Tuesday, October 06, 2020

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

4/5 stars on Goodreads

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

I’m a great fan of Victoria Schwab’s fantasy. It’s often dark with troubled characters and no easy solutions, and the emotional toll is high. I knew when I started reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue that it would be different from her other booksshe told her readers so much herselfand it was. It’s maybe a mixture of fantasy and magical realism, and strongly character-driven with very little plot or action, beautiful and lingering.

It’s the story of Adeline LaRue, a peasant girl born in 17th century France with a heart that yearns for more than a life as a country wife. In desperation, she makes a deal with an ancient god of darkness, or maybe the devil: her soul for her freedom. But like all such deals, it isn’t what she expects. She is cursed to be forgotten by everyone. Nothing she does leaves a mark, and nothing leaves a mark on her, so she doesn’t age, get sick or injured, or die. It isn’t an easy lifeor maybe not life at allbut little by little she learns to make the most of it. And so she goes on for centuries, until she meets a man who remembers her.

It’s also the story of Luc, the god/devil, and his relationship with Addie. It’s dysfunctional and abusive, and more interesting for it. There’s an imbalance of power at first, but as the centuries go on and it becomes obvious to him she isn’t willing to succumb to his terms, everything changes. He wants to be remembered and seen too, and he only has her for that. The only true emotions Addie experiences are with him, as she has learned not to get attached to people, and so she only feels like a living character when she is with him. The rest of the time she only observes the world around her, slipping in and out of peoples’ lives like a ghost.

It’s also made to be the story of Henry, the man who remembers Addie. He’s given his own point of view chapters and he gets to tell his story. But I didn’t need to know that much about him, and I ended up skimming the chapters about his past. It’s essential that he offers his point of view at the end, but everything else was somewhat redundant. It only slowed down the narrative in the middle and made the book unnecessarily long.

Addie’s and Luc’s relationship being as dysfunctional as it was, I braced for a tragic ending. That it didn’t end in tears was a reliefand a bit of a let-down too. I wanted a final showdown between Addie and Luc, a human taking down a god or perish trying, but that didn’t happen. The ending is almost happy, with everyone getting what they want, though not necessarily the way they wanted it. It left me feeling pleased, and wanting at the same time. All in all, a good book, but not as great as I hoped it would be. But I warmly recommend it to people who are new to Victoria Schwab.

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