I’m sure there’s not much extra I can say about The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue that hasn’t already been said, but after reading this 541 page novel in the space of just a few days, I think it’s worth putting a few words to the page to indulge in just how masterful this book was. Although it’s a novel that begs to be savoured, it’s incredibly hard not to race through the book – almost like you know you should wait for a cookie to cool when straight out of the oven, but you can’t help yourself and just have to sink your teeth into the goodness.
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world. But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
Page count: 541
Genre: Adult fantasy
Reading soundtrack: Relaxing Video Game Music (Spotify)
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a novel by V.E. Schwab. I’ve praised Schwab’s excellent writings previously on the blog, but I really don’t think anything could have prepared me for this one. Addie LaRue is a book that was ten years in the making, from idea to drafts to final publication, and in every single page of this book it is glaringly obvious how much Schwab has poured herself into this work. It’s a finely crafted piece, spanning across different time periods and weaving two lives together delicately as if one may snap and crumble if pushed too far. It’s also incredibly poetic, . In the other books I’ve read by Schwab, I’ve always appreciated her book layouts, with the book broken up into parts with short, snappy chapters, so I was very pleased to see this style again. This does, of course, make the book very hard to put down, because I would page count and realise there wasn’t much until the next section, and then end up reading nearly 100 pages…
The book follows Addie LaRue after a deal has been made with a demonic entity – a deal that comes with a price, as most things do. Addie, desperate to be free of the prospect of a loveless marriage and a sheltered life, begs for freedom and the chance to live. This is granted, but the price of this is that she will forever be aged 23 and will never be remembered by another person. A life erased from her loved ones memories and gone in the blink of an eye. We follow Addie’s story through past and present, as she both comes to terms with the new life this curse has dealt her and learns how to navigate the ups and downs. I really liked that we saw glimpses of Addie’s life from the past and the present day of 2014 when the book is set, as it gave insight into what events shaped her by the time she meets Henry, who has quickly become one of my favourite characters. Henry is a bookseller at an indie bookshop, so naturally he was going to become a fond fave. Once his chapters were introduce the book took a turn, showing us Addie through the lens of someone who finally remembers her. I won’t go into spoiler territory, but Henry’s history and his own story that is revealed layer by layer was both a surprise and a moment of realisation.
With books that focus on a ‘deal-with-the-devil’ storyline, it is always interesting to see the portrayal of the devil. In this book, Luc is portrayed as a figment of Addie’s imagination, conjured in lonely times as a young adult before her curse. I found it really cool that he was portrayed as someone Addie desired, but ultimately became tainted with the connection of the curse and deal, and it makes sense really. To have the man of your dreams become one of your nightmares would certainly be a shock, and ultimately Luc uses this at first as a punishment to Addie, to taunt her.
One of the most beautiful threads throughout the entire novel is that of Addie learning to impact herself onto the world. She quickly learns that she is unable to make a mark physically herself on the world – whether writing, drawing, or even making footprints in the snow. But she can make a mark through other people. Her becoming a muse for famous artists and showing her face with her distinctive freckles in the background of paintings was a really interesting idea, and showed the importance of muses for artists and that inspiration can truly come from anywhere. In a sense, Addie becomes timeless through their art, finding little ways to be remembered – even if it is not her herself being the source of the memory.
There were plenty of beautiful quotes that I tabbed along the way; ones that were gorgeous, that were relevant, that were painfully true, that beg for readers to come back to time and time again, and I wanted to include just a couple of them here:
“Funny, how some people take an age to warm, and others simply walk into every room as if it’s home.”
“The vexing thing about time,” he says, “is that it’s never enough. Perhaps a decade too short, perhaps a moment. But a life always ends too soon.”
I think it will make perfect sense to anyone else that has read this book that The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a book of longing and yearning, with a message at its core that will resonate with many. It is the same message for Addie, for Henry, hell even Luc at rare times – that we just want to be seen and loved as our true selves.
Final verdict: A true masterpiece of poetry, storytelling and longing. 5/5
I’m aware that I’ve neglected this blog a lot this year. A lot has gone on in 2020 – aside from the obvious things of the year, I found myself distancing myself from the blogging community and my own writing. I do miss writing here, so let’s hope that I can continue in 2021 to bring some content to the world.