“Three words, large enough to tip the world. I remember you.”
–V.E. Schwab, Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
V.E. Schwab, who has also published under Victoria Schwab, is a very busy author. In the past decade, she has gifted the world with more than a dozen books ranging from middle grade fantasy to adult lit and even comics. Unfortunately, Addie LaRue is my introduction to her *gasp*, but it definitely won’t be my last of her books. I am intrigued now.
Adeline LaRue is a free-spirited 23 year old in France in the year 1714. When she’s promised to be married to a newly eligible widower as a mother to his children, she immediately feels as if she’s being thrust into a life of misery. Out of desperation, she prays to the most dangerous of deities as a last resort for gaining her freedom, the gods who answer after dark. A mysterious dark figure answers her call and grants her wish for freedom, but it comes with a terrible price. In true Faustian fashion, Addie is granted immortality, but she surrenders her identity and her soul. Her name can never once be said, and her face will never be remembered by another human being. Addie is doomed to walk the Earth as a shadow, just a fleeting presence enjoyed for a moment and then lost forever, never leaving a mark upon the world. Until she meets Henry Strauss, the manager of a second hand book store in New York City. Henry remembers her. And their meeting will change both of their lives forever.
This book is charming, captivating, and lyrical. I picked it up because of all the high praise I was seeing from other reviewers on WordPress, and I definitely get it. This book is the perfect blend of darkness and light. I thought both Addie and Henry were brilliantly crafted and believable characters. Addie experiences such amazing things over her 300 years. She has a fascinating character arc drawn from unique experience. Henry is an incredibly authentic character, someone who can’t see his own value and exists within a sphere of misery, desperate to find approval and affection. Luc, as well, the demon darkness incarnate, was a brooding presence that brought so much excitement and intrigue to the story. Though Luc is a god, he’s not impervious to the perils of loneliness and human emotion. As much as Addie loathes him, the two are inextricably linked and tethered to a world no one else can understand. This relationship between Addie and Luc was complex and fluid, and I found myself having similarly complex emotions about him. I greatly enjoy growing to like a villain while simultaneously rooting for their downfall.
We see Addie’s life in a series of moments. We vacillate between the present in 2014, where we’re introduced to how she navigates the modern world, and her history spanning the years from 1714 to the present in chronological order. In each past flashback, we see Addie’s interactions with Luc as he visits in an attempt to get her to relinquish her soul. We see him rebuffed as Addie gains strength and knowledge of how to survive in a world that offers her no assistance. There’s an interesting power shift as we see Addie gain a bit more control with every passing year.
A life such as Addie’s is both sad and fascinating. What would it be like to live through the most pivotal moments in human history? The intense life altering knowledge gained by human invention, technological progression, renaissance of art and music, and the fracturing of the planet by wars sparked by human greed and ignorance. It’s so much for one person to process. Especially without feeling true human connection, or having that human connection severed at the last moment. I think the taste of it followed by intense loss would be the worst part. Oh, how ironic is a life of guaranteed permanence marred by an inability to ever obtain a feeling of permanence? A life of mere existence isn’t really a life at all. Rather, our lives are measured in the moments and the experiences that matter.
I love how Addie is able to find very subtle ways to leave her mark as a muse for artists and musicians, people who will never remember her but whose artistic endeavors contain little whispers of Addie. There’s such power in an image or an idea.
“Art is about ideas. And ideas are wilder than memories. They’re like weeds, always finding their way up.”
– V.E. Schwab
This book is though-provoking in that regard. Most of us will never become famous, and we won’t be written about in history books or immortalized in song. Our marks on the world may be fleeting, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. A stranger may not remember your face, but they may remember a smile or a kind word you gave to them. The smallest of gifts are important to the receiver who reaps the benefit. A small inquiry of “are you ok” can save a life, the same way a lone star twinkling in the sky can guide a lost traveler home.
And speaking of stars, I have not gone back to check, but I did wonder if the number of pieces of art mentioned in the book matched the number of “stars” or freckles on Addie’s face. The one thing people always noticed about Addie was the 7 freckles, and they were usually the tie between the different artistic works. Perhaps someday I will go back through and see how many different artistic pieces were profiled in the chapters, but for now I’ll leave it as a mystery. Doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but would have been a clever thing to include.
Overall, this is magical and lyrical book that has so many strengths. I love the narrative style. I love the character development. And I love the story. Not once did I get bored, and I savored every word until the very end.