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

Title: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publication date: 2020

Date started: 22/06/2021
Date finished: 06/07/2021

First sentence: “A girl is running for her life.”
Last sentence: “She only smiles, and sets the book back on its shelf. And follows him out into the dark.”
Favorite sentence: “The old gods may be great, but they are neither kind nor merciful. […] And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark.”

Summary (spoilers): Adeline LaRue was born in 1691 in a small French village, and she loved to draw and dreamed of exploring the world. But she was destined to stay in her village forever, confined to her small life, married to a husband she wouldn’t love. On the night of her forced wedding, she ran into the woods and, ignoring the advice of the wise Estelle who taught her how to pray to the old gods, she prayed to the night gods, and they answered. The darkness gave her eternal life, but nobody to remember her: as soon as they fell asleep or went out of her sight, she would evaporate from their memory immediately; she also can’t make an imprint on the world: can’t write or draw, start a fire or build a home. Despite her constraints, she enjoys her long life, meets artists, participates in revolutions, and has many romances – where they fall in love with her again every evening. Addie is tired, and the darkness – whom she named Luc – knows this and is waiting for her to give up and surrender her soul. But Addie is stubborn, and her curiosity for the world is an endless thirst. Luc is the only one who knows her and after a long enough time, they end up in a relationship – unsure if it’s love, but able to enjoy it while it lasts. After a while Addie leaves, and later meets someone who, for the first time in 300 years, can remember her! Henry made a deal of his own: everybody loves him, but he only has one year to live. But he hates his deal, as everybody loves him without seeing him, only seeing what they want him to be… until he meets Addie, because the only thing she needs to love someone is to be remembered. They quickly fall in love and Addie isn’t ready to let him go, so she makes a new deal with Luc, who is still in love with her. She will be his if he frees Henry from his curse – but preserves his memory. So he does, and she goes to be with Luc, and Henry is free and alive, and he writes the novel of Addie, as she had told him about her life while they were together.

Opinion: I have a bit of mixed feelings about this book. I liked the story overall, and how the author explored the constraints of Addie’s curse. I liked to feel the excitement about Addie marveling at the world despite living in it for over 300 years. I also liked that most characters were queer – Addie and her love interested both being bi, many side characters being gay or lesbian etc. But some things in the writing irked me – there was something off in the tempo at time, some fact being repeated several times as if it were the first time, and some never really pointed out despite their importance [spoilers] (eg. the fact that Addie can’t draw anymore). The love story felt quite anti-climatic, they fall in love with each other just because they’re the only people with whom they can fall in love with, and the only time Addie says she loves Henry is followed by “she wants it to be true” or is when she teases Luc with it – and I’m not sure if it’s on purpose, to reinforce the idea that she’s not human anymore, or not. [end of spoilers] Of course there’s the enraging fact that Addie says several time that she speaks “Swiss”, a language which simply doesn’t exist. And for a novel which has so much queer potential, it was a bit sad to only present the darkness as a man – I think it would have made more sense to have a kind of gender fluid entity (then again, the only trans character being non human isn’t great representation so I don’t know). Tl;dr I liked the story but the writing and some details bothered me enough to at least partly spoil this book for me.

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