I was among the many who looked forward to this title’s release. I even managed to score a free copy through an unused credit to the Book of the Month club that had slipped my notice. I started reading it with a sense of anticipation and joy.
Unfortunately, that joy faded rather fast.
I’ve tried other books by V.E. Schwab, and been either disappointed or confused, or kind of impressed and ultimately puzzled. Her ideas are lush and engaging, but her execution just runs circles around me. Maybe I’m too analytical, or not analytical enough, when it comes to the literary process and this author; I always struggle to follow the plot and have trouble accepting the 5-star reviews, when my reading presents so many difficulties.
I was really hoping The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue would prove the exception to the rule. But after finishing it, I believe I can conclude that Schwab and I are not on the same page.
The novel starts off a bit slow, but its early chapters are a truly delicious stroll through an incredibly atmospheric day for Addie in modern New York City, showing how she’s found the benefits of her curse, takes advantage of having no responsibilities or obligations, and yet, you can also palpably feel her loneliness and isolation.
The problem with this introduction, though, is that it quickly sets the tone for the rest of the book — and it draaaags. Despite multiple passages returning to Addie’s youth, and her life before she made her Faustian bargain, we get very little insight into WHY she was so desperate to make such a deal, other than the fact she didn’t want to get married and have kids and have that be “all there was to life.” Yes, that’s kind of mundane; but that perspective among an 18th century peasant woman is NOT realistic. How would she have obtained the information and education that led her to believe there were great cities and amazing sites to experience in farflung lands? And without wealth and status, how would she ever plan to go there and do these things? It doesn’t make sense.
Addie has no personality, either — no interests, no pursuits, no motivations for wanting to live forever. The most we’re given is that she appreciates art. Well, that in itself doesn’t justify making a deal with the devil. And once she’s figured out how her curse works, she takes a loooong time to actually start doing anything with it. Mostly she steals food, borrows housing, poses for artists, reads a lot of books. She seems to have no sense of nationalism or concern about the French Revolution, or Germany invading in World War Two; she seems a hollow shell of a person who’s selfish and shallow at best, and at worst more like an android than a passionate, striving human. The last is clearly what the author wants us to believe, but if all the pretty description and intricate dialogue can’t provide actual reasons, than, nope, I don’t buy it.
Maybe I read too much of certain genres, but also I saw the plot twist coming from a MILE away, and therefore it made no impact on me. And I found it to create more complexities for the story, not develop a happy ever after for the protagonist.
In the end, I’ve decided this is my last attempt at V.E. Schwab. I appreciate her popularity, as her writing is immersive and easy to zip through; but if she can’t learn how to actually plot and character, then I won’t be changing my mind anytime soon. Sorry, fans.