Book Review: The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Dates Read: 10/03/2021-15/03/2021

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s taken me a little while to get round to writing this review – firstly because I usually give it a few days anyway so that I have time to process what I’ve read and my thoughts, but mostly because I’ve just been too busy reading! To be honest, I don’t think I’d have read this book had it not been for it being a book club choice – I probably shouldn’t but I do tend to shy away from novels that have mass populist appeal – think it stems from a very distateful experience having tried to read Dan Brown following all the hype! However, I’m glad in retrospect that I have read it as I did get some enjoyment, but probably not on the scale of some of the reviews I’ve read. It’s also a quick, easy read so pretty welcome following a very long Jo Nesbo!

NB – SPOILER in next paragraph!!

The premise is good – but not especially groundbreaking. I mean, who hasn’t had one too many shandies and pondered how different their life may have been had one decision or action been different? But the idea of being able to try out those alternate realities is interesting – however it seemed evident to me from pretty early on that the outcome would always be that the life you’re living is always the best and right one for you. The mark of someone’s character isn’t about how they fall over, but how they get back up again.

OK, it’s safe, no more spoilers

As a glass half full kind of person, I guess I was kind of irritated by Nora and her ‘poor me’ attitude. We are all masters of our own destinies and must take control of that. The only person we are responsible for is ourselves, and we need neither take resposibility for the actions of others, nor (generally) apportion blame for how those actions impact on us. Obviously, I’m not talking about cases of abuse, but I can hardly keep blaming a bunch of other kids at school for not talking to me when, at the time, I was painfully shy and barely responded if they did, and certainly never willingly took up an opportunity to do fun, social stuff! Yes, I’ve changed a fair bit since then!

So that’s why Nora exasperated me – offered so many opportunities but never had the courage to grasp them, then whines about how terrible her life is. Who wouldn’t be frustrated with a protaganist like that? Life is full of risk and situations that make you uncomfortable but goodness me, don’t the best times and outcomes happen when you choose courage and face into your fears?

Saying that, it took me, probably, 40 years to truly learn this and start to live my own life, by saying yes, taking action and really confronting those doubts. We only get one chance at this life, and it’s not a very long one, so I am utterly determined to accept what I can’t change, have no regrets, always look on the positives, forgive easily (with one notable exception) and move on quickly from disappointment. My husband says I’m a pretty rare breed for having this attitude. I don’t know about that, but perhaps The Midnight Libraray will help others on their own journey to a more positive mindset and that can only be a good thing.


Book Review: The Thirst

The Thirst by Jo Nesbo

Dates Read: 22/02/2021-10/03/2021

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars

There seems to be such a lot of crime fiction around, I frequently end up reading it even though I wouldn’t say that it’s one of my preferred genres. Still, this is the second of Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series I’ve read (after the Bat, which was both my and the series first – it feels like it was maybe 10 years ago or more but was it even translated into English then?). However, it’s totally irrelevant that I’ve missed 9 instalments in the series, you really don’t need to read them in chronological order.

Hole is a great character – gnarly and flawed but brilliant at what he does. He’s like your favourite uncle – the one that seems to lead and be immersed in his exciting life. The plot is complex, there’s lots of misdirection to keep you guessing and a few ‘a-ha’ moments. This is a weighty tome and it took me probably till a couple of hundred pages in before I felt immersed enough in the story to not be distracted, but once I passed that stage I really enjoyed it. There are some tangents which felt a bit like scene-setting for future instalments, and if they weren’t that then they’re definitely padding.

The narrative evokes the environments well, the characters are well drawn and don’t always behave in the manner you’d expect them to, which is great. There’s plenty of crossover between the good and the bad protaganists and Nesbo fans will be delighted that the ending points to more Hole to come.

On the whole, I enjoyed this read. A 5 star review from me has to be an absolute cracker, 4 is good but this misses that mark for me because of those first couple of hundred pages. I’ll probably end up reading more Harry Hole in the future, but as I say, crime fiction really isn’t my favourite of genres. If it is yours though, knock yourself out! You’re really going to enjoy this one.


Me in Lockdown 3.0

I’ve been struggling a little bit over the last few weeks, if I’m honest. Like many people, lockdown is starting to get me down. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t especially want to go to the pub and grab a quick bite, or pop to the cinema or meet loads of people for coffee, but it’s the fact that I can’t that’s really wearing me down. I like working from home, I really do, and I’ve been super productive, but sitting in the same space, day in, day out, for 11 months now is starting to get old. And I love spending time with my choir but at the end of an 8-9 hour stretch sitting at the table in the window, I can’t say that I really want to spend another hour of my evening sitting at that same location!

I’m struggling with my weight. Pre-Lockdown 1 I’d lost quite a lot and was doing very well. That lockdown didn’t serve me well. But when that came to an end I knuckled down and got back on track and made good progress. Until we were thrown into the strongest tier 3 when I wobbled. Then came Lockdown 2 and I lost it. Then Christmas, and the 567 day dark, cold January that followed and brought us Lockdown 3. At this point, I really do look like the groundhog. I’m trying to gain control of it again but it’s hard, it’s really hard.

I’m way more fortunate than the people I know who live alone – I can’t even imagine how it is for them, and to them, I’m really sorry for whinging, I must sound like a completely self-absorbed hypochondriac!

I know I shouldn’t complain so my husband encouraged me to write a list of the things I’m grateful for. I won’t copy them all here, but I recognise that I am so fortunate and am so much luckier than some. I have my husband who I love dearly, and truly can’t imagine that I wouldn’t have murdered anyone else I’d been locked down with by now. I have a lovely home where I’m warm and safe and have enough (too much!) to eat. My family and friends, as far as I’m aware, are healthy, safe and haven’t been too badly touched by Covid. And there’s a ton of other stuff I’m not going to bore you with, however, just looking at that list is a tonic in itself!

And this week I’m especially thankful for our NHS. I’ve been super critical of the government and its handling of Covid-19, but I have to say I’m really grateful that they have handed the vaccine roll out to the NHS, funded it properly and entrusted it with delivering a truly fabulous service. When the first vaccine was approved, it looked like I would get mine at approximately the end April. They’ve done such an amazing job that last Sunday I got my first vaccine and on 10 May I’ll be having the second dose.

Hooray for the NHS!

By this Friday, every member of my immediate family who is either over 50 or in one of the vulnerable priority groups will have received their first vaccine dose. How incredible is that?

So this week, this has given me hope. It feels like there will be an end to this. I have regained control of my eating, I have made a plan, I have taken up a new hobby (nope, not telling what yet, needs to stay secret till I’m ready to talk about it!), I can see a way forward.

They say that when something is difficult, try to remember it’s only temporary and that it will pass. I’d lost sight of that completely, but the gratitude list has brought me back to my senses. Maybe 2021 isn’t going to be a complete write off, after all…