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.
*I was sent an ARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review – big thank you to Titan Books for approving me*
Given that The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, I was nervous that it wasn’t going to be able to live up to my admittedly high expectations. Reader, I was wrong! I found myself utterly captivated by this book and Addie’s story as she navigates a big life full of art, beauty and wonder but with the tragic caveat that she can’t tell anyone her story, her real name and she is unable to be remembered by anybody she meets. I was so invested in this story and just so appreciative of the messages in this book and the very real lessons imparted, note to self: don’t ever make any faustian bargains with the darkness personified. In all seriousness though, there’s a lot to take away from this book and it is wonderful.
I haven’t read any of V.E. Schwab’s other books, cue the gasps of shock horror, I know, I know, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the writing style itself but consider me a fan. Each moment felt so beautifully expressed and worded and I was basically highlighting quotes every other page or so, because it was just so gorgeously written. I totally fell in love with Addie and her unwavering spirit and free soul , when even in her lowest moments she has this indomitable will to survive and it was quite inspiring. I feel like so many readers will be able to connect with Addie and I think it speaks to the quiet very human voice in all of us that longs for something, whether that be freedom to express ourselves, to live the life we want, pursue our wildest dream, fall wildly in love, the list is endless! That quiet part of me, that nobody else really gets to see felt so validated by moments in this book and it was something so personal and profound.
“It would be an unconventional life, and perhaps a little lonely, but at least it would be hers”
I think the heart of this book is about the way stories are told, the way history evolves and times change, how cities are built and then destroyed but what remains unchanged is that life goes on and how it always finds a way to continue. The novel centers art in all of its various forms, sculptures, paintings, music and literature to name a few, and how powerful and transformative art can be. In the context of the story, Addie is cursed to be unable to leave a mark, she’s physically unable to put her story into words, written or otherwise and she can’t commit her memories into a sketch, so she finds small ways to leave her fingerprints over people she encounters over her life. In effect she realises the power of ideas, and how they can take root, and this was so quietly stunning.
“Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives–or to find strength in a very long one.”
I think this idea of leaving a mark, being known or leaving something behind to be remembered is such a human concern, so when Luc, the charming, seductive and sinister being takes this away, Addie is left questioning her choice at various points. Ironically, or perhaps intentionally so, Luc is the only one who is able to remember her beyond a few fleeting moments, they are tied together inextricably much to Addie’s chagrin. Over the many, many years however, as they meet on the anniversary of their deal, spending the day together or apart, something begins to shift between them. Their relationship is so fraught with tension, and longing but is also very toxic. I will admit, I was a little thrilled whenever Luc was on page because he was so intriguing and I wanted to figure him out, I could also see how unhealthy their relationship is and how the imbalance of power and sense of possession was ever present.
“Don’t you remember, she told him then, when you were nothing but shadow and smoke?
Darling, he’d said in his soft, rich way, I was the night itself.”
I also enjoyed the various relationships and side characters we get to meet in this book, from Estele the wizened older lady who Addie grows up hearing stories from, to her father a gentle countryman who spends his spare time carving animals out of wood, to Henry who is the catalyst for change in Addie’s story. Henry in particular was a character I felt was painfully relatable and I appreciated the cruel symmetry between Addie and Henry’s experiences and their respective deal in life. Henry’s character arc and the exploration of mental health, in particular depression is so real as well the experience of being in your twenties and trying to figure out who you are and your place in the world. It can all feel so much all at once and this dizzying experience of being alive, of having choices to make, and not enough time to make them in, it’s all so raw and expressed so well in this book. I think this is one of the best explorations of that time in your life and as someone who is going through it right now, I could really relate.
“His heart has a draft. It lets in light. It lets in storms. It lets in everything”
Overall, The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue is truly an unforgettable read – no pun intended given the nature of the story haha. I can’t speak any more highly of this book and I’ll be encouraging any and every reader I know to give this story a chance, I think it’s truly such a special one.
Until next time,