Book Review

Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

There was so much to love about this book. It is languorous and melancholy and full of the bright highs of exploring three hundred years of western human history, and the lows of a life both too long and never long enough.

Title: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author: V. E. Schwab
Pages: 560
Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date: 6th October 2020
Ownership: eARC provided by the publisher

Rating: 4.5 rounded up to 5 stars

About the Book

Desperate to escape a small life and the prospect of a stifling marriage, a young woman makes an ill-advised deal to live forever, only to find that she is immediately forgotten by everyone she meets.

Unable to make any mark on the world, Adeline LaRue finds ways of asserting her presence, patiently, whilst every year the devil demands the surrender of her soul.

She lives, if this is a life, for three hundred years, before finally coming across one young man, in a New York bookshop, who does remember her.

My Review

The whole of Addie’s story is told in perfectly structured, gloriously slow way. In three hundred years of life, there’s a lot to tell, so buckle in as you are here for this journey. The only reason you will be rushing through this story is because you need to know what happens, what the resolution of this hopeless situation is, and not because the author is rushing you through it. Which is something to be admired in good writing.

It’s a little lyrical, and a little flowery, which might not be to everyone’s taste. But it is told well. And you are swept up from Belle Époque France to modern day New York. And, through the eyes of Addie, and Henry, once he arrives, you are delicately folded up in their lives, their emotions and their despair.

In some ways, this novel is an homage to the enduring nature of art; to the desperate desire so many artists feel not to be forgotten – to write, to paint, to create something that will be seen and appreciated and remembered. (And perhaps the author’s own fears and desires too).

It also has some frighteningly beautiful descriptions of the utter hopelessness and despair that comes with depression, of both fearing and being forgotten, and of never being enough. Schwab certainly has a way of writing that really captures these kinds of emotions, and you also know that she has shaved off so much of herself and spliced it into these pages.

All of that being said, this is also the most gloriously self-absorbed love triangle of a story. Addie describes her relationship with Luc, the green-eyed devil who has sealed her into this pact, as something magnetic, the pair of them drawn to each other. And over three hundred years they are still twisting and dodging each other, both stubbornly fighting for power over the other. And the older she gets, the more like an immortal Addie herself becomes (and idea that I love – can you really stay human if you have eternal life?)

The descriptions of Henry’s depressive episodes are stunning – the boy with a broken heart that feels too deeply. His relationship with Addie, particularly when they realise they have more than expected in common, becomes incredibly intense, but is also the first real thing that Addie has experienced. Or at least, the first human thing. And you know it cannot end well when the devil is involved.

I found the ending of the story a little trite – the very palimpsest that had been referenced more than a few times in the course of the story. But I really don’t know if there was a better way of finishing it. However, I did like the conclusion to Addie’s story, if we can call it that. That, much like the mythic tales of the sun and the moon chasing each other, or Persephone and Hades, there is still this magnetic dance.

This really was a fantastic example of quality writing done well and wrapped up in a powerful, heartstring-pulling story.

I give it 4.5 stars, but happily round this up to 5.

I received an eARC of the book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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