THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE
– Published 6th October 2020
by V.E. Schwab
*There will probably be spoilers*
The roles of women in 1714 are somewhat different to modern day. Unmarried women are looked down on and married women do not belong to themselves, but to their husbands. In panic and desperation, Addie makes a deal with a possible devil for her freedom and a life that will last forever. However, in a true Faustian manner the deal is not what it seems which leads to Addie beginning forgotten by everyone she has met and is to meet for hundreds of years later.
Addie’s life will never be remembered but lives through art and music. Until 300 years later when meeting one man, Henry Strauss, will change everything she has known as he remembers her the day after they first meet.
What can I say? What a book. I have never felt so satisfied and whole after reading a book throughout my whole life. I have taken a few days to think over my thoughts on this book and let it all truly sink in. It left me speechless. I think the only word I got out after I turned that final page was “wow”! So, where do I start?
Maybe from the beginning? I went into this book, not knowing anything other than that people were raving about it, sobbing throughout, and there’s someone called Addie LaRue. It was definitely an impulse buy. Some booksta friends enjoyed it, the book cover is pretty and I’m in the process of making a little V. E. Schwab collection so I “accidentally” took a trip to Waterstones. Unfortunately at the time, they were sold out when I asked for it. Their response: “we have some on order and they are due to arrive on Monday, I can reserve one for you if you’d like?”. Just when I thought I might be able to save some money and avoid buying the book, I said “yes please”. This meant another trip into the city, into a Waterstones where I really struggle to walk out without at least one book. I was good though, I only bought the one I reserved, and finally (only really a week after it had been released) I had a copy. What drama. I didn’t end up reading it until November so I could have just ordered it online, and probably got it cheaper. Oh well.
I am definitely very glad that I bought it. It looks great on my shelves and now my head is full from the words on the page.
The writing is beautiful, very lyrical! V. E. Schwab definitely has a way with words when it comes to storytelling. It’s uniqueness immediately sets you up on this magical journey of world exploration and intrigue. From the moment you meet Addie and learn of her society, you want her to get out, be free, learn about the amazing things our world has to offer. And so we are introduced to this devilish, dark, shadowy character, one with dreamy looks and a way with words himself. You can’t help but fall into his trap from just reading, yet here you are wanting to hate this thing that tricks Addie into the way her life goes on.
The idea of memory and being remembered is prominent throughout the whole book. Addie’s “curse” is to live forever but never be remember by anyone if she or they leave the room or turns away. However she finds a way to leaves remnants of nights with lovers in various art forms, including paintings in all mediums and musical scores. This idea particularly resonated with me, being a creative person myself, as we often take our memory for granted. It’s only ever something we think about when someone close to us begins to forget things on a regular basis. We use our memory every second of the day and when that is taken away from us, it is amazing how much it can effect our lives and the people around us. This book has a really honest and a beautiful way of dealing with the topic, opening up a discussion into the opposite way of memory: how we make someone remember us, perhaps even after we are gone and thus, what do our lives equate to? How do we leave our imprint on the world? It is easy to get so bogged down trying to leave an impression that we often forget to live life to its fullest and experience everything we can. Maybe it’s more about trying to create our memories rather than giving other people a memory of you. There is no definite answer but it is most definitely an interesting topic and a starting point for thought.
Addie’s character is strong, relatable, and definitely nothing like your average fantasy heroine. She has a mind of her own, is not afraid to say what she thinks or feels and is ultimately full of emotion in every form. There is no hiding from the bad times and yet we get to also revel in the good. We get to read about the hardships of pre-revolution Paris and the prejudices towards women across time, but we get to experience the highs of bustling streets, one-time love interests with men and women from all over the world, and the incredible technological advances the world has precured since the 1700s. We see so much about our world today that is bad: the problems of politics, the economy, climate change and inequality. Addie LaRue is a brilliant story to remind us of the good and how much our world has changed. It’s refreshing to see the world through such eyes. Addie would be the first to point out it’s flaws but there can often still be so much to celebrate. It is truly bittersweet.
Henry Strauss on the other hand is soulful, emotion-driven, and I guess the other best word I can think of to describe him is “lack-luster”, and that is by no means an insult. His character is wonderful. He is truthful and kind hearted, yet he clearly lacks something. Not in a way that Schwab’s writing lacks something, but in a much more real sense. If the character was real, Henry would feel closed off and need that push to get him where he is meant to be. That is exactly how he is portrayed, and Addie is perhaps that thing. Their encounters are vibrant, unique and definitely make you wish you could find someone to love the way they do. Their relationship is everything you can want in a perfect love story. They are two parts of one soul in every way you can think, that is until you find out the big twist and by no means can it last. Everything is tick-tocking away and you know their story has to come to an end.
I did not cry as I know many people have done, but I definitely felt an odd cross between full and empty, happy and sad, stuck and free. How do I explain that? I have never felt more satisfied from a standalone novel before in my life. The ending was heartbreaking for many reasons yet I felt like it was the perfect way to conclude and the only option that was right. I was sad that their stories found an end yet happy that they found a way that left all counterparts feeling full of purpose. I feel thankful that I got to be part of their lives through reading the novel yet so empty that I have to leave them behind. The story is so real, set in a fantasy reality, that coming out of it distorted my view of the world and left my thoughts floating around trying to find a way in which I can live my life from now on. Somehow, this book opened something in me. Like a metaphorical key in a lock. I am so, so glad that I had the pleasure of reading this book. Most novels leave me feeling like I’d like to know more about the characters, or there was just something not right about a certain bit but I can find no faults. At first I was unsure about the flashbacks but they were necessary and the way they blended bit by bit into the later story filled up the cup I gladly drank from. I want to reread yet I also know that I can now leave this book on my shelves for years to come and the one day pick it up like an old friend.
I will recommend this book forever more. Most definitely a 5 star read. A favourite of the year. A story that will live on in my memory. Addie LaRue, I remember you and will always remember you!
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?