Title: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author: V. E. Schwab
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: October 6th, 2020 (Tor Books)
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.
In the 18th century French village of Villon-sur-Sarthe, Adeline LaRue makes a desperate attempt to escape a life that she feels trapped in. She prays hard and hopes that some god will answer, and give her a way out of the restrictive life ahead of her, but only the darkness answers. Out of time and with no choice remaining, she makes a Faustian bargain that curses her to be forgotten by anyone she meets. Addie wanders the world for centuries as little more than a ghost, leaving no mark of her own, until nearly 300 years later, she runs into Henry Strauss in a hidden New York bookstore who remembers.
There has been so much hype around this book all year that I was almost afraid to pick it up. The concept is so fascinating, and the writing beautiful and poetic, that makes this book an extremely hard one to put down. It takes its time getting its point across and the mood is very peaceful as it does so. This is not the kind of book that has cliffhangers that will leave you on edge, but more of one that comes together in pieces, past and present to tell the stories of two people who sold their souls to the devil without remembering that old adage: “Be careful what you wish for”.
Despite this book being rather long, and overly so in my opinion, there is still so much emotion packed into it. The characters were so well developed and layered, and were so easy to connect to despite this entire narrative being in third person, which I tend to have trouble with.
Told through memories and alternating timelines, Addie’s journey is an enjoyable one to follow as she learns over the years to find the loopholes in her curse, to slow down and live her immortal life, discovering new sights and experiences. Her one desire remains to be remembered by someone and to make her mark on history in some way, some proof that she existed, and I particularly liked how the power of art was a recurring theme in this aspect. Luc, the devil/darkness, was such an interesting character that really ought to have had more page time than merely appearing at Addie’s weakest moments. I imagine his POV would have been quite fascinating had he had one, and a villain’s story, his background and of course, the nature of his magic, does add a certain something to the plot. As for Henry, though his storyline is arguably the shortest, I felt like he was the character I got to know the best even though his is the less exciting one.
There’s just so much of Addie’s life we didn’t see that is mentioned in passing, so many moments in history she must have lived through – which was actually one aspect I was really looking forward to seeing, but we get no more than a brief, chaotic glimpse of Paris during the Revolution. Though this is not the main focus of the book, I felt like it was a missed opportunity to portray what could have been some happier moments in Addie’s journey. Which brings us to my main issue with this book – the pacing. While not slow enough to make it uninteresting, the most important facts are left to the very end, resulting in what I felt was a lack of direction to the parts of the story that led up to it. After an initial interesting start, it then begins to wander and become a little repetitive as Addie meets someone, then is forgotten before Luc appears to tempt her into surrendering her soul and complete their bargain in a never ending cycle.
While I might not have been expecting a happily ever after, I did expect an ending more concrete than the one we got. I wasn’t too happy with how open ended things were left, mainly because the one question which I as a reader had since page one – how exactly does Addie escape her curse, was never answered.
Even though the book didn’t match exactly what was pitched, this was an engaging read. I have a tendency to read too fast, but this was one book that made me not only slow down but also take in the subtleties of the story and thoroughly enjoy it. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a wonderful read that will no doubt take a measure of patience if you’re not used to slower paced novels, but well worth the read and I would definitely recommend it!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!