Title: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author: V.E. Schwab
My Rating: ★★★★★
Genre(s): Fantasy, Historical Fiction, General Fiction
Age Range: New Adult
Publication: 6 October 2020 (Tor Books)
CW: attempted suicide, depression, death, drugs, starvation, emotional manipulation, violence
I've been known to suffer from book FOMO and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is no exception.
Let me paint the scene: it’s autumn 2020. I’m in my second last term of university, attending virtual classes in the middle of a pandemic, and I’m bored out of my mind. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue hits the scene on October 6th and instantly, it’s a hit. Within 24 hours, it’s making the journey from the Indigo warehouses to my front door.
Listen, if there are influencers, there must always been an “influenced”. I am always in the latter.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue follows Addie, an 18th century Frenchwoman. When we meet Addie, she’s about to be married—much to her dismay. To her, marriage is the cage that prevents her from experiencing life to the fullest.
In a last-ditch effort to escape the marriage, Addie prays to the dark gods to be released from the betrothal. But her words are twisted and she finds herself bound to an immortal life where she can go anywhere and do anything… but no one will ever remember her.
In present day, Addie is in NYC when her life begins for the first time in nearly three centuries.
Immediately, this beautiful story drew me in. Addie is a sad and lonely character. But who could blame her, with all the hardships she endures as a result of her curse? Living nearly three hundred years on your own is no easy feat.
But Addie is strong and resilient. She’s an adventure-seeker, which is what leads her to agree to the deal in the first place. Addie yearns for more than what 18th century provincial life can offer a woman.
Addie's ahead of her time, which allows her to survive the loneliness and trials she endures in her long, strange life.
Along the way, Addie encounters some interesting characters. Of course, as she can’t be remembered, the people she meets are not a part of her story for long. However, one character does remain a constant throughout the novel: the dark god with whom she makes the deal.
The dark god is cunning; he’s dark and self-serving. He certainly shakes up the story every time he rolls into Addie’s life. If I’m being honest, I came to sort of love him. I have an affinity for morally grey characters. It certainly helps that his physical manifestation reflects Addie’s innermost desires. In other words, he’s kind of a hottie!
Of course, who could forget Henry? Henry contrasts the other characters in Addie’s life because he isn’t a dark god nor is he someone from Addie’s past. Nonetheless, he makes a remarkable impact on her life. Henry is a small bean that must be protected at all costs. He’s had a rough life and like Addie, he harbours a lot of sadness and inner turmoil.
Like Addie, Henry seeks a better life and a sense of belonging.
I love that Addie and Henry were both canonically bisexual characters, without their sexual identity being at the core of the novel’s plot. While LGBTQIA2S+ novels with queer stories at the forefront are amazing, I think that having their sexuality be a fact rather than a plot device helped normalize bisexuality. We need more stories where queer characters are allowed the opportunity to have as diverse stories as straight characters, where their sexual identities aren’t isolated from their being.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a fresh and exciting story. But it’s also a deeply sad one. Yes, it was fascinating to see Addie travel through time, an eyewitness to countless exciting moments in history. But over the course of the novel, you see her stumble, and wither, and hurt. She clings desperately to any feeling of belonging or recognition, and in many cases, those feelings are derived from her annual reunions with the dark god.
While seeking a life of agency and freedom, Addie inadvertently trades away her freedom, her independence, and most importantly, her name. Through V.E. Schwab’s beautiful writing, you see how much power a name can carry. In some cases, your name might translate into physical or material power, as seen by the aristocracy Addie encounters. In others, a name like Voltaire carries prestige and notability, and demands respect.
For Addie, her name is everything. At the start of the novel, she feels like nothing—insignificant, without a title or position in life.
She doesn't realize how important her name is until it's lost forever.
It was especially interesting to see Addie and Henry interact and watch their shared story develop. For three centuries, Addie lives virtually alone aside from the occasional fling and the dark god who lingers ominously in her world. For once, Addie has the opportunity to walk alongside someone’s story for a while; to have a part in someone else’s life. I won’t say too much about this aspect of the story because I think it’s best left to be discovered by the reader, BUT I will say that I loved it.
All in all, this was a beautiful book. It was easy to see why everyone raved about The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I don’t think it was overhyped or overrated. The high praise of V.E. Schwab’s writing is well-earned. She’s crafted a wonderful story that feels both timeless and timely.
Ultimately, I think her words captured the essence of the human experience; the loneliness everyone feels and the desire to be remembered.
Synopsis: 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.
Did The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue affect you like it did me? Let me know in the comments!
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