TLDR: A century-spanning romance about enjoying life, and love, with an underlying tragedy that talks about the sacrifices we make for these things. The story focuses on Addie, who wants to live in a space larger than her village, bigger than her world will let her, and so she makes a deal with the devil. Like you would suspect, there are unforeseen consequences to this deal. The story uses a fairytale-esque prose to tell this, blurring the genre of the story with the bittersweet tale of Addie’s life from where it begins in 18th century rural France, all the way to modern-day New York. Womanhood and identity are both very strong themes here, alongside sacrifice and a good dash of existentialism.
Book: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
Synopsis: When Addie LaRue makes a deal with devil, she trades her soul for immortality. But the devil takes away her place in the world, cursing her to be forgotten by everyone. Addie flees her tiny home town in 18th-Century France, beginning a journey that takes her across the world, learning to live a life where no one remembers her and everything she owns is lost and broken. Existing only as a muse for artists throughout history, she learns to fall in love anew every single day.
Publisher: Titan Books
(Reading time: 1 min)
I’m not going to lie — this book was a whole lot more tragic than I was expecting.
I thought it would be a kind of time-travelling caper thing, with a roster of characters and maybe some great big adventure plot (like most of the author’s other books), but that might just be my own fault for being too excited to read the blurb. The time travel in this book is very linear. Although the book does take place across three hundred or so years, all of them are lived in order. And the one doing the living is Addie, and she’s doing it by herself. Thus the tragedy.
The premise of the story is that Addie makes a deal with “the gods who answer after dark.” She is given an escape from her life, but the complication with that is that no one remembers her. For THREE HUNDRED YEARS.
I did think this book was a bit long at first. It’s over five hundred pages, after all, and with the slow unravelling of the story, I occasionally felt like it was dragging. But, you understand as you read that the ~slow burn~ of the plot is essential. First of all, it really captures that whole THREE HUNDRED YEARS ALONE thing, and it also means that when events do occur in the book, you feel them more. I mean, a lot of this book is about feeling. This is done very well considering the narrator switches often. It’s third-person, often limited to Addie or Henry (the other character, who we meet halfway through), but often it pulls out and away, usually to make statements such as ‘in two years she will know better’ and along that line. This really does make you feel like you are watching every moment of Addis’s life but unable to connect with her, so it’s well done.
There isn’t, as I said, lots of adventure here. The plot mostly is about Addie and her curse, but I didn’t really mind the lack of plot, as the story is about, well, the story, more than anything else tbh. It also means you don’t have to read this all in one go to get the gist of the story. It’s easy to fall in and out of it, particularly because of the short chapters.
Is it worth the read? Definitely!
Is it similar to the author’s other books? In my opinion, not at all. It feels like quite an experimental style of writing, which is likely because this is very fairytale vibes. But it’s nice to see.
P.S. Prefer audiobooks? This one is excellent! The sentence structure in this book is very specific, intended to recreate that flowing, nonstop life Addie lives, and the narrator captures that very well. In a story that’s all about Addie, but frequently pulls back to a third-person narration (she, after all, cannot be recorded), the medium of an audiobook works very well! It’s nice to both read and listen to this story if you ask me!