BOOK REVIEW | The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

TITLE: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
AUTHOR: V.E. Schwab
PAGE COUNT: 489 pages
PUBLICATION DATE: 6 October 2020
GENRE: Young Adult & Fantady

SYNOPSIS: A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

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.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book exploded in the book community this past month and with good reason. It has been months since a book found such a deep way into my heart.

You know when you love a book so much that when you try writing a review, all the words just vanish from your mind like mist before the sun? I honestly do not know what to say, except that I loved it with my entire heart. 

This masterpiece of a book was one I did not know I needed in my life. It is the kind of book I related to so much, that it felt as if it was written especially for me. 

The writing, plot and moral of this book was so beautiful and the characters felt so real. I could vividly picture them and the different settings in my mind. How the author thought of this storyline baffles me. It is such an unique book in comparison to all the others I have read in my life and it is one I appreciate with all my heart.

The message of this story is one I will treasure and carry with me, always. I felt so seen whilst reading this book and could relate to both Addie and Henry. How quickly time passes scares me immensely and the thought of all the things I will never have the time to do breaks my heart but in the end, it is important to remember to live your life to its fullest every second of the day and to embrace the good and the bad.

V.E. Schwab is an amazing author whose writing I just cannot get enough of. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was the first book I read by her and I am so excited to get to the rest of her books soon!

What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind? She has learned to step between the thorny weeds, but there are some cuts that cannot be avoided—a memory, a photograph, a name.

Don’t you remember, she told him then, when you were nothing but shadow and smoke? Darling, he’d said in his soft, rich way, I was the night itself.

March is such a fickle month. It is the seam between winter and spring—though seam suggests an even hem, and March is more like a rough line of stitches sewn by an unsteady hand, swinging wildly between January gusts and June greens. You don’t know what you’ll find, until you step outside.

“The old gods may be great, but they are neither kind nor merciful. They are fickle, unsteady as moonlight on water, or shadows in a storm. If you insist on calling them, take heed: be careful what you ask for, be willing to pay the price.” She leans over Adeline, casting her in shadow. “And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark.”

Blink, and the years fall away like leaves.

No, Adeline has decided she would rather be a tree, like Estele. If she must grow roots, she would rather be left to flourish wild instead of pruned, would rather stand alone, allowed to grow beneath the open sky. Better that than firewood, cut down just to burn in someone else’s hearth.

“A dreamer,” scorns her mother.
“A dreamer,” mourns her father.
“A dreamer,” warns Estele.
Still, it does not seem such a bad word.
Until Adeline wakes up.

There is a rhythm to moving through the world alone.

What she needs are stories. Stories are a way to preserve one’s self. To be remembered. And to forget. Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books. Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives—or to find strength in a very long one.

Adeline had wanted to be a tree. To grow wild and deep, belong to no one but the ground beneath her feet, and the sky above, just like Estele. It would be an unconventional life, and perhaps a little lonely, but at least it would be hers. She would belong to no one but herself.

Blink—and a year is gone. Blink—and five more follow.

Time—how often has she heard it described as sand within a glass, steady, constant. But that is a lie, because she can feel it quicken, crashing toward her.

That is the nature of dreams. They do not last.

It is the kinder road, to lose yourself.

But it is a lonely thing, to be forgotten. To remember when no one else does.

How do you walk to the end of the world? she once asked. And when Addie didn’t know, the old woman smiled that wrinkled grin, and answered. One step at a time.

Sure, he’s tried putting pen to paper, but it never really works. He can’t find the words, the story, the voice. Can’t figure out what he could possibly add to so many shelves. Henry would rather be a storykeeper than a storyteller.

“With time,” she said, “you can get used to anything.”

She stands there until she realizes she is waiting. Waiting for someone to help. To come and fix the mess she’s in. But no one is coming. No one remembers, and if she resigns herself to waiting, she will wait forever.

There is a defiance in being a dreamer.

Three words, large enough to tip the world. I remember you.

“Henry.” It fits him, like a coat. Henry: soft, poetic. Henry: quiet, strong. The black curls, the pale eyes behind their heavy frames.

“I see someone who cares,” she says slowly. “Perhaps too much. Who feels too much. I see someone lost, and hungry. The kind of person who feels like they’re wasting away in a world full of food, because they can’t decide what they want.”

He has given her a gift tonight, though she doubts he knows it. Time has no face, no form, nothing to fight against. But in his mocking smile, his toying words, the darkness has given her the one thing she truly needs: an enemy.

The evening is quiet, and she is alone, but for once it is not the same as being lonely.

There will be other dark nights, of course, other wretched dawns, and her resolve will always weaken a little as the days grow long, and the anniversary draws near, and treacherous hope slips in like a draft. But the sorrow has faded, replaced by stubborn rage, and she resolves to kindle it, to shield and nurture the flame until it takes far more than a single breath to blow it out.

To find a way, or make your own.

“Do you ever feel like you’re running out of time?”
“I don’t mean in that normal, time flies way,” Henry’s saying. “I mean feeling like its surging by so fast, and you try to reach out and grab it, you try to hold on, but it just keeps rushing away. And every second, there’s a little less time, and a little less air, and sometimes when I’m sitting still, I start to think about it, and when I think about it, I can’t breathe. I have to get up. I have to move.”

”…The darkness is no place to be alone.”

But this is how you walk to the end of the world. This is how you live forever. 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.

“My name is Addie LaRue. I was born in Villon in the year 1691, my parents were Jean and Marthe, and we lived in a stone house just beyond an old yew tree…”

…but that’s the whole problem, you’ve never felt called to any one thing. There is no violent push in one direction, but a softer nudge a hundred different ways, and now all of them feel out of reach.

Easy to stay on the path when the road is straight and the steps are numbered.

You want to be loved. You want to be enough.

“But that’s the thing, Henry, you haven’t been you. You waste so much time on people who don’t deserve you. People who don’t know you, because you don’t let them know you.” Bea cups his face, that strange shimmer in her eyes. “Henry, you’re smart, and kind, and infuriating. You hate olives and people who talk during movies. You love milkshakes and people who can laugh until they cry. You think it’s a crime to turn ahead to the end of a book. When you’re angry you get quiet, and when you’re sad you get loud, and you hum when you’re happy.”
“And I haven’t heard you hum in years.”

“…But art,” she says with a quieter smile, “art is about ideas. And ideas are wilder than memories. They’re like weeds, always finding their way up.”

“But isn’t it wonderful,” she says, “to be an idea?”

And for once, he isn’t talking himself in and out of every single line, isn’t chiding himself for each and every move, isn’t convincing himself that he has to say the right thing—there’s no need to find the right words when there are no wrong ones. He doesn’t have to lie, doesn’t have to try, doesn’t have to be anyone but himself, because he is enough.

“What would I say?” He raps his fingers on the table. “Books feed hungry minds. Tips feed the cat?

When he is with Addie, he feels alive, and it doesn’t hurt. She leans back against him, as if he is the umbrella, and she the one in need of shelter. And Henry holds his breath, as if that will keep the sky aloft. As if that will keep the days from passing. As if that will keep it all from falling down.

“What do you want for yourself?” he’d asked, and Henry considered saying my parents’ pride, but that didn’t seem like a good answer, so he’d said the next truest thing—that he honestly wasn’t sure. That he’d blinked and somehow years had gone by, and everyone else had carved their trenches, paved their paths, and he was still standing in a field, uncertain where to dig.

Choosing a class became choosing a discipline, and choosing a discipline became choosing a career, and choosing a career became choosing a life, and how was anyone supposed to do that, when you only had one?

They look at you and see whatever they want … Because they don’t see you at all.

There is a freedom, after all, in being forgotten.

I have found a way to leave a mark, she wants to say to him. You thought you could erase me from this world, but you cannot. I am still here. I will always be here.

They’ve been lucky, so lucky, but the trouble with luck is that it always ends. And perhaps it is just the nervous tapping of Henry’s fingers on the journal. And perhaps it is just the moonless sky. And perhaps it is just that happiness is frightening. The next band takes the stage. But as the music rings out across the lawn, she can’t take her eyes from the dark.

“You said it yourself, Luc. Ideas are wilder than memories. And I can be wild. I can be stubborn as the weeds, and you will not root me out. And I think you are glad of it. I think that’s why you’ve come, because you are lonely, too.”

She may not feel the years weakening her bones, her body going brittle with age, but the weariness is a physical thing, like rot, inside her soul. There are days when she mourns the prospect of another year, another decade, another century. There are nights when she cannot sleep, moments when she lies awake and dreams of dying. But then she wakes, and sees the pink and orange dawn against the clouds, or hears the lament of a lone fiddle, the music and the melody, and remembers there is such beauty in the world. And she does not want to miss it—any of it.

Luc’s smile darkens. “Because time is cruel to all, and crueler still to artists. Because vision weakens, and voices wither, and talent fades.” He leans close, twists a lock of her hair around one finger. “Because happiness is brief, and history is lasting, and in the end,” he says, “everyone wants to be remembered.”

“If you could do it again,” he says, “would you still make the deal?”
And Addie says yes.
It has been a hard and lonely life, she says, and a wonderful one, too. She has lived through wars, and fought in them, witnessed revolution and rebirth. She has left her mark on a thousand works of art, like a thumbprint in the bottom of a drying bowl. She has seen marvels, and gone mad, has danced in snowbanks and frozen to death along the Seine. She fell in love with the darkness many times, fell in love with a human once.
And she is tired. Unspeakably tired.
But there is no question she has lived.
“Nothing is all good or all bad,” she says. “Life is so much messier than that.”
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.”

“Do you know how you live three hundred years?” she says.
And when he asks how, she smiles. “The same way you live one. A second at a time.”

They teach you growing up that you are only one thing at a time—angry, lonely, content—but he’s never found that to be true. He is a dozen things at once. He is lost and scared and grateful, he is sorry and happy and afraid.
But he is not alone.

“Listen to me.” Her voice is urgent now. “Life can feel very long sometimes, but in the end, it goes so fast.” Her eyes are glassy with tears, but she is smiling. “You better live a good life, Henry Strauss.”

The world is wide, and he’s seen so little of it with his own eyes. He wants to travel, to take photos, listen to other people’s stories, maybe make some of his own. After all, life seems very long sometimes, but he knows it will go so fast, and he doesn’t want to miss a moment.

A story is an idea, wild as a weed, springing up wherever it is planted.

Victoria “V.E.” Schwab is the #1 NYT, USA, and Indie bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including Vicious, the Shades of Magic series, and This Savage Song. Her work has received critical acclaim, been featured by EW and The New York Times, been translated into more than a dozen languages, and been optioned for TV and Film. The Independent calls her the “natural successor to Diana Wynne Jones” and touts her “enviable, almost Gaimanesque ability to switch between styles, genres, and tones.”

Keep reading and never stop telling stories.

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