The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is loved by my bookshop colleague, Imogen. Every year there will be one book that she falls particularly hard for – and this time it was Addie LaRue. Imogen has a really good sense for bookselling. Her previous years’ love The Starless Sea, we sold by the bucket-load because she was so invested in it. So, when she said Addie LaRue was the book of her year, I knew to give it a go.

At 541 pages this is the longest book I’ve read in years. I usually fall into the 300-350 page category – long books intimidate me and have to work a lot harder to appeal to me. However, Addie LaRue has a great premise that intrigued me.

In 18th century France, young woman Addie makes a deal with a dark god to escape her arranged marriage. She wants to be free, to have more time. And so the dark god grants her wish – immortality gives her endless time, but it comes with a catch. She will not age, she will never leave a mark on the world and she will never be remembered. When she has had enough, her soul will be his.

And so begins a life of 300 years of essentially being a ghost. No one remembers Addie – no sooner do they turn their back, or walk out of a room, she is a stranger to them. She is never captured on film, always a blur, her attempts to write are erased and her name catches in her throat. Addie is always on the run, and always forgotten. The dark god visits her every year, goading her to crumble and give up her soul. In her lonely life he becomes her only constant and they enter a twisted love-hate relationship.

Everything changes one day in 2014, in a New York bookshop, when Henry Strauss remembers Addie LaRue.

The story is one of love, loss, belonging, and trying to outwit the gods. It sits perfectly on the human side of fantasy to have a really broad appeal. I don’t tend to read full-blown fantasy, but I do read magical realism and I loved this book. It held my attention consistently, and the last thirty pages had me welling up a number of times.

If you’re on the fence about books with gods and fantasy I’d urge you to give this a try. It has the ‘I wouldn’t normally read this, but I loved it!’ effect on a lot of people we have recommended it to in the bookshop.

 

Content note

V.E. Schwab has a large teen/YA audience, but I would note that there are sex scenes, which are by no means graphic, but frequent enough that I would recommended from late 14/15 upwards.

There are some positive LGBT threads with gay and bisexual characters.