V.E. (Victoria) Schwab was introduced to me by my favorite bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy and it was love at first read. By pre-ordering the The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, I was able to get a personalized book plate and used my birthday present book embosser to further claim the book. Those actions decrease the re-sale value of a book but this is one I won’t be giving up!
The simplest explanation of the plot is it is a Faustian deal between Adeline LaRue and a god-like, being of darkness, whom she names Luc. And while the book examines the limits and cracks of the deal that Addie made, it is not about those specifics but has far more to do with what it means to leave a mark on the world. How does that affect a person when others immediately forget your existence, you can’t say your own name, or even write down a single word? Hence the “invisible life” part of the title. What keeps you going when no one remembers you and you can’t create something to leave behind? Woven along with that line of thought is the concept of the power of ideas over memory.
I can’t hold a pen. I can’t tell a story. I can’t wield a weapon, or make someone remember. But art, ” she says with a quieter smile, “art is about ideas. And ideas are wilder than memories. They’re like weeds, always finding their way up”.
For three hundred years, Addie has lived in a certain type of isolation with only Luc to remember her and speak her name aloud but then she meets Henry. Between their first meeting and second, Henry remembers her and Addie’s world tilts. Meeting Henry is a gift and one that Addie knows in her heart can’t last. The story is told weaving past and present together as it charts Addie and Luc’s history alongside the present story of Addie and Henry. I was in tears at the end of the book. While aspects of the ending are sad it was more the overwhelming amount of emotion I was experiencing that had me crying. This isn’t the first time, and probably won’t be the last, that Schwab has brought me to tears.
One aspect of Schwab’s writing that I admire is her analogies, like this passage that so accurately, and uniquely, describes March.
March is such a fickle month. It is the seam between winter and spring – though seam suggests an even hem, and March is more like a rough line of stitches sewn by an unsteady hand, swinging wildly between January gusts and June greens. You don’t know what you’ll find, until you step outside.
Another is that across her writings are LGBTQ+ people. Henry doesn’t self identify as such but seems to be pansexual. He has had a sexual relationship with a man but it is described as Henry falling in love with the person and not specifically being gay. Since Schwab identifies herself as queer, it isn’t surprising that her books are inclusive.
Schwab seems comfortable writing across genres and categories. The beauty of this is that she has a book for most readers. Love fantasy? I suggest you start with A Darker Shade of Magic. Like superheroes, villains and anti-heroes? Read Vicious. YA fans can find her through This Savage Song and middle grade readers have her “City of Ghosts” series. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is not as easy to pin down genre wise but I think would make an excellent place to start for someone who has never read a book by Schwab.
Special mention: I have never identified so hard with a fictional character as I do with Henry.
Henry’s never fancied himself a novelist. Sure, he’s tried putting pen to paper, but it never really works. He can’t find the words, the story, the voice. Can’t figure out what he could possibly add to so many shelves.
Growing up I dreamed of being a writer but feel exactly like Henry, that I have nothing special to put out there. But two years into Cannonball Read, I realized that I have become a writer, just not a writer of novels!