Look, I know I’m in the minority regarding Addie LaRue; I know. I am aware that everybody loves this book, but I am also aware that we all decided in advance that we were going to love this book, and that V.E. Schwab can do no wrong. Unfortunately, in my opinion, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue just did not deliver what it promised.
Plot summary for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue:
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.
Star Rating for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue: * * (two stars)
It’s very possible that Addie LaRue suffered under the weight of my oh-so-lofty expectations – I suppose it’s unfair to expect any book to thrive given the amount of pressure placed upon it.
I loved the premise, and that’s what attracted me to the book in the first place. I love the idea of an immortal living through the last three centuries of history, and the addition of a curse that rendered the subject effectively invisible (at least to people’s memories) sounded absolutely amazing. I did really enjoy those parts of the book. I liked Addie’s interaction with Luc, who is essentially the Devil, and the intracacies of how she has learned to navigate her unusual life.
For me though, it was just flat. That’s really the only word I can use to describe it. There’s no spark, no emotion, no excitement, and even the characters seemed just like cardboard cut-outs to me.
The story is told in alternating sections between Addie in 1700s France, to modern day New York. It’s very very slow, and I don’t usually mind slow books, but it stays slow. I had hoped to follow Addie as she experienced different countries and historical events, but she stays in 18th Century France, just trudging through the mud, until a good 2/3 of the way through the book. The French Revolution takes up half a page, until she leaves, and World War Two is another half a page. We see her flit through other countries put only for tiny, tiny amounts of time, and this should have been the most interesting part of the book for me.
The writing is very flowery, and it seems to labour under the misapprehension that purple prose can cover a world of sins. There are multiple continuity errors (as one example, Addie tells Luc about her first sip of champagne, and then twenty or so pages later, Luc is recorded as then giving her her first sip of champagne) and on one occasion the narrative records Girl with a Pearl Earring as being painted by Renoir, not Vermeer. Are these hugely consequential issues? No, of course not. But it’s difficult to see all these effusions about the beauty of the writing when such lazy, avoidable errors are missed.
The main characters are Addie LaRue and Henry Strauss, although some others pop up every now and again. Neither Addie and Henry have any discernible personality or traits – their sole purpose is to be bearers of a curse. A great deal of factual background information is provided, but I would struggle to tell you anything about what they are like as people. For such a theoretically character-driven novel, the characters are remarkably flat.
I actually did like the ending. I felt it was apt, given the tone of the book, and it’s difficult to see how it could have ended any other way. I also liked how it was open-ended, much like Addie’s life. I don’t doubt there will be an absolute sea of novellas published in the years to come, however.
It has occurred to me that maybe my dislike was just a counter-reaction to the constant, unavoidable hype… but I don’t think it was. Or at least, only slightly. I just didn’t enjoy The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – halfway through I considered DNF-ing, but I’d heard we would see Addie as a spy in World War II, and I really wanted to see that… except we didn’t.
Unfortunately, the book didn’t deliver what I wanted, and I didn’t want what it did deliver.
What hyped books have you read that didn’t meet your expectations?