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

Addie LaRue

This book is BEAUTIFUL. I’m kicking myself for not writing my review as soon as I finished it, because now of course my memory is failing me and I can’t provide the detail I would like. 

But I loved the original storyline, descriptive writing and the ruminations explored throughout. So prepare yourself for my analytical brain to go into overdrive on this one, because there is so much I want to talk about!

Synopsis

Adeline LaRue, born in France in 1691, is desperate to see the world. As you can imagine, this is not the kind of a life a woman living in the 17th century can expect to pursue. In desperation Addie flees into the woods and pleads to the Gods to give her freedom. But the sun is setting behind her, and it’s too late by the time Addie realises she’s made a deal with the devil.

“And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark.”

Addie can live forever, giving her the chance to explore the world as she always wanted. But her curse is that nobody will ever remember who she is. Until she meets Henry. 

Henry unwittingly made a deal of his own kind. Discontent with his life, he just wanted to be enough for someone. But the price he has to pay is very different from Adeline’s.

Beautiful Descriptions

I’m kicking off with a handful of my favourite descriptions in the book:

“The sun falls like a scythe. Adeline can almost hear the whistle of the blade as her mother braids her hair into a crown, weaves flowers in the place of jewels.”

“The voice splits, doubles, rattling through tree limbs and snaking over moss, folding over on itself until it is everywhere.”

“She will come back to this moment a thousand times. In frustration, and regret, in sorrow, and self-pity, and unbridled rage. She will come to face the fact that she cursed herself before he ever did.”

Themes

Living life to the full 

The nature of Addie’s curse means that she can never leave a solid mark on the world; any trace of her is always erased. She doesn’t exist, not even as a memory. So often she questions the emptiness of her immortality. 

“What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?”

“Addie’s throat tightens. “Do you think a life has any value if one doesn’t leave some mark upon the world?” Remy’s expression sobers, and he must read the sadness in her voice, because he says, “I think there are many ways to matter.””

Ironically Henry, who doesn’t have the luxury of time, has similar questions and fears around what he has done with his existence:

“Blink and you’re twenty-eight, and everyone else is now a mile down the road, and you’re still trying to find it … and the irony is hardly lost on you that in wanting to live, to learn, to find yourself, you’ve gotten lost.”

Gratitude

While we’re busy getting caught up in finding meaning in our lives, making a mark on the world and being remembered for something, we forget the happiness that can be found in the simpler things. Denying Addie of these simple pleasures allows the author to express the importance of these in our lives:

“She would love a place like this. A place of her own. A bed molded to her body. A wardrobe full of clothes. A home, decorated with markers of the life she’s lived, the material evidence of memory.”

“the soft hum of her father’s voice as he worked in his shed, the scent of sap and wood dust in the air. The pieces of her life she never meant to lose.”

Ideas and memories 

Memories are tangible; ideas are not – but which is more important? Something deliberated by Addie on numerous occasions. It seems the author is trying to suggest that ideas have far more potential and worth than something that did or could happen. And inevitably, memories fade. How can you be sure your memory of something is accurate? And therefore does that make it less real?

“Memories are stiff, but thoughts are freer things. They throw out roots, they spread and tangle, and come untethered from their source. They are clever, and stubborn, and perhaps—perhaps—they are in reach.”

“Because the truth is, he is already beginning to forget. It’s not that he’s fallen victim to her curse. She has not been erased in any way. The details are simply fading, as all things do, glossing over by degrees, the mind loosening its hold on the past to make way for the future. But he doesn’t want to let go. He is trying not to let go.”

Time

“He is all restless energy, and urgent need, and there isn’t enough time, and he knows of course that there will never be. That time always ends a second before you’re ready. That life is the minutes you want minus one.”

And there it is. The harsh truth about mortality that we all know deep down; there is never enough time. Whether we have days or years to spend on this earth, it is only human nature to want more. 

“Here is one day, and here is the next, and the next, and you take what you can, savor every stolen second, cling to every moment, until it’s gone.”

So what does it really mean, then, to live?

We all want to be loved, remembered, and find meaning in why we’re here. But the passing of time means we forget, we’re forgotten, and we don’t last forever. Life is immensely imperfect, no matter how hard we try to perfect it. 

“The darkness has granted her freedom from death, perhaps, but not from this. Not from suffering.”

“I grant you immortality. And you spend your evenings eating bonbons in other people’s beds. I imagined more for you than this.”

Final thoughts

So there you are. A very long and contemplative review of one of the best books I’ve read in a while. An original storyline, loveable and relatable characters, and some complex ponderings on life and struggles of being human. 

If you’re interested in this topic, check out Tomorrow by Damien Dibben. Another fantastically original storyline (the protagonist is a dog!) bringing into question many aspects of mortality. 

“And there in the dark, he asks if it was really worth it. Were the instants of joy worth the stretches of sorrow? Were the moments of beauty worth the years of pain? And she turns her head, and looks at him, and says, “Always.””

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