Image of book above taken from http://www.milled.com.
I have recently fallen back in love with audiobooks. When I moved to my new place I happened to add 35 minutes onto my commute to work. I have been keen to walk into work as it felt great for my health and saved a lot of money. One of the main ways that I have been encouraging myself to do so is to invest in audible, and with it, some wonderful new listens. I had heard of Matt Haig and the infamous ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ but had not realised he also wrote works of fiction too. ‘The Midnight Library’ came with high acclaim, so I decided to give it a listen!
The novel begins on the morning of the day that the protagonist, Nora, decides to take her own life. She is fired from her job, she has broken off an unhealthy engagement, her poor cat is found dead in the road, her furious brother will not speak to her, and she feels she simply has nothing left to live for. The rest of the novel takes place in a sort of purgatory, while Nora is neither alive or dead. She is, instead, in a library, presented with thousands of books, each representing a different path that her life could have taken. Nora explores a huge range of possibilities and in doing so rediscovers love, hope, fear, thrill, responsibility, in short: many reasons to stay alive.
I loved the structure of this book. As Nora explored a new life it was like opening up a new short story, and made for a wonderful listen as it was very easy to pause and pick up where I’d left off. The fantastical element of the magical midnight library was well explained and imagined, and allowed us to suspend our disbelief and invest in this rather lovely idea. It was not especially driven by narrative, rather by ideas. It felt very philosophical. Through Nora’s lives Haig paints a sensitive tapestry of the complexities of life, and as I was listening I was also contemplating my own choices I had made, and continue to make, and how one can never know how else things might have turned out. Rather than this being a bleak idea, it was full of positivity and warmth. It encouraged acceptance of one’s choices, and a letting go of past regrets. I felt both energised and calmed to listen to it, and in this way it felt like a self help book.
When listening to an audiobook one of course has the added element of the voice actor’s delivery. I’ve found this can really make or break an audiobook (I highly recommend ‘A Keeper’ by Graham Norton for his superb reading). The novel was read by Carey Mulligan. Now I will say that I usually love her as an actress. I think she is beautiful on screen. But her voice was a little harsh to listen to on an audiobook. I was very unsure as to whether I’d be able to invest in the story because of it. I soon got used to it however, and she did imbue Nora with a lovely vulnerability and warmth. Though occasionally the sound quality really hurt my ears! As a trained radio actor myself I could not understand why they had not re-recorded certain bits that sounded incredibly harsh.
Overall it’s a very pleasant listen or read. I am now listening to ‘Invisible Girl’ by Lisa Jewell and I am very excited to share my thoughts with you. It is read by three different actors and each of them so far have been brilliant! I have a long drive back up to London at the end of the week so I will probably finish the book then.
Speak to you soon!