A girl is running for her life.– The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, opening line –
You know how there are some books that suck you in immediately, that you can’t put down until you’ve read that last sentence, ones that you still think about days after finishing them?
Well, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was one of those for me. From that very first line, I was completely hooked, and I ended up having to sacrifice considerable amounts of sleep in order to still finish all the homework I neglected while reading it… Although, objectively speaking, there are certainly things you could criticize, this is by far my favorite thing Victoria Schwab has ever written. It had everything I personally love in a story – lyrical writing, an interesting premise, engaging characters, and subtle intertextual references to a myth I might be slightly obsessed with. After the disappointments that were Our Dark Duet and Vengeful, this story reminded me of why I fell in love with Victoria Schwab’s stories in the first place, and I’m so glad I didn’t give up on her! This one, I’d say, is definitely worth the hype 😊
Overall rating: 4.5/5 Stars
MEPHISTOPHILIS. That I shall wait on Faustus whilst he lives,
So he will buy my service with his soul.
FAUSTUS. Already Faustus hath hazarded that for thee.
MEPHISTOPHILIS. But now thou must bequeath it solemnly,
And write a deed of gift with thine own blood;
For that security craves Lucifer.Christopher Marlowe: Doctor Faustus, Act 2, Scene 1
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a tale that spans countries and centuries, a story set in motion in 1714, when a young French girl named Adeline makes a desperate bargain with the dark. It is a plea to gain her freedom, to live the life she has always dreamed of. The chance to be independent and explore the world beyond her small village. The opportunity to live forever.
And Addie LaRue does gain these things – at a cost. She is remembered by none, and unable to leave any trace of her own on the world. Doomed to live forever, but always alone. Until, one day, a boy in a bookshop recognizes her.
Overall, I absolutely loved the way Victoria Schwab twisted the Faust myth, a story that has permeated European literature for centuries, and made it into something unique and completely her own. I don’t usually end up liking retellings that follow the source material too closely – because then I can just go and read the original – but I do like when there is a nice balance between the new and the old. Opportunities to compare and find easter eggs, and also to become enthralled by an original story. In my opinion, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue struck that balance perfectly.
On the one hand, the literature geek in me was freaking out over all the Faustian references. You can’t grow up in Germany and not know this story, because Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust I is quite literally the ONLY book that is required reading across the whole country. This play is kind of like our version of Shakespeare. My grandparents can quote from it, my parents read it when they were young, and my youngest brother is currently studying it in German class. Granted, when I first read it back in 11th grade, I wasn’t all that impressed. The language was old and rusty, I somehow completely missed out on a major plotpoint (*How did everyone else know about that baby and not me?*), and I didn’t see why this was supposed to be so much better than, say, the Schiller plays we’d read earlier… But as I got older, I saw two productions, reread it, and absolutely fell in love! And then I started studying English literature, read not one, but two versions of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, and pretty much became obsessed. I can literally go on for ages about the significance of Mephistophilis entering as a devil in Marlowe’s 1604 text and as a dragon in the 1616 one, or about how the legends surrounding “devil’s violinist” Paganini are basically just another version of this same story… So you can only imagine how excited I was when presented with a treasure trove like Addie LaRue for comparison! We now have a girl who makes the pact! And her reason for doing so is much more than just gaining knowledge! There is even a performance of Goethe’s Faust mentioned in this! Basically, I was in intertextual heaven 😁
On the other hand, I just loved this story for itself. I was dying to learn more about Addie’s past, and how she had gotten to where she was today. I needed to know what “the devil’s” true motives were for agreeing to the pact. I loved learning what Addie had been up to in those three centuries of her life. I wanted to know why there was suddenly someone who could remember her.
Yes, guys, I was absolutely ensnared.
Her father packs up the cart as the day gives way to dusk.
They will stay the night in a local inn, and for the first time in her life, Adeline will sleep in a foreign bed, and wake to foreign sounds and smells, and there will be a moment, as brief as a yawn, when she won’t know where she is, and her heart will quicken – first with fear, and then with something else. Something she does not have the words for yet.
And by the time they return home to Villon, she will already be a different version of herself. A room with the windows all thrown wide, eager to let in the fresh air, the sunlight, the spring.The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, p. 21
I think with this book, you’re going to either absolutely hate or absolutely love the writing style. It’s lyrical like nobody’s business, kind of reminiscent of a fairy tale, filled to the brim with metaphors, and the tense is constantly changing from present to past to future and back again.
Similarly, this book is about as non-linear as it gets. We start off in 2014 New York, then suddenly, we’re in 18th century France, back in New York, 200 years in the past. As a reader, you slowly have to piece together all the pieces of Addie’s life and slowly, as the book goes on, you start to figure out what happened to her and where she’s headed.
Personally, I loved it! The writing style was one of my absolute favorite things about the book. It was so easy to get lost in and made Addie’s past all the more intriguing and suspenseful. Though I do have to warn you: The writing style does make the book rather slow, so if you prefer action-packed reads that lack purple prose, maybe this one isn’t for you…
There’s no way I’m writing a review of this book without discussing the characters. I just have so many things to say! Although I’m not going to be able to do this without giving stuff away, so sorry – this section is for those of you who’ve already read the book and want to freak out about it with me 😉
Before the rest of you leave, though: If any of this sounded at all interesting to you, I highly recommend you go check this book out! I’d love to see what you think about it and compare thoughts 🤗
But let’s get back to the characters…
WARNING: THIS NEXT SECTION CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS!! SO DON’T READ IT IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK AND DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED!!!
MEPHISTOPHELES: Ich bin der Geist, der stets verneint!
MEPHISTOPHELES: The spirit I, which evermore denies!
Und das mit Recht; denn alles, was entsteht,
And justly; for whate’er to light is brought
Ist wert, daß es zugrunde geht;
Deserves again to be reduced to naught;
Drum besser wär’s, daß nichts entstünde.
Then better ’twere that naught should be.
So ist denn alles, was ihr Sünde,
Thus all the elements which ye
Zerstörung, kurz das Böse nennt,
Destruction, Sin, or briefly, Evil, name,
Mein eigentliches Element.
As my peculiar element I claim.Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust I, V. 1338ff.; English translation by David Luke
I know that Addie is technically the main character of this story, but can we just talk about Luc? Because guys, I am absolutely obsessed with him. In my opinion, he is by far the most interesting character in the story, and even after having read the whole book, I’m still not entirely sure what his motives were. Yes, I do think ultimately, he is out for personal gain, but it’s also got to be kind of lonely, being the devil and all. I loved watching how he toyed with Addie, how he enjoyed being a trickster and got those fancy French servants to put on an extravagant dinner, how he was constantly scheming to get under Addie’s skin, but often ended up being surprised in return.
And I think part of him does truly care for Addie. Yeah, he does act kind of creepy and possessive, but in a way, I still think he’s a better match for Addie than Henry. He keeps Addie on her toes and at her sharpest, and Addie is pretty much the only one able to keep him in check.
Perhaps it will take twenty years.
Perhaps it will take a hundred.
But he is not capable of love, and she will prove it.
She will ruin him. Ruin the idea of them.
She will break his heart, and he will come to hate her once again.
She will drive him mad, drive him away.
And then he will cast her off.
And she will finally be free.The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, p. 540-541
Which is why I absolutely loved the ending! No matter what, Addie stands her own ground and puts her freedom above anything else. But there’s no denying that she is drawn to Luc, and he is drawn to her. They’re these two immortal beings, forever sparring and tricking each other, but underneath, there’s more emotion than they’re letting on. Maybe this is just me, still a tad too fascinated by “bad boys” and tricksters like Loki, but I’m totally rooting for this love-hate relationship… I’m sure Addie and Luc have many interesting centuries of crossing and double-crossing ahead of them 😁
Which certainly sounds more exciting than staying with Henry would have been… Honestly, I thought Henry was kind of a drab. His only personality traits seemed to be the fact that he worked in a bookstore, his mental illness, and his curse. And yes, all of these things were interesting, but I would have liked to see more! More moral ambiguity, internal conflict, his interests and passions. While we did get to see snippets, it wasn’t enough to ever really make me see Henry as a fully fleshed-out person… He seemed like more of a plot-device to get Addie to finally reach her full potential.
Though, of course, Henry did write the book – a reveal that I absolutely loved! I was kind of wondering why it was called The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, when almost half of the story concerned Henry, but in the end, it made perfect sense. And, even though I think he could have been fleshed out more, I love Henry for doing that for Addie. Thanks to him, she finally gets to be remembered.
(Also, Henry’s friends and family were pretty neat, too. But I’m not going into that here, since this review is already way too long as it is 😅)
Then, there’s Addie. Whom I really ended up liking! Like most of Victoria Schwab’s heroines, she does have that in-your-face “strong female character” vibe, but in this book, I actually really liked it. With characters like Kate, Lila, or Marcella, I sometimes felt like Schwab was forcing it a bit too much, but not in this book. Addie’s struggles to see something of the world and leave her mark despite being a woman, and not settle for the boring domestic life her parents had planned out for her, were such an integral part of who she is. Her obstinacy and determination drove her to make her bargain with Luc in the first place and enabled her to survive when others wouldn’t have. I was cheering her on when she crawled out from beneath all those corpses in Paris. When she snuck into salons, engaging in political conversations. When she never gave up and somehow found a way to inspire countless artists and leave her mark in spite of the pact.
Also, I really liked the way Addie’s bisexuality was portrayed. Finally, an author who doesn’t do those horribly unnatural, five-page coming out speeches! Addie just happened to like both men and women, and that’s it. All her relationships were portrayed in a normal, matter-of-fact way – or at least, as normal as they possibly could be, what with all her love interests immediately forgetting about her – and I really appreciated that.
And finally, to wrap this up – I absolutely loved how big of a role art played in Addie’s life. It was heartbreaking that she lost her ability to draw once she made the bargain but inspiring how she still always kept art and music in her life. Honestly, Bea’s research on Addie’s history as a muse sounded fascinating – I totally approve of this thesis topic!
So yeah – that was it for today! If you’re still here after all this rambling, I’m very impressed! 😁
Do let me know what you thought of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue if you’ve read it, and whether you agree or disagree with any of my points! Also, feel free to mention if you have your own review of this book – I always avoid other people’s opinions like the plague until I’ve written my own, but now that I have, I’m insanely curious as to what other people thought of it! Tell me everything in the comments! 🤗