“The Midnight Library”, the “feel good book” in English

Nora Seed, 35, lives in Bedford, a city of little interest in central England. She has just lost her job as a saleswoman in a music store, her cat has just been knocked over by a car, she is overwhelmed by remorse and decides to end it. The Midnight Library (“The Midnight Library,” Canongate, 304 pages, untranslated) starts badly, but Nora’s life won’t turn short. She will discover that“Between life and death there is a library,” with endless shelving and a multitude of other lives to try, each work representing an existence that Nora could have lived if she had made other choices. She will test a few and regain a taste for life.

This book, published in the UK in paperback version in the summer of 2020 and in paperback last February (Canongate ed.), As the second pandemic wave raged, became a bestseller. In mid-June, he was still on the bestseller list Sunday Times, a reference. BBC Radio 4 made a sound adaptation of it in ten episodes, a consecration.

Its author, Matt Haig, 45, a native of Yorkshire, is a prolific writer (Humains, How to Stop Time– Helium, 2014 and 2019 -, etc.), accustomed to success and specialist in feel good books, those books that do good. Ideal readings for a health crisis that has killed 129,000 people in the UK, deprived children of long months of schooling, and destroyed the dreams of young adults.

Right to know

Readers say the same thing: devoured on a rainy weekend or started on a cockroach night, The Midnight Library put balm in their hearts. Random reactions to this poignant message, posted on Twitter on June 18 by Gareth Eve, husband of Lisa Shaw, a BBC journalist who recently passed away after receiving her first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine: “Lisa was lucky enough to interview you on BBC Newcastle about The Midnight Library. She loved your book and made us all read it! » Or this Scottish primary school teacher, Azel M., who explains on Twitter: « I’m reading Matt Haig’s amazing book, (…) it inspired me to have discussions [avec mes élèves] on the importance of our life choices… »

Matt Haig describes his characters little, does not attempt any psychological analysis, goes straight to the point, to Nora’s multiple lives, says his happy or unhappy choices, tells a reconstruction. The identification process is in full swing. The book is full of recyclable quotes, such as: “The only way to learn is to live.” »

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