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288 pages, Hardcover
First published August 13, 2020
“She realised that she hadn’t tried to end her life because she was miserable, but because she had managed to convince herself that there was no way out of her misery.”
“As she switched to freestyle she realised it wasn’t her fault that her parents had never been able to love her the way parents were meant to: without condition.”
“And … and the thing is … the thing is … what we consider to be the most successful route for us to take, actually isn’t. Because too often our view of success is about some external bullshit idea of achievement – an Olympic medal, the ideal husband, a good salary. And we have all these metrics that we try and reach. When really success isn’t something you measure, and life isn’t a race you can win.”
“Maybe she was just really crap at it. At life.”
“She wanted to have a purpose, something to give her a reason to exist. But she had nothing.”
“When she thought about it – and increasingly she had been thinking about it – Nora was only able to think of herself in terms of the things she wasn’t. The things she hadn’t been able to become. And there really were quite a lot of things she hadn’t become.”
“Between life and death there is a library,’ she said. ‘And within that library, the shelves go on for ever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be different if you had made other choices … Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”
“She realised, in that moment, that she was capable of a lot more than she had known.”
“She didn’t need a vineyard or a Californian sunset to be happy. She didn’t even need a large house and the perfect family. She just needed potential. And she was nothing if not potential. She wondered why she had never seen it before.”
“I mean, it would have made things a lot easier if we understood there was no way of living that can immunise you against sadness. And that sadness is intrinsically part of the fabric of happiness. You can’t have one without the other.”
“You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live it.’
Nora shook her head. This was a bit too much for a Philosophy graduate to take.”
It’s a bit too much for this science graduate over here, too.
“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren't living. Easy to wish we'd developed other other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we'd worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia, said yes to the coffee or done more bloody yoga. It takes no effort to miss the friends we didn't make and the work we didn't do the people we didn't do and the people we didn't marry and the children we didn't have. It is not difficult to see yourself through the lens of other people, and to wish you were all the different kaleidoscopic versions of you they wanted you to be. It is easy to regret, and keep regretting, ad infinitum, until our time runs out. But it is not lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It's the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people's worst enemy. We can't tell if any of those other versions would of been better or worse. Those lives are happening, it is true, but you are happening as well, and that is the happening we have to focus on.”
While I admit I don’t actively pursue parallel universes kind of books on one hand, and on the other, the main reason why I read this book is that I was choosing the best fiction this year (to vote in the GR awards), I was actually looking forward to it. Most of my friends on GR gave it 5 glowing stars. A book beloved by the majority... I had a high chance of enjoying it. Sadly, I didn’t.
First, it was boring. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator wasn’t the best, honestly. Not that her voice was annoying but it was kind of monotone. It certainly didn’t help either that I was listening to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine at the same time, in which the narrator was so animated reading the book.
I also found all of Nora’s revelations and enlightenment typical. Like sure I already know that. The ending was also painfully predictable from the start. So when you can guess where the book is going, everything in between becomes not so interesting anymore, especially if you don’t care about the main character. Unfortunately, I found Nora dull. She wasn’t interesting as the main character and I couldn’t relate nor care about her and empathise with her story. I can’t believe she was this multitalented in fields that aren’t related whatsoever to each other. She could’ve been an athlete, a scholar or a musician. All successful. All are based on life decisions. I also think that she had the privilege of choosing such different options. Many don’t. I don’t mean by that the book of regrets but rather focusing on a particular career path from the start. For example, many parents don’t nurture their children’s interests like music or gymnastics for several reasons maybe they can’t afford it or they just don’t care. But Nora had so many options.
Luckily, the book was short. I also didn’t hate anything about it, hence the 2-star rating. But at the same time, I can’t name anything I liked. Maybe one of the lives, in particular, was more intriguing than the rest because of the two characters we met and.. the concept. It didn’t help that the book got repetitive sometimes. The premise was much more promising than the book itself. The “message” was also pretty plain obvious. Yet many liked The Midnight Library, however. So it might be more of a “me and not you” kind of book.
But let me tell you this: if you don’t find the parallel universes interesting to read about in stories, don’t read this novel. Don’t be fooled with “LIBRARY. MIDNIGHT LIBRARY. BOOOOOKS.” The library is just more of a metaphor. Most of the events in this book take place in the real world. And unless you’re interested in kind of self-help books (or motivational ones), don’t read this novel either. Because it’s more about what Nora discovered about herself and life, of course, by dealing with/trying to escape from her regrets.
But then again, the majority liked this book so you might too and it's simply not my cup of tea.
Yet, it was a dreadfully boring.
"That is just me. I add nothing. I am wallowing in self-pity."No truer words have been said by Nora, the world's largest wet blanket. Woe is her, folks.
Life has just gotten to the point where it's overwhelming and all-encompassing and above all, Nora can't see a possible situation where it gets better.
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“Aisles and aisles of bookshelves, reaching up to the ceiling and branching off from the broad open corridor. Books were everywhere. The shelves really did seem to go on forever, straight and long to the far off horizon. There were no title and names adorning the spines of the books.”
“You don’t go to death, but the death comes to you”
“This is the wrong life. It is really, really, really wrong. Take me back. I do want to avenge. Take me back to the library.
In the cosmic order of things, there is no rejection only redirecrtion.”
“The thing that looks the most ordinary might end up being the thing that leads you to victory.”