Hello Humans! It’s finally here, the review for the book which, if you’re on the bookish internet, you have probably seen everywhere. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is the latest book from prolific author V.E. Shwab who has written all sorts of other books most of which I have read – I think I’m behind on the comic books but other than that I’m fairly sure I am up to speed. I’ve really enjoyed most of the things I have read from her and I was nervous but excited to see what this new book would be like….
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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.
So yes, I was nervous about starting this one. Everything I had seen on social media was about how beautiful this book was and how much of a labour (of love?) it had been for the author which…I don’t know it’s something of a red flag for me. Books with similar vibes to them have entered my life in the past and they have been – to put it nicely – very literary, and to put it in a way that I would actually say it – wanky.
In this case, I will say this book is very literary. When I first started it, I’ll confess I did a little eyeroll at the sheer amount of metaphor in the opening chapters. So if you aren’t the kind of person who is ever going to enjoy that kind of writing then maybe give this one a miss. BUT. If like me you can consciously say ‘this is how this book is and I am going to enjoy it’ then it is a great time. Because you do get used to the way the book is written quite quickly, I’d say within the first fifty pages I had got into the rhythm of it and started finding it quite beautiful. I think it also helps that by that point the plot has really started to happen.
I don’t like a literary book where nothing really happens – whereas this book has a great plot that is highlighted by the gorgeous writing that I will confess did make me cry at the end.
So in terms of the writing style – which was probably my biggest fear going in – if you like this style then you will have a great time.
Addie as a character I grew to love, I think I preferred the 2014 Addie to the 1700s Addie – but I think that’s a good testament to how she grows as a character through the book. I liked that both Addie and Henry aren’t straight, and it’s never a big thing in the book. I might have liked a bit more of an exploration of how a woman raised in 18th century France would cope with initially discovering that could be a thing, but that’s more a wishlist item rather than a criticism of the book as a whole. She does have a bit of ‘everyone tells her she’s beautiful all the freaking time’ syndrome but…I mean she’s the main character so…
Henry I actually loved. It has to be said he’s basically 14 year old Judith’s fantasy man – floppy haired sad boy who works in a bookshop? Why yes. But what I thought worked well is that the book sets out why Henry is so ludicrous. I don’t want to spoil it too much so I won’t go into too much detail on that.
One thing that I did start to wonder about during this story was ‘is this just manic pixie dream girl’ on steroids? Because if you cut the story one way that’s what it is, aforementioned sad boy meets mysterious girl and they have adventures. Cut it another way and we have manic pixie dream boy who exists to take sad girl on adventures. But the way that the story is told I suppose the two narratives balance each other out, these are two impossible people coming together and changing each other – it doesn’t feel like either of them only exists to serve the other – which I appreciated.
Is this book conceptual? Yes. Does that make it wanky? I don’t think so. It deals with some big stuff and some ideas about art and ideas that might arguably be a little heavy handed, but I think the root of the story is familiar and fun it never felt like it crossed too far into that literary territory. I think it helped that I loved the ending, I’m not sure how it would feel if you weren’t a fan. There’s something that kind of reminds me of The Night Circus in that ‘this narrative is completely ludicrous but I’m 200 pages in and completely hooked’ kind of feel.
While I don’t think this book will be for everyone – I certainly had a great time reading it and I may now need to go and get myself a copy so I can cry over the pages or something like that…
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is out October 6th
What say you? Have you read this? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!