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Forgotten by All

Another late review, this time of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

PagesDate StartedDate Finished
448January 9th, 2023January 12th, 2023
Quick Stats

Déjà vu. Déjà su. Déjà vécu. Already seen. Already known. Already lived.”

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue seems an interesting tale from its description; familiar, perhaps, in the general sense, but unique in its particulars. We are promised a journey through time, a story that follows a cursed young woman as she navigates the western world from the 1700s all the way up to the modern day. What V.E. Schwab gives us, however, is a story mostly set in France and New York, and a cast of supporting characters more interesting than their impossibly lovely protagonist.

Adeline LaRue is a girl doomed to live forever and be remembered by no one at all, though she starts out living modestly enough. The sole child of a woodworker and a homemaker, Adeline is unusual in her tiny French town for being an independent dreamer in a time when women were expected only to marry and bear children. So, when she is forced to marry a widowed father of three, Adeline ducks out at the last second and makes a deal with a god of darkness. Though she is freed from the shackles of marriage, Adeline becomes immune to injury and death and is permanently erased from the minds of all who meet her when she leaves their sight.

Addie, as she chooses to call herself not long after grasping just what a heartbreaking deal she has made, is forced to say goodbye to parents and friends who don’t even know her anymore. It is the early 1700s, and as an unmarried woman of 23 without a single lasting connection in the world, there is great danger in the naïve Addie setting out on her own. To her credit, Schwab writes scenes of brutal devastation with tender care.

The problem is that the tragedy grows stale. V.E. Schwab’s prose is flowery and grand enough to keep readers hooked, and to say her writing isn’t enjoyable would be a lie. But after a while, the repetitive plot can no longer be hidden behind the perfume cloud of descriptive imagery. Once Addie gets the hang of her curse her life goes as follows: meet someone, fall in love, learn them over the course of a few months as they meet her for the first time again and again, then move on to someone new and start the process again. The result is always the same, and while it is hard to fault our protagonist for seeking human connection, it is a bit irritating how unchangingly self-pitying she is about it. And the grating quirks don’t stop there.

Addie is a practically perfect character, which is to say she’s boring. Again and again, we are reminded how desirable she is. Her curse is, after all, a result of not wanting to be tied down by any of the multiple men in her village who sought her hand in marriage. By the time the novel reaches the modern day, Addie is not only beautiful and charming but also well-read, well-traveled, and perfectly kind to almost everyone she encounters. So much so that when placed next to a character who is supernaturally desirable, Addie still draws more attention. Though we are told that Addie is wild, with a stubborn streak and a fiery temper, these traits are rarely shown. Her few outbursts are either brief enough that they’re resolved in a page or two or so justified they can’t quite be considered flaws. By the end of the book, I’d rather have read about any other character Schwab created. From the gruffly spiritual Estele to the joyfully artistic Bea, from a reader’s perspective, Addie LaRue was outshined at every turn.

“And she is laughing, tears streaming down her cheeks, and he wants to wipe them away, but his hands are her hands, and she is drawing.”

I would be remiss to ignore the genre of the novel. Addie LaRue is as much romance as it is historical fantasy, and at the crux of most romantic novels is their ability to allow readers to project upon the protagonist. While Addie might have been written as a chameleon to emphasize her fleeting nature, her lack of depth just turns her into a blank canvas. For some, this might be a positive. Personally, I found it tiresome.

Despite the meandering, ultimately rushed plot and Addie’s aforementioned structural issues as a character, I enjoyed reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. It was a simple, pretty read, the kind that’s imbued with enough almost-poetry I imagine I would have worshipped it at 18. In the end, though, Addie will likely go forgotten by another who has encountered her.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Featured Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash


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