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

“The darkness claimed he’d given her freedom, but really, there is no such thing for a woman, not in a world where they are bound up inside their clothes, and sealed inside their homes, a world where only men are given leave to roam.”

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – published by Titan Books, October 6th 2020

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever-and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore, and he remembers her name.

In the vein of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Life After Life, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is New York Times bestselling author V. E. Schwab’s #1 New York Times Bestselling Author genre-defying tour de force.

Find it on Goodreads.

Verdict: Surprisingly slow-paced, with neither prose nor characters strong enough to off-set.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I am obviously in the minority here, as every single one of my bookish friends has adored this – but I did not. I found it perfectly alright, but never compulsive enough for me to neccessitate the book’s length. It took me a lot longer to read it than I had anticipated (I usually find Schwab’s books fast-paced and unputdownable).

Schwab tells her story of a girl who made a pact with a devil and got something in return she did not anticipate (as is usually the case with deals with devils): she becomes immortal and able to see more of the world than her birth town but at the same time she loses the ability to be remembered. Told in two time lines (past and present), Schwab chose a languid, description heavy approach that worked beautifully for other readers – I, however, vastly prefered the present time line without much direct interference of the devil, who was, ad nauseum, described in the past. I enjoyed the gradual unveiling of the limits of Addie’s pact and the way it influenced her over the centuries.

Addie is a typical Schwab heroine – and as such I often found her a bit difficult to root for. Especially in the past, she is incredibly dismissive of women who choose other paths in life – she seems to grow out of this tendency over the span of her long (long) life, but her air of “not like other girls” never lets up. Henry, on the other hand, I adored. I found his backstory incredibly moving and effective – I wish the book had focussed more on him and the present day timeline. Schwab’s obvious favourite character is Luc (the devil) who is vividly described and always the focus of the chapters he appears him. I found him neither convincing as a otherwordly character nor believable as a love interest. I often adore stories featuring gods, but I do like them to be more other and thought this was a missed opportunity for Schwab to use her imagination.

Content warnings: dubious consent, death of loved ones, assault, prostitution (half involuntary)

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quotations are taken from an unfinished copy and are subject to change.