Review: Matt Haig at the Cambridge Corn Exchange was “witty, honest and raw, just like his books”

Matt Haig with Hunts Post reporter Katie Ridley

Matt Haig with Hunts Post reporter Katie Ridley - Credit: Archant

One of the biggest publishing trends of the past year seems to be mental health, alongside feminism and doctor’s memoirs.

Matt Haig - Notes on the nervous planet

Matt Haig - Notes on the nervous planet - Credit: Archant

However, Matt Haig’s books, although focussed around mental health, are different.

Short chapters, bullet points, and lists make the book just right for readers whose attention, Haig argues, is being stretched painfully thin by 24-hour rolling news, work and social media.

I first stumbled upon Matt Haig a couple of years ago, when someone suggested to me that I read his book Reasons to Stay Alive. The book is honest and raw, and that is something to be admired whilst you flick through the pages - you see the vulnerable side of Haig.

After purchasing most of his fiction books, I was desperate to get my hands on Notes on a Nervous Planet; a second edition to his mental health series that focuses on slowing down and shutting off, in a world that is constantly engaged.

When Haig released the dates for his tour, I was intrigued to see how it would work. As someone who has experienced severe anxiety and depression, I wondered how standing on a stage on his own, speaking to hundreds of people would work for him.

When he came to the Cambridge Corn Exchange on March 10, he was sitting on an old leather arm chair, it was really surprising how well Haig managed to engage with the audience for two hours. The first part of the show, which was more like an informal chat with your best friend, explained to the audience how crippling mental health can make your life – however, Haig did well to make it witty, sharp and clever whilst doing so.

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The show featured comparisons of society, and how the internet and social media can damage mental health. Haig read out chapters of his book, in which he recounts the time he had a panic attack at his local village shop, and how he dealt with it, all of which had a humorous spin.

The second half of the show allowed members of the audience to ask questions, which sparked a lot of debate around how to deal with mental health and if it is a first world issue.

Overall, the show was a joy and a pleasure to sit through. It was relatable without being patronising. Haig was anything but ‘woe is me’ and actually was humorous and honest about his experiences. He had everyone in the Cambridge Corn Exchange thinking and even in the interval; people were sat around discussing the effects that this fast paced life has on the world. Haig was very down to earth and took the time to do a book signing at the end. I am looking forward to the next time he visits Cambridge.