The Midnight Library Book Summary - The Midnight Library Book explained in key points
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The Midnight Library summary

Matt Haig

A Fantasy Novel About the Choices That Lead to a Life Well-Lived

4.6 (118 ratings)
23 mins

Brief summary

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is a novel that follows the life of Nora Seed, who finds herself in a library between life and death, with the opportunity to try out alternate versions of her life and find the one where she truly belongs.

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    The Midnight Library
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    A Terrible Day and an Unexpected Library

    Nora is now 35. She’s in her room scrolling through other people’s happy lives when there’s a knock at the door.

    At first, she’s pleased to see him – it’s Ash, a guy who once asked her out, but she’d turned down because she was already in a relationship. Perhaps he’s going to ask her again. But no. He has bad news. He’s discovered her cat, Voltaire, dead in the street. Nora knows she should be feeling emotions like pity and despair, but instead, she finds herself feeling something quite different: envy.

    The next day, Nora’s life goes from bad to worse. She gets fired from her job. She walks around the town, musing about her life. She thinks about her ex, Dan, who she jilted just two days before they were due to get married. She meets her brother Joe’s best friend, Ravi. The three of them, together with Ravi’s girlfriend, used to play in a band called The Labyrinths – but Nora quit. Ravi is clearly still bitter about that. She learns that Joe has been in town and not called on her.

    She texts her best friend, Izzy – Nora turned down an opportunity to move to Australia with her – but although Izzy reads the message, there’s no reply.

    She gets a phone call from the mother of her only piano student, Leo, telling her that the lessons are canceled.

    Her elderly neighbor then tells Nora that she doesn’t need to collect his medication for him anymore.

    She feels like everyone would be better off without her. That evening, she writes a suicide note and takes an overdose.

    Nora finds herself in unfamiliar surroundings. There’s a building full of books with a librarian who resembles a younger version of Mrs. Elm. She learns that she’s in a place between life and death – the Midnight Library. Mrs. Elm tells her that from here, she can move between her infinite possible lives and may be able to find a life worth living. Mrs. Elm shows her a book called The Book of Regrets which contains all the things Nora wishes she’d done or not done. Nora is overwhelmed by it. Mrs. Elm encourages her to visit some alternative lives to find out who she really is and what she wants.

    Nora realizes she regrets leaving Dan and not working together toward achieving the dream of owning a country pub. Mrs. Elm hands Nora a book. She reads the first line, and suddenly she’s standing outside a pub: The Three Horseshoes.


    The first section of the book introduces us to three themes that permeate the book: possibility, loneliness, and regret.

    The 16-year-old Nora has many possibilities ahead of her and Mrs. Elm compares these to the moves on the chessboard. Nineteen years later, when Nora arrives in the Midnight Library, the version of Mrs. Elm there explains that each book in the library contains a life Nora hasn’t led as a result of even minor decisions she’s made.

    Nora is experiencing loneliness. Her cat, Voltaire, has died. She’s alienated from her brother, no longer in close contact with her best friend, loses her job and her piano student, and even her neighbor no longer requires her services. All this leaves her feeling that there’s nobody left who needs her or cares about her.

    Finally, in this section, we learn about regret. All Nora’s regrets are recorded in an enormous tome called The Book of Regrets containing all the things Nora wishes she’d done differently.

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    What is The Midnight Library about?

    The Midnight Library (2020) centers around the infinite lives of one person, Nora Seed. In the Midnight Library, she’s able to choose lives that she might have led if she had made different decisions. But, as Nora soon finds out, the reality of life based on those decisions doesn’t always turn out the way it was imagined.

    The Midnight Library Review

    The Midnight Library (2020) by Matt Haig is a thought-provoking exploration of regrets, second chances, and the infinite possibilities of life. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • Presenting a unique concept, it takes readers on a journey through a library between life and death, questioning the choices we make and the lives we lead.
    • With poignant storytelling and relatable characters, the book delves into universal themes of happiness, fulfillment, and the pursuit of a life well-lived.
    • By blending philosophy and fiction, it provokes deep self-reflection and encourages readers to reconsider their own lives, finding hope in the power of choice and change.

    Who should read The Midnight Library?

    • Anyone whose regrets lie heavily in their thoughts
    • Science-fiction lovers
    • Those who think they need to understand life

    About the Author

    Matt Haig is an author of both adult and children’s literature. His children’s books include A Boy Called Christmas which has been translated into 40 languages and made into a film. His books for adults include To Stop Time, The Radleys, and his Sunday Times number one best seller, The Midnight Library.

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    The Midnight Library FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Midnight Library?

    The main message of The Midnight Library is the importance of embracing life's possibilities and finding happiness in the present.

    How long does it take to read The Midnight Library?

    The reading time for The Midnight Library varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just a few minutes.

    Is The Midnight Library a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Midnight Library is a captivating read that explores themes of regret, choice, and second chances. It's definitely worth picking up.

    Who is the author of The Midnight Library?

    The author of The Midnight Library is Matt Haig.

    What to read after The Midnight Library?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Midnight Library, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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