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.
I just want to start this review by saying that I went into this book completely blind. I kept seeing it get good reviews on Goodreads and Instagram, and even though the reviews were coming from people who I didn’t overlap with their reading preferences 100%, I was intrigued by the premise that I skimmed and requested the audiobook from the library. So this is the review that I wish I had read before picking up The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.
To begin with, Schwab’s writing style is stunning. It is simple, profound, and eloquent, all in one. The settings and culture and descriptions of everything just paint a masterpiece, and I am so excited that this book is being turned into a movie. I especially loved that she created pieces of art that tie into the story. Whether Addie is in 18th century France or 21st century New York City, Schwab does a phenomenal job tying in art, music, history, and other significant cultural pieces into Addie’s life.
Moving on to the characters, they were equally as beautiful. Each one was a bit quirky or different in their own way, but was beautiful for it. Even Luc, the ‘antagonist,’ was beautifully crafted. Each character’s strengths and weaknesses wove together to create a story about the beauty of humanity, and spoke profoundly to themes like love and friendship, autonomy and agency, life and death, and even the importance of your name. This book was incredibly original, I had no idea how it was going to end, and I struggle to even think of another book to compare it to.
All of that being said, there were a few drawbacks. First of all, every main character was lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Schwab herself is a lesbian, and so I can see how she might have used Addie’s experience to highlight some of the challenges that the LGBTQ community faces. It just struck me as odd, because I’ve never encountered a story where this was the case. It seems like a very deliberate choice, and despite reading several interviews about the book, I couldn’t discover why she made it. In fairness, though, it was very naturally done, and didn’t feel like it was forced or done to make a point.
The second drawback is that the story includes some morally gray issues. For example, Addie will never be able to earn money via a normal job, and so she turns to things like prostitution and stealing in order to be able to eat every day. They are portrayed as decisions made out of desperation, and Henry does eventually rebuke her and point out that she is hurting everyone she steals from, but there is a subtle message of the ends justifying the means.
Finally, there were a lot of sexual innuendos, and the language got quite colorful at times. It was a very raw portrait of humanity, but I wish I had known what exactly I was getting in to when I started it. Would I have chosen to read the book if I had known everything in this review? I can’t say for sure. Overall, the story and the writing of it are stunning, but there are a few things to take into consideration before picking up The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.