The January Book Review

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

I’m hoping to read at least one book per month this year and so far I’ve managed. I’ve started with The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E.Schwab. Now, I’ve seen the name of the author several times before and thought I should have a go at one of her books and this one caught my interest because of the title. I wanted to know how a life can be invisible. 

I found an audio edition of this book on www.scribd.com, a 17-hour narration by Julia Whelan (aka the author of “My Oxford Year” of which I wrote briefly about in my article “19 Books I read in 2020”). 

Beware that the following review contains spoilers, so… SPOILER ALERT!

What the book is about:

The novel is about a young woman, Adeline LaRue, living in a village in France at the beginning of the 18th century. She is supposed to enter an arranged marriage, but instead, she runs away into the forest, prays to the gods, and receives an answer. She sells her soul in exchange for freedom but the deal cuts both ways and before long she realises that her freedom is also a curse. No one can remember she exists and so she passes through life as a ghost, stealing food or clothes, staying no more than one night in one place as people see her as a stranger and throw her out. She can’t leave any mark: she can’t create anything, cannot write, draw or even break anything, as everything she does, becomes undone. Everyone who meets her forgets her as soon as they turn their back or a door closes, so an encounter can happen several times and the feeling of deja vu reigns in Addie’s life. 

After 300 years, in which she’s seen history in the making, wars and revolts but also art and beauty, travelling from France to Italy to England to America, Addie is now in New York where she lives her life as she always had: one day at a time – stealing food (and everything else). One day, she discovers a small used bookstore, from where she decides to steal an old copy of the Odyssey. The shopkeeper comes after her but lets her have the book. She then comes back another day to swap another book, knowing no one will remember her or the incident from before, except…the shopkeeper does remember. 

We also get into a parallel story now, the one of the shopkeeper – Henry. A rather unhappy young man, whose girlfriend rejected his proposal about one year before he meets Addie. [SPOILER ALERT] Later on, we find out that the reason he can remember Addie is that he also made a deal: he wished to “be enough” for everyone, to be loved. Of course, what Addie most wanted was for someone to remember her and therefore, he was enough for her. 

How I feel about this book:

I won’t tell you the ending so as not to spoil quite everything. The concept of the story is quite interesting. It makes you think of the meaning of life, of time, of how much we as individuals matter in connection with everyone else. It also makes you curious to find out how Addie learns to live with her curse. The love story is nice, but not uncommon, which I think was actually the intent of the author – to show a regular, mortal life and love between Addie and Henry. On the other side, we have the love-hate relationship between Addie and Luc (the name she gave to the spirit/devil/god she made the deal with). Luc is possibly the most interesting character to me. A dark spirit, perhaps the devil or the darkness itself, with raw feelings and emotions, as far from human as a god could be, Luc seems to fall for Addie – but does he truly know what love is? I would say that for me, this part of the plot was the most interesting. Addie and Luc would meet on their “anniversary” and every time, he would ask her to surrender her soul and every time she would not. After 300 years of such meetings, their relationship turns into something more, a form of dependency. 

Although this is a novel for adults, it seemed a bit more young-adult to me. The characters, though old and experienced (especially Addie and Luc) still had some very “young” attitudes and perspectives. Also, what was obviously supposed to be a plot-twist – Henry’s deal, was also quite predictable to me. Most of the story had a high degree of predictability, which is not necessarily bad, but I was expecting a bit more surprises. 

From the audiobook narration, I understood that each part would start with some sort of visual of an art piece – a mark Addie managed to leave through different artists she has met over time. However, I, of course, missed those. In terms of interpretation, Julia Whelan does a very good job, to my taste, as she changes her voice and tone to match each character, she interprets the characters’ feelings very accurately and gives you the feeling that you’re inside their minds, or at least somewhere nearby, which helps a lot with immersion in the story. 

It’s already been a week since I finished the book, so my brain had plenty of time to process it, and I would say, if I were to rate it, I would give it 3/5 stars, meaning “I liked it”. I do recommend it for those of you who enjoy fantasy novels, young adult fiction, magical realism, etc.

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