The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.
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.
Thanks so much to Titan and Netgalley for an ebook ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
I’ll be honest here, this is possibly one of the hardest reviews I think I might ever write. I was slightly amazed when I got an email to confirm I’d been given an ARC of Addie LaRue. It was just after we moved house, so I had no internet in our new flat. My boyfriend was in a work meeting in our old flat (thankfully with wifi and right across the road from our new place) so I had a whole silent screaming fit of excitement in the corridor, downloaded it, and raced back to start it. I was supposed to be working that day, and instead, I read, and read, and read. I read through dinner, and I finally finished it around 8pm. It was dark by that time, and I’d been reading it by fairylight and candlelight, with a glass of wine. And when I put it down, I had that bittersweet empty feeling you get when you finish a brilliant book for the first time, and you wish you could somehow erase it from your mind so you could read it again and have it be new. In fact, I was very tempted to immediately start re-reading it.
Obviously, I’m probably a little bit biased. V.E. Schwab is one of my all-time favourite authors, and I’ve never not enjoyed one of her books. And I’ve heard a lot about what the author went through writing this one- she’s mentioned it many many times at conventions and author signings I went to. I’ve been fascinated with this book long before holding it in my hands, because when the author spoke about it, I could see the hope and fear and excitement she clearly felt about it. Schwab has been writing this book for a long time (nine years, I believe) and for that reason I was a little bit afraid to start reading it. As much as I knew I would probably end up enjoying Addie, I was slightly worried that it wouldn’t quite live up to the hype and expectations. And trust me, a book that has been brewing for that long, is expected to knock it out of the park. From the little I knew about it, that it was a book about a girl who makes a deal with the devil to live forever, and is cursed to be forgotten, it sounded like something I would adore. And even so, I hesitated to turn the first few pages.
I needn’t have worried. Part of the reason that this review is so hard to write is because every bit of me just wants to scream about how fucking good The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is, and if my brain had it’s way I’d just be making excited, incoherent noises translated into something like words on the page. It’s not often you come across a book that seems to fit your personality so perfectly. I hope I don’t sound horrifically arrogant when I say this, but I really connected with this book.
Okay, now that I’ve got some of the gushing fangirl stuff out of the way, I wanted to start by talking about the cover. The forget me nots are so perfect. I also kinda like that we get a different colour scheme for this book. Schwab’s books, up until this point, have mostly been red, white, and black. Those colours work brilliantly with the more action-y fantasy she’s written, but Addie is distinctly different from anything else Schwab has published, and I’m pleased the cover designers went in a different direction to make it stand out from the rest of her oeuvre.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is more literary than anything else Schwab has published to date. It’s still got fantasy elements, things that are touchstones to what readers might be familiar with, but the writing style is definitely different. There’s a lot of description, and the writing is a little flowery– which is something that I personally love, but which might be a bit of a shock to people who are used to the pacey, punch fight scenes in novels like Vicious or A Darker Shade of Magic. This obviously makes the pacing a touch slower too, although again I think this actually benefits the book, rather than being a drawback. After all, Addie is a girl who has lived hundreds of lives over hundreds of years, and I think the dreamy, ponderous tone reflects this well. Unsurprisingly, given this theme of living forever, it’s also not a very linear book, in terms of chronology. It flips back and forth, sometimes leaping over decades, sometimes dwelling on moments and scenes that define Addie. Quite a big chunk of it is set in present day New York, which I loved, but there’s also scenes that go all the way back to before Addie made her deal. It’s quite clear when this happens though, and I was never caught off-guard or left confused and trying to figure out what was happening. These scenes are well signposted, which I really appreciated, since I often struggle when books do this.
Addie was an interesting character. She’s stubborn, clever, and someone who yearns for so much more. I thought her motivations for why she made the deal made a lot of sense, and the book repeatedly explores her ambitions for adventure and life. She’s probably again going to be something of a shock to some readers- I know I am kinda used to brash, loud protagonists such as Lila Bard or Kate Harker, but it was refreshing to see a protagonist who was so realistic. Addie feels like a real person, she feels like the girl you walk past in an art museum or in a cafe. She’s not in the spotlight, but you do notice her, and you want to know more about her. And I think, ultimately, that she’s a character that a lot of readers will probably relate to. It’s funny, because in some ways Addie is a little bit like one of those ‘I’m not like other girls’ girls, but at the same time, I think she’s someone people will be able to see a bit of themselves in, too. She’s maybe a hair’s fraction away from being a bit of that cliche at moments, but Schwab’s understanding of how people think, and feel, and fear, really saves her from being that person.
Which brings me to my absolute favourite thing about the book- the themes. I did wonder if I wanted to go too much into this, since it’s both something I’m likely to waffle on about for god knows how long, and something that might edge slightly into spoiler territory (if you count discussing themes as spoilers, please look away now). But I think it’s really hard to separate my thoughts on this book without touching on the themes. My ebook is now heavily annotated and highlighted for this very reason. One of my favourite lines perfectly sums up what Schwab explores through this book: Because time is cruel to all, and crueler still to artists. Because visions weaken, and voices wither, and history is lasting, and in the end…everyone wants to be remembered.” Addie is a girl who can live forever. The book is a bit about that, and it does certainly look at moments in history where Addie got to live through revolutions and wars, through celebrations and moments of wonder. But it’s also very much about what it means to live forever. Addie’s curse, that she will be forgotten by everyone, initially sounds simple. Yet when Schwab begins to explore what this really means further, it’s actually heartbreaking. In reality, none of us will ever really get to live forever, there are no deals to be made with the devil, there’s no magic that will keep us alive through hundreds of years. And yet, there is a real kind of immortality- creators get to live forever through their art, but only if it is preserved long enough. Addie LaRue really picks at this thread, and I think what I truly, truly loved about it, is how much it shows the vulnerability and fear that often lie behind art. It reminds me a little of a conversation Schwab had with Jay Kristoff on her ‘No Write Way’ Instagram videos, where they talked about the author’s fear of only ever being as good as a book they’ve already written, and never getting better. For this reason, I’m a little bit reluctant to say that this is Schwab’s best book ever (although I am a little bit more confident in saying this is my favourite book by her to date). Even so, I can see that conversation in the threads of this book- Addie gets to live for hundreds of years, but is she even alive if she cannot leave a mark? Is it really living if nobody can remember you and what you’ve done? I still don’t really know how to answer that, but trust me when I say that I’ve been thinking over these questions ever since I finished the book almost a month ago.
Honestly, there’s really not much I can say about Addie LaRue at this point. A few times, during reviews, I’ve said: once in a while, a book comes along that you just struggle to say anything about, because it’s so good. I do keep saying that, and often those books turn out to be my favourite books of the year. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue goes a step further, I think. It’s probably my favourite book of the decade.
Overall, I’m giving The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue a 10/10. Of course, I have to. It’s not very often when I have nothing bad at all to say about a book– my academic career has taught me how to be critical even of the things that I love, but there really is nothing negative I can say about this book. I suppose some readers may find it a little too literary compared to Schwab’s other novels, but I really urge people to give it a chance. The book is officially out tomorrow (6th October)!
Has anyone else read this book already or plans to? What do you all think of it? Let me know in the comment section down below