Table of Contents
“Never pray to the gods who answer at night.”
This is what Estelle – the wizened old character of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – warns forebodingly.
So naturally, Adeline (Addie) prays to a god who answers at night.
To be fair to Addie, she was peering into the abyss of an arranged marriage in 1713 France.
Fearing being caged by domesticity, she barters with the devil for freedom.
But there’s a hitch. Because of course there is. It’s the devil.
Addie will live forever. And yet no-one she meets will ever remember her. Once she falls out of their sight, she’s forever forgotten.
And thus begins The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.
An Invisible Life is a Lonely Place
It’s not easy being forgotten. Not when you yourself remember everything.
Think about your own experiences. Those coffee breaks with a friend which always end too soon – the nights spent in a beer garden until last orders, amongst great company.
After all, memories are the fountain of the soul. Our experiences, often with other people, enrich our lives. A lot of this has been sorely missed in 2020 as a result of the global pandemic. So, in many ways, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue has come at a very pertinent time for many readers.
Addie, of course, can experience a veritable eternity of these moments – many lifetimes’ worth in fact. But they are experiences she cannot share with anyone beyond the time itself.
She cannot even tell anyone her true name – the words failing on her tongue as she attempts the first letter. All part of her bargain with the devil.
There’s also the issue, which Addie faces frequently, where she tries to find somewhere to stay – pays her board – before being subsequently accused of squatting and then booted out onto the street.
Schwab captures this alienation spectacularly. It’s troubling, often getting Addie into difficult situations, let alone heart-breaking ones.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and Immersion
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a truly immersive novel.
This is my first experience of V. E. Schwab’s writing, but it’s excellent. From people’s mannerisms, their appearance, and especially Schwab’s outlining of setting – it’s all dripping with detail. It’s a genuine pleasure to read.
I was especially impressed by how unpredictable the plot was. About 10% into the novel, I was fairly sure I knew where it was going. So, I was pleasantly surprised as the twists revealed themselves and proved me wrong.
This is not a straightforward boy-meets-girl, star-crossed lovers affair. There is some of that, however, Addie’s tale is far more nuanced than that. It’s a powerful exploration of thought and memory.
I cannot wait to read more of Schwab’s work.
“Oh, Adeline...” - Thoughts on Addie
To be fair to the people Addie meets, she is quite forgettable.
For someone who has lived for over 300 years, she lacks hobbies, interests, social awareness, and possesses a bizarre historical indifference.
This is a person who has lived through some of the most seminal moments in Western history. As a French woman, she’ll have experienced the French Revolution but only makes passing references to it, such as meeting Rousseau in a café.
Addie’s lived through multiple World Wars and has seemingly little to say about it, bar some interludes with Luc about death. She’s witnessed the rise of the civil rights movement in America and, again, has nothing to say about it.
We get a few passing references to the fact that she learned Greek and watched Hitchcock movies when they originally came out, but she doesn’t always read as someone who’s witnessed over 300 years of life & death.
Having said all of this, Addie is by no means a poor character – just limited.
I felt her pain throughout, and she undoubtedly grows as a person.
I particularly appreciated her first meeting with Henry (the first person to remember her). She doesn’t immediately fall for him, as one might expect in this type of novel. She’s (understandably) more drawn to the fact he can remember her.
Addie doesn’t just have relationships with men either. Schwab explores the idea of Addie being bisexual, her views and preferences altering over time – as they might well do if one lives as long as Addie. I really appreciated this.
Addie is quite flawed but she’s harmless. I’d like to think that most readers would find her to be a likeable enough lead, if a little limited.
How is the Audiobook?
I listened to the audiobook of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, following a recommendation in AndOnSheReads’ Audiobooks to Relax With blog post.
Julia Whelan’s performance as narrator is outstanding.
She captures the characters in an extraordinarily good way. Her voices for Luc and Henry are particularly strong, challenging my heterosexuality at pretty much every turn(!)
Luc’s voice is like velvet, yet with a cautionary sharpness. Henry’s is genial and approachable.
The narration itself is clear, well-delivered, and captures the mood of the novel in a phenomenal manner.
Should you choose to listen to the audiobook over the novel, you won’t miss out. It’s a brilliant experience.
IsThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue worth reading?
It’s written with passion, precision and the themes of alienation and faustian pacts are very compelling. Readers who enjoy elements of romance, the supernatural, and YA fiction will adore this book. As will anyone who appreciates immersive writing.
Schwab makes you feel things. Whether it’s anxiety, sadness, or frustration at Addie’s predicament. It’s difficult to not empathise with Addie – you find yourself picturing yourself in the same situation; waking up in the morning and your partner & child not recognising you… walking out of a shop having paid, but nobody actually remembering you’ve paid… and so on.
The only thing that The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue falls down on for me is the lack of social and historical awareness. It does impact on immersion and makes Addie’s considerable struggle to live on a little less believable.
However, the scope of the narrative and the deep themes explored are well worth the price of entry.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a beautifully written book that is absolutely worth your time. I’d strongly recommend it.