The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab

Genre: fantasy

I read it as a(n): hardback

Length: 444 pp

Her Grace’s rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

SPOILERS BELOW!!

Adeline “Addie” LaRue, a young woman in 1714 rural France, is being forced to marry. Only she does not want to marry, not this guy and not anyone else for now. In desperation, she begs and makes a deal with one of the Old Gods for more time. It helps to be specific when asking for things from genies or Old Gods because Addie is now immortal. The price of her immortality is that she can leave no mark upon the world. She can’t write, make art, not even say her own name. Everyone instantly forgets her as soon as she leaves their sight. Except one day, about 300 years later, one person doesn’t forget her. 

I think the premise of this novel was awesome. I’m sure everyone, at one point or another, has wondered what it would be like to live forever. Personally, I would hate it unless my daughter was immortal along with me. Kind of like heaven. Why the fuck would anyone want to go there and be stuck for all eternity with people you don’t like, or not to be able to help someone you love if you see them in trouble, or not to see loved ones ever again if they didn’t win a ticket to the cloud house? Pass, thanks.

Anyway, the premise was interesting and I think there are a ton of fascinating ways the novel could have gone. Unfortunately, nothing of the sort happened. 

Addie would have seen amazing things in her long life, yet she herself was not at all interesting. I thought she was boring AF. I’d forget her instantly, too. She had 300 years and all she did was travel to the same handful of places, learn a few all-Western languages, and bitch and moan about things. She could have visited the entire world, learned languages that weren’t some variation of a romance language, maybe even found a way to be an anonymous yet generous benefactor in some way to kids or a starving artist or something, despite her inability to leave a mark on the world. She could have chosen to remember some major historic events from an eyewitness POV. French Revolution? That was interesting. American Revolution? Yeah, Washington wasn’t as tall as people think. The Civil War and subsequent Jim Crow era, the Japanese surrender in 1945, the launch of the first Sputnik rockets, the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the politics of the Belgian Congo, the Rwandan Genocide. SO MANY things she could have seen and discussed. Instead, she wanders around stealing books and thinking incessantly about herself.

Henry was equally forgettable. He was a bland, boring man, though honest kudos to Schwab for trying to have a discussion about depression through his character. We need open and frank talks about mental health and any genuine attempt to do so is worthy of praise. But maybe make him interesting while also talking about depression. He just kind of wandered through the story and had no real purpose except to be the person who remembers Addie. 

Luc, the Old God sort of creature who Addie made her Faustian deal with, was physically sexy. But there the interest ended. We are supposed to believe he is some kind of god but he has a weird fetish with Addie? With making her suffer because he has nothing better to do? He didn’t even torment her to give readers any sort of character development. And then he and Addie end up together? After all that? OMG Stockholm Syndrome much? She wanted more time and not to have to be with anybody forever and then she ends up with Luc? Schwab sets up the plot for a sequel, but I was too bored and irritated by this to ever bother with a sequel. 

I have seen the writing described as beautiful, amazing, vivid, and so on. I wonder if I was reading the same book. Yes, there were some parts that were very nicely detailed and described. But there was also a LOT of repetition. If it was supposed to be vivid or whatever, I feel it missed the mark. If it was to subtly underscore the repetitive and boring nature of eternal life, then well done, mission accomplished. 

TL;DR version: Self-centered forgettable immortal woman thinks constantly about herself while stealing books, traveling to the same handful of places, learning a few Western-only languages, not witnessing many historical events or, apparently, meeting anyone who isn’t white until 2014. Wave off this one if you’re on the fence about reading it. So yeah, unpopular opinion, I guess. But I didn’t think this one was at all worth the hype.

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The Midnight Library

The Midnight LibraryThe Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Website, Twitter, Insta)

Genre: contemporary lit

Setting: modern England/ something like the bardo

I read it as a(n): audiobook

Narrator: Carey Mulligan

Source: my own collection 

Length: 8:50:00

Published by: Penguin Audio (29 Sept 2020)

Her Grace’s rating: 2 out of 5 stars

When Nora Seed decides to die, she winds up in the midnight library. There, she has a Big Book of Regrets and an infinite number of books, each containing different lives she could have lived if she had made various different choices. The rules are that she can try on as many lives as she wants but can never go back to a life once she’s left it, she can choose one to stay in, she can go back to her original life, or she can die. 

I think everyone can appreciate the idea of living a different life, making different decisions. It’s the ultimate “What If?” It would be fun to try a new life just to see, but I wish Nora was a more likeable character so following along in her journey would be more interesting. I found her to be quite weak and needy and as a result, I really didn’t care what life she chose for herself, or whether she chose a life at all.

I didn’t hate this book at all. I also found little in it that I truly liked. The sheer volume of 5 star reviews confuses me because it struck me as solidly mediocre and really not at all memorable. I think sucking readers in with the idea of a library between life and death is kind of gimmicky. Of course readers will be interested in the magic library. We already know the life changing, transformative power of books. So I think a story needs to have more to it than a magic library to carry it. 

I do think it is good that depression and anxiety are addressed here. It’s a real problem that millions of people are suffering. Showing that people who have depression aren’t abnormal or victims of abuse or whatever reason people think causes depression is an important discussion to have. Doing so in a book via a character with chronic depression can help people learn to empathize with others who have these conditions. It’s no more a person’s fault that they are depressed or anxious than it is if someone has cancer. So in that regard, this book did well. Sometimes people are just depressed or anxious and there doesn’t have to be some deep, dark trauma in the past to explain it.

I mostly felt that this book was like a Groundhog’s Day life buffet for a person who has completely failed to launch. Didn’t suck but wasn’t that good, either. I’m indifferent to it.