I read this book after seeing all the five-star reviews from my own friends, and as I read–don’t get me wrong, I loved the beginning–I still wondered why. Were the last pages really worth all of the slow buildup of two characters (a third if you count Luc)? Does this book really pull off that kind of gripping tale, despite little plot and quite literally a meandering of daily bohemian activities that kind of just reminded me of “that hipster life” type of living?
The answer to these questions is a resounding YES. Because V.E. Schwab is first and foremost a storyteller, and the way she manipulates her words in Addie LaRue is masterful. I am also biased in a “Schwab can take my soul and I will give it for very little if she can just keep writing” type of way.
THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE
by V.E. Schwab
Tor Books, October 2020
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies
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’ve had an OwlCrate edition of Addie LaRue lying unopened since its release in 2020, and it took two years to finally open the pages. But what is time to Addie anyway?
So I definitely went back and forth with my rating for this book as I read. On the one hand, it’s Schwab, and I don’t think I’ve ever rated any of her stories lower than four stars in any way shape or form. On the other hand, the book does have a magical realism feel to it, and often that spells bad news to me, especially because I’ve never been a big fan of them–rarely have I absolutely loved something in that subgenre (which is probably why I’m still hesitant to get myself a copy of Holly Black’s The Book of Night). It’s also a book that meanders through the mundane, and the middle portions of the story kind of dragged.
The premise of the book is that Adeline LaRue, a girl living in a French village in 1714, runs away from an impending marriage and makes a deal with a god of shadows. Despite the warnings given to her about praying to gods after dark, Addie does so in desperation. Unsurprisingly, a god of darkness and night answers, and Addie is given the gift of “more time.” Addie does not age, is practically immortal, and belongs to no one but herself. However this gift comes at a cost: Addie cannot leave a trace of herself behind, not even in the memories of others. The bargain struck is also not without its ultimate price: Addie’s soul.
The entire concept of not leaving a trace or even a legacy, of being forgotten, is something that always scares me. Addie is incapable of producing or creating something long enough for it to withstand the test of time. She can live through events, but not be able to put her own accounts and stories of the past into writing. She has perfect recall of things that happen to her, but nobody can perfectly recall who she is the minute they turn their backs and walk out of the door. It’s a writer’s worst nightmare, and I think that’s what made me feel for Addie the most.
This book, like all of Schwab’s books, has beautiful language, and I was absolutely in love with the story already after the first page. It set the tone of Addie’s desperation really well, and already gave us the kind of poetry we should be expecting from Schwab throughout the book.
She’s had no loves, she’s lived no lives, she’s met no gods, and now she is out of time.
But the girl doesn’t slow, doesn’t look back; she doesn’t want to see the life that stands there, waiting. Static as a drawing. Solid as a tomb.
Instead, she runs.
The whole scene in the beginning is like a fever dream, one that we as readers immediately wake up from as we follow Addie’s POV to the next chapter, which opens up 300 years later in New York City. For the first portion of the book, the narrative goes back and forth between Addie’s present (2014) and a chronological telling of her past, starting when she is seven years old. We see the workings of the deal with The Stranger, and how Addie has managed to find loopholes to her “curse.” We are left with several questions as to who The Stranger is to Addie herself, of how close this bond is between them. And then, of course, there’s Henry.
I don’t want to get too into the nitty gritty about Henry or Luc in terms of Addie, because the whole point of the book is to get to know these characters. Suffice to say that Henry seems to be the one exception to the “everyone forgets Addie” rule that The Stranger had set. And Luc, well, Luc is…Luc. We won’t get into that hot mess of a character (though I’d really love to, because yes XD).
Addie LaRue is a long book. I felt like I’d also experienced the slow, 300-year journey that Addie had gone through and thensome. The scenes I’d mostly enjoyed pertained to Addie’s life in Villon and then her journey towards the present time. Her interactions with Luc were so tension-filled that I couldn’t help but lap those up as well. It’s not a surprise that I liked that focus, because the present time storyline really didn’t have much plot going in it. Most of Addie’s life is reflective, and even just going into the next parts of the book shows that we’re really reading a book about characters.
Is there an overall plot to Addie LaRue? After the initial Faustian deal, not really. Are there character motivations that spur the direction of the story forward? Definitely. That’s really the driving force of the novel itself, the journey of character–both in the literal and metaphorical sense. Is the book for everyone? Probably not. It’s got a really artsy feel to it, and if I wasn’t already a die-hard fan of anything Schwab, I’d probably not love this book as much as I do.
But also, those last 100 pages brought the entire story full circle, and it made the length and breadth of the tale worthwhile.
5 out of 5 cookies!