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.
It’s been a long wait, but Addie LaRue is here at last.
A story nearly a decade in the making, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue explores the pain and wonder of moving through the world forgotten, planting ideas until they bear fruit, and longing for something more permanent. Filled with V.E. Schwab’s signature prose, it makes something magical out of something that ought to be a curse, and it features characters who brim with a brilliant intensity. I waited a long while for this book, and even longer still when the book box I ordered it with experienced shipping delays.
But Addie and her story are here at last, and for better or worse, they’re going to stay.
“But it is a lonely thing, to be forgotten.”
Central to the novel is the fact that Addie’s curse is to be forgotten by everyone she meets. She cannot speak her name, cannot write, cannot leave a single lasting mark on the world with her own hands. And though she can suggest ideas, prodding others along towards a conclusion they’ll never be able to attribute to her in full, she has little power over her own story.
And yet her story is a compelling one. It reaches across 300 years, across oceans, and it sees Addie desperate to find herself or maybe lose herself in the wider world. Anything that will see her gain the upper hand against the curse the Darkness placed upon her, anything that will continue to give her life meaning despite the endless years rolling by.
More compelling still, though, was Henry Strauss. Addie’s main love interest, Henry is deeply relatable in his desire to just be enough for the people around him, in his despair and frustration and wide open heart that sometimes opens just too wide.
I’ll admit that I loved Henry more than Addie, largely because he feels so much more human, while Addie has lived through 300 years and has a more timeless, ephemeral quality to her. She has so many years still to come, and Henry only has so much time, hardly the immortal that she is. I love his search for meaning, love the way I relate to it in some forms, and want him to find some kind of relief, true relief that doesn’t isolate him from a world that could really, truly care about him.
Still, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue treads narrow circles at time.
This isn’t just a comment on the repeated use of phrases that liken Addie to something trapped in amber, stuck as she is in time, forever in her twenties. It’s about the way the book tries to claim a broader scope, but always homes back in on Addie. Given that she’s the title character, it makes some sense, but I can’t help but think of Aentee @ Read at Midnight’s review. In it, she points out how Addie claims to bear witness to revolution and rebellion, but gives up on being a spy after coming to harm one time. And more important than that, she raises the question of Addie’s travels: how, in 300 years, did Addie only ever visit Europe and North America? Why did she only learn Western languages? Where are the BIPOC who absolutely played their own parts in the historic events Addie witnessed, and why have their stories been swept under the rug in a tale about the loneliness of being forgotten?
Truth be told, I genuinely cannot stop thinking about Aentee’s review, and I recommend you read the whole thing. She addresses a host of problems that pull back on the curtain on Addie, setting aside the magic to ask important questions about who is remembered here, and who is really forgotten in return.
I’ve left Addie with mixed feelings, which comes as something of a surprise.
Typically, I fall head over heels for V.E. Schwab’s work. Her prose is stunning, and the worlds she builds are fun to explore, and dangerous in equal measure. But this time, I can’t help but feel disappointed. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is not a bad book. But it isn’t the shining star I hoped it would be, and it hasn’t captured my heart.
I remember Addie LaRue, and because she disappointed me somewhat, I’m not sure I’ll forget.
CW: child death mention, loss of a loved one, smoking, violence, sex scenes, animal death mention, drug use, underage drinking, suicide, alcoholism