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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue Summary, Review, Themes, Quotes and Characters

“The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” is a historical fantasy novel by V.E. Schwab, first published in 2020. 

It’s a story that weaves through the centuries, following the life of Addie LaRue, a young Frenchwoman from the 18th century who desperately seeks to escape the confines of her predetermined life. In a moment of despair, she makes a fateful bargain with a demonic entity, gaining eternal life with a heartbreaking twist: she will be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Full Summary

The novel opens in 1714 in the small French village of Villon-sur-Sarthe, where Addie, at 23, is faced with an unwanted marriage.

Seeking to avoid a life of rural domesticity, she flees to the forest and implores the old gods for a way out. As night falls, her prayers are answered by a mysterious, dark-haired, green-eyed stranger. He grants her eternal life, but with a dire condition: as soon as she is out of someone’s sight, she will be completely forgotten by them.

Addie’s new existence is marked by solitude and suffering. Unable to form lasting relationships or leave any mark on the world, she drifts through the ages, witnessing history but unable to participate in it. 

Her every attempt to write or draw vanishes, making her life seem like an echo in time. Despite the pain and loneliness, Addie refuses to give in to the stranger, whom she names Luc.

Over the centuries, Addie becomes a silent muse to artists and musicians, subtly influencing their works. Every year, Luc visits her, asking if she is ready to surrender her soul, and each time, she refuses. 

Their relationship evolves, with Addie viewing Luc with a complex mix of emotions.

The narrative then shifts to New York City in 2014, where Addie’s life takes an unexpected turn. She meets Henry, a young bookseller, who astonishingly remembers her after a brief encounter. 

Their connection deepens, revealing that Henry, too, has made a deal with Luc, in exchange for being loved by everyone he meets for a year. However, his time is running out.

In a final act of love and sacrifice, Addie strikes another deal with Luc to save Henry. She agrees to be with Luc exclusively in exchange for Henry’s freedom. Heartbroken, Addie and Henry part ways, with Henry immortalizing her story in a book titled “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue”. 

Addie, resilient as ever, secretly plans to outwit Luc, no matter how many centuries it takes.

Characters

Adeline “Addie” LaRue

  • Origin: A 17th-century Frenchwoman from Villon-sur-Sarthe, born in 1691.
  • Appearance: Notable for seven freckle-like constellations on her face.
  • Persona: Defiant of gender norms, Addie is an adventurous soul, preferring her sketchbook and travel over traditional domestic life. She leans towards the rustic old gods, shunning the Catholic beliefs of her parents.
  • Crisis & Transformation: Facing a forced marriage, she desperately prays to the old gods, meeting Luc who grants her eternal life but curses her to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Addie’s talent in art becomes a paradox as her creations fade away, prompting her to become a silent muse to artists over the centuries.
  • Relationships: Trapped in a tumultuous bond with Luc, Addie finds solace and understanding in Henry, the only person who remembers her. Her choice to stay with Luc at the novel’s end to save Henry is both an act of love and a return to her captor.

Henry Strauss

  • Background: A New York bookseller approaching his 30s.
  • Characteristics: Curly black hair, pale green eyes, and a disposition more humane and real compared to Luc.
  • Struggle: Battles depression and substance abuse. His curse to be loved by all brings him superficial relationships, driving him further into despair.
  • Evolution: Meeting Addie, he learns to embrace his true self, shedding his dependencies. His curse inversely mirrors Addie’s, as he seeks to live fully before an early demise.
  • Legacy: In honor of Addie, he publishes her journals, contributing anonymously to her story and inadvertently boosting his literary career.

Luc/The Stranger

  • Identity: A supernatural entity, envisioned by Addie as ‘Luc’ with dark, curly hair and striking green eyes.
  • Nature: Begins as a Faustian figure, granting wishes with heavy costs. Over time, he evolves into a complex character, yearning for control over Addie and exhibiting traits of an abusive partner.
  • Dynamics with Addie: He shares a unique bond with Addie due to their immortality and loneliness. Despite their intimate relationship, it’s marred by Luc’s obsession with control rather than genuine love.

Estele

  • Role: Addie’s elderly neighbor in Villon, a solitary figure living in harmony with forest spirits.
  • Influence: Estele represents an alternative to conventional domestic life for Addie, embodying independence and spiritual connection.
  • Tragic Disconnect: Addie’s greatest sorrow comes when Estele, like others, fails to remember her. Estele’s adherence to old spiritualism and her final resting place, contradictory to her beliefs, symbolize Addie’s severed ties with her past.

Remy Laurent

  • Significance: A minor yet crucial character offering a male perspective on the ease of escaping societal norms.
  • Contrast with Addie: His journey reflects the gender disparities of the time. Remy’s access to education and freedom from societal expectations starkly contrasts with Addie’s constrained life, highlighting the gender-based privileges and challenges of their era.
the invisible life of addie larue summary

My Review

Alright, here we go!

Oh, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, you enigmatic, haunting beauty of a book! 

Let me just say, I enjoyed this novel, but boy, does it have layers – like an onion, or a really fancy cake. 

It’s not without its issues, but what masterpiece is?

V.E. Schwab, you’ve done it again! 

After gobbling up her Shades of Magic series like a bookish Pac-Man, I dived into Addie LaRue’s world with glee. 

The concept? 

Deliciously intriguing – a Faustian deal with a devilish twist. 

Addie, our protagonist, is granted eternal life but at the cost of being eternally forgotten. Talk about being careful what you wish for!

The book is a amalgamation of time, art, and the burning desire to leave a mark on the world. 

Addie’s journey through centuries, trying to make her invisible life visible, is both heart-wrenching and thought-provoking. However, as I journeyed with Addie, I couldn’t help but notice – the world through her eyes is a bit… well, vanilla. 

Literally. It’s very Eurocentric, with a heavy focus on Western art and culture. Addie, darling, you had 300 years, and you just stick to Europe and America? There’s a whole world out there!

The writing – oh, it’s like Schwab dipped her pen in magic. 

Beautiful, evocative, but at times, I felt like I was being told how to feel rather than feeling it. Addie’s plight, while compelling, sometimes felt like a broken record. Yes, we get it, she’s forgotten, but does it have to be so repetitive?

Then there’s the love story – Addie and Henry. Henry, our modern-day bookseller who remembers her – plot twist! 

He’s got his own deal with Luc, our devilishly charming antagonist. The dynamic between Addie and Luc? 

It’s like watching two celestial bodies in a complex dance of power, desire, and defiance. Addie’s stubbornness to not give in to Luc is the kind of petty I aspire to be.

But let’s talk about Henry. 

Sweet, kind Henry, who feels more like a plot device than a fully-fledged character. His sole purpose seems to be to serve Addie’s narrative. I mean, the guy deserves a bit more limelight, right?

Now, the ending – no spoilers, but it’s a bit open-ended, leaving us wondering if Schwab is keeping the door ajar for a sequel. Sneaky, sneaky…

Here’s the thing – while Addie’s story is captivating, it’s also incredibly white-washed. It’s like a tour of Western civilization with blinkers on. 

The few nods to diversity feel more tokenistic than truly inclusive. And major historical events, especially those affecting people of color? 

Barely a blip on Addie’s radar. It’s a missed opportunity to explore a richer, more diverse tapestry of human history.

In conclusion, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a beautifully written, if somewhat narrow, exploration of memory, art, and the human desire to be remembered. 

It’s like a sumptuous feast for the senses, but you leave feeling like there could have been more on the menu. 

A book that will make you think, feel, and maybe even want to strike your own deal with a dark-haired stranger (or maybe not). A solid read, but not without its limitations. Now, where’s my pen? I need to make sure I’m remembered too!

Key Themes

1. Human’s capacity for endurance

Addie LaRue’s story is a testament to the human spirit’s capacity for endurance. 

Despite the curse of being forgotten by everyone she meets, Addie refuses to yield to despair. Her journey teaches the importance of resilience. Even in the bleakest of circumstances, she finds ways to influence the world around her, albeit in subtle ways. 

Her ability to adapt and find purpose, even in an existence where she cannot form lasting relationships or leave a tangible legacy, shows the strength of perseverance. This lesson is particularly relevant in our lives when we face challenges that seem insurmountable. 

It encourages us to find inner strength, adapt to changing circumstances, and continue moving forward.

2. The Complexity of Freedom and the Consequences of Our Choices

Addie’s story is an exploration of the concept of freedom and the consequences of our choices. Her desire for freedom leads her to make a deal that curses her to a life of eternal obscurity. 

This aspect of the novel highlights how our choices, especially those made in haste or desperation, can have long-lasting and unforeseen repercussions. It teaches us to weigh our decisions carefully and consider the potential long-term impacts they may have on our lives and on others. 

The book also delves into the idea that true freedom isn’t just about escaping constraints but also about the ability to connect, leave a mark, and be remembered – aspects of life that Addie initially overlooks.

3. The Importance of Human Connection and Being Remembered

At the heart of Addie’s story is her struggle with the innate human need for connection and being remembered. 

The curse she bears makes her existence lonely and ephemeral in the eyes of others. This aspect of the novel underscores the importance of relationships and the human desire to be seen and remembered. 

It prompts readers to reflect on the significance of their interactions and the legacy they leave behind. The narrative encourages cherishing and nurturing relationships, as these are fundamental to our identity and well-being. 

It also explores the idea that even the smallest influence or interaction can have a lasting impact, echoing through time in ways we may never fully realize.

Quotes

  1. “…it is sad, of course, to forget. But it is a lonely thing, to be forgotten. To remember when no one else does.”

  2. “Three words, large enough to tip the world. I remember you.”

  3. “What she needs are stories. Stories are a way to preserve one’s self. To be remembered. And to forget.”

  4. “A dreamer,” scorns her mother. “A dreamer,” mourns her father. “A dreamer,” warns Estele. Still, it does not seem such a bad word.”

  5. “There is a defiance in being a dreamer.”

  6. “Because time is cruel to all, and crueler still to artists. Because visions weaken, and voices wither, and talent fades…. Because happiness is brief, and history is lasting, and in the end… everyone wants to be remembered.”

  7. “Blink, and the years fall away like leaves.”

  8. “Nothing is all good or all bad,” she says. “Life is so much messier than that.”

  9. “Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?”

  10. “But this is how you walk to the end of the world. This is how you live forever. Here is one day, and here is the next, and the next, and you take what you can, savor every stolen second, cling to every moment, until it’s gone.”

  11. “His heart has a draft. It lets in light. It lets in storms. It lets in everything.”

  12. “Do you know how to live three hundred years?” she says. And when he asks how, she smiles. “The same way you live one. A second at a time.”

  13. “But a life without art, without wonder, without beautiful things—she would go mad. She has gone mad.”

Final Thoughts

“The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” is a beautifully crafted narrative that explores themes of memory, identity, and the human need for connection. 

Schwab masterfully intertwines historical settings with a fantasy tale, offering a unique perspective on the passage of time and the cost of immortality. 

The novel stands out for its rich character development and the emotional depth of its protagonist, Addie LaRue, whose journey of resilience and defiance against her cursed fate is both heartbreaking and inspiring. 

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