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Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab
SATURDAY, JANUARY 21, 2023
Life in a world where you are surrounded by people should never be lonely. But for Adeline “Addie” LaRue, loneliness is redefined – she has to spend centuries alone, forgotten, isolated, all because of a bargain she makes with Luc “The Darkness” in exchange for freedom.
The deal is she can be free and immortal, except nobody will remember her, ever.
The author, VE Schwab, takes readers on a whimsical journey over 300 years, from the time LaRue is born in the 18th century in a small French village to 2014 when she meets the love of her life in a small New York bookshop.
Published in 2020, “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” was on the New York Times bestseller list and is now being considered for film adaptation. It was nominated for the 2020 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, but lost to “Middlegame” by fellow American author Seanan McGuire.
Schwab, however, has more than 20 books under her belt, including bestsellers “Vicious” and “A Darker Shade of Magic”.
In her latest offering, Schwab does not just weave a story through significant times in history, but also sheds light on depression and LaRue’s inability to forge lasting connections.
“Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?” the author says.
Though depression and other mental health issues are now more commonly talked about, they are still unscalable mountains for the sufferers.
This challenge is captured by Schwab’s depiction of the deal LaRue has made with Luc – she cannot speak or write her name, leave no footprints behind or even be photographed.
People can interact with her, but she is immediately forgotten as soon as she is out of sight.
Though immortal, LaRue still feels all the physical and mental anguish suffered by humans – before she wakes up again. If she wants to end this eternal torture, she will have to give her soul over to Luc.
“I am stronger than your God and older than your devil. I am the darkness between stars, and the roots beneath the earth. I am promise, and potential, and when it comes to playing games, I divine the rules, I set the pieces, and I choose when to play,” he says.
LaRue’s adventures take readers across time, countries and continents, from masquerade balls in Venice to becoming a German prisoner of war during World War II.
Yet, though LaRue was condemned to a life of invisibility, the reader learns how far a young woman will go to make a mark until one day, in a little bookshop in New York, she meets the love of her life, Henry Strauss, who says “I remember you”.
The tale sheds light on the fact that support, bonds and social interaction are necessary for survival. Like Matthew Lieberman says in his book, “Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect”, humanity’s need to associate socially with others is as fundamental as the need for food, water and a roof over our heads.
Schwab captures this hunger for connection with a dreamlike character-driven narrative, grabbing the reader with intrigue, surprises, twists, romance and dark emotions.
The book takes readers on an enchanting voyage as LaRue grows from a naïve village girl to a sophisticated young woman who knows how to play Luc’s games.
The book ends on a cliffhanger with the possibility of a sequel and a nagging question: Would you rather be forgotten but free, or remembered but shackled?