Forever in Isolation: “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue”


“Rowlee Reads” is a weekly column dedicated to Mason Rowlee’s love of books, he reviews (and sometimes re-reviews) the books he is reading. (Courtesy of Cory Bork/The Fordham Ram)

Mason Rowlee, Columnist

What would you do if you could live forever? It’s a question that has reappeared in literature for centuries. However, V.E. Schwab’s new interpretation of this question allows readers to contemplate immortality at the price of remembrance and sanity. Her novel “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” is a fast-paced, breathtaking example of how contemporary storytelling can tackle philosophical questions with nuanced stories and genre.

Beginning in 18th century France, “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” follows a young woman named Adeline LaRue, who in a moment of desperation makes a bargain with a dark, mysterious force named Luc. He guarantees Adeline immortality, but makes it impossible for her to be remembered, even by those she loved. This forces her to flee her home and live a life in the shadows of history. Three hundred years later in New York, she stumbles into a bookstore and is remembered by one man, setting in motion a story about love, fate and the price of immortality. 

In dissecting these concepts, Schwab weaves together the past and present, creating a narrative that flows between New York in 2014 and Adeline’s journey around Europe as the world matures with her. As a novel, this movement and structure creates a fascinating character study on what the human mind would do in seclusion: What is the point of living forever and witnessing history if there is no one to share it with? Although Adeline remembers in poignant detail the adventures she underwent, anyone she shares the story with will forget the minute she leaves them. 

In fact, Luc has taken everything from Adeline, including her name. Each time Adeline attempts to say or write her name, she feels suffocated and cannot communicate it to anyone beyond her own mind. To cope, Adeline uses fake names, asking if immortality is worth the cost of your identity. Because without identity, what does it mean to be human? 

As she explores these questions of humanity, Adeline takes a fantastical journey through the classic and contemporary worlds. Schwab’s prose is quick and sharp, allowing readers to sprint through the novel at a breathtaking pace. This swiftness in prose mimics Adeline’s life experience. As years race by in the past, the present moment feels fleeting when someone can finally remember her name and likeness.  

Although a work of fantasy, “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” combines elements of historical and literary fiction in miraculous, new ways. Schwab is a gifted storyteller, whose acclaimed “Shades of Magic” series has garnered praise from readers and critics, alike. At only 33 years old, she is an extremely accomplished and promising author, whose adult fantasy novels continue to stand out in the bestseller lists and readers’ hearts. 

While Adeline’s journey ends with an incredible cliffhanger, readers will have to wait for Schwab to finish her story — or so we hope. Her journey is far from over, as both Schwab and Adeline have readers’ full attention, and their adventures are sure to stick with readers forever.