dressed according to social norms, their conversational skills were lacking but adequate, and their explanations of events showed how different their world was compared to our world. Really excellent anchoring from the author.

The narrative flow was so excellent, so engrossing for me, that I searched to see if the author has written anything else. Why yes, yes there are other works. Except they’re technical manuals for Linux and whatnot.

Like I said above, the story was revealed in perfect sized bits, and arranged in a manner that made the novel easy to read and follow. I very much want to take each scene apart and reconstruct the book in linear form, but only so I can understand it better and apply it to my own work. The author’s voice makes me want to be a better writer, to make other people read my stuff and feel as electrified and energized as I do from reading this book.

I seriously considered writing fan fiction of this, simply to keep myself engrossed in the world for a little bit longer. I may still do so, but when I have enough energy to focus on more than one thing at a time.

If you’re looking for something different but still realistic enough to keep you grounded, for something so well written that guessing the next step is nigh impossible, read this book. I will be recommending it to everyone whose queries even vaguely apply.