Tully Mahoney ’23
V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie Larue is a stunning novel that captivates readers from the very first page. As a young woman in 1700s France, Addie is expected to marry and raise children in the same town she grew up in, so she prays to new gods and old gods alike for freedom. For the longest time, she does not receive any sort of sign that her wish will be granted.
However, in a moment of desperation on her wedding night, she prays after dark and summons the god of the darkness, a ghost of the shadows that transfigures himself into a handsome man with eyes whose colors change with his emotions. She bargains with him to live forever without the shackles of expectations.
The catch? The devil curses her so everyone she meets forgets she exists.
The novel splits between Addie’s life in the 1700s and the 2000s, following her adventures and the people she meets as she tries to make an impression in a world that she exists as a shadow within. Across the centuries, Addie and the god of darkness play a metaphorical game of chess, consistently attempting to be one step ahead of the other: he wants her to give up her soul, and she is too stubborn to give him the satisfaction of her doing so.
Addie learns to make her mark on the world by giving lyrics to musicians, allowing artists to paint her, and becoming a spy during wars. Her mark is subtle and can never truly be attributed to her, as anyone she meets forgets all about her as soon as she leaves, making them think they created the words, envisioned the face in the painting, or learned the secret information themselves.
In her loneliness, Addie continuously asks herself, “What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?” This question fuels her desire like an uncontrollable fire, especially when everything changes after she meets a boy in a bookstore, Henry, who somehow remembers who she is.
This is where the novel’s structure comes into play. It is split into four parts, and at the beginning of each, there is a description of a piece of artwork, a wonderful stylistic choice that unifies these parts seamlessly. Each work of art includes a description of a girl with seven freckles in the shape of a constellation: Addie. These illustrations describe Addie’s impact in the world and how Henry is connected to her before they even meet.
Indeed, before Henry meets Addie, his best friend, Bea, realizes that the same woman appears across decades of paintings and proposes this phenomenon to Henry as her thesis. He tells her it was likely just a coincidence, so Bea drops the idea. Upon meeting Addie, however, he realizes Bea was right, and notices that she does not remember Addie after they meet and thus does not make the connection herself.
Schwab’s writing style is effortlessly elegant and captures the readers’ imaginations, and the novel’s plot line has two serious twists that prevent it from falling into a lull. Schwab creates characters that feel like real people regardless of the absurdity of someone making a deal with the devil. Readers will feel the characters’ pain, loneliness, happiness, and agony.
The main flaw of The Invisible Life of Addie Larue is the lack of experiences Addie has, considering that she lives for 300 years. She only travels from a small town in France to Paris to Brooklyn, and it is hard to imagine that a woman who disappeared from her family on her wedding day because the thought of living in the same town forever drove her crazy would then only go to only three places in three centuries. On a similar note, although Addie meets many great, infamous people, they are all Eurocentric icons. Also, the descriptions of Addie’s experiences, as well as her interactions with these icons are very limited, leaving much to be desired.
All in all, however, the novel is worth the read, especially for readers who enjoy romance and historical fantasy.