Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
A Feminist in the Medieval Age – Addie LaRue
“Adeline has decided she would rather be a tree, like Estele. If she must grow roots, she would rather be left to flourish wild instead of pruned, would rather stand alone, allowed to grow beneath the open sky.”
The quaint, peaceful, French village of the eighteenth century is captivatingly written by V. E. Schwab, setting up an intriguing premise, but what really drew me into The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is its protagonist, Addie LaRue. A strong-willed, independent young woman, Addie, is forced into an arranged marriage with a man she hardly cares about. I feel deeply sympathetic for her situation, and I admire her determination to preserve her freedom. In modern terms, she can be described as a feminist in the medieval age. Her fear of being trapped by a life of domesticity, housekeeping, raising children, looking after her husband, is sure to resonate with countless women today.
The idea of marriage as a woman’s duty is reflected in her parents’ nonchalance towards her objections. Raised in a patriarchal society, Addie’s concerns are understandable as she notices her childhood friend, Isabelle’s marriage life. Isabelle’s days are filled with “feminine” tasks such as bearing children and doing housework, which has exhausted Isabelle and drained away her energy. Women are treated as if they have no personal agenda, no aspirations, no ambitions, reinforcing society’s egregious view that providing education to women isn’t worthwhile. With no formal education, women don’t have the specialized skills or experience to succeed in areas of expertise, further reinforcing this vicious cycle and confining them to their homes. How are these patriarchal views established over time? Why do people generally believe that women make better mothers and housekeepers? Do people believe that women are better mothers because they are innately good at domestic work, or rather, do societal views shape them into better housekeepers?
Strengths and Weaknesses
“Do you think a life has any value if one doesn’t leave some mark upon the world?”
The writing style of V. E. Schwab is extremely immersive and flows beautifully, giving me a sense that I am watching an Art film through the lens of words. The dream-like quality of the prose makes Addie’s life even more tragic than it already is and pulls the reader deeper into the grasp of her story. After the initial feeling of excitement at discovering something that felt like a fresh break from epic fantasy novels, I started to notice the repetitiveness as the story progresses and the lack of depth in the side characters. The main gist of Addie’s story goes like this: she meets a person that she’s attracted to, becomes infatuated, spends the day (or night) with them, then wakes up to find that the person has completely forgotten about her. Her story repeats itself over the centuries as she attempts to find the meaning of life. If the side characters were interesting and well-developed, with their own interests and motivations, the repetitiveness of the plot wouldn’t have mattered. However, each of the side characters feels largely the same, with most of them being artists and musicians. After putting down this book for a while, I couldn’t recall the names of some of these characters due to their lack of defining personality traits and motivations. I couldn’t even distinguish them from each other if I rely only on their personalities. One of the main things that I do remember about them is that they can all see a certain quality within Addie that causes them to feel besotted with her, consequently creating pieces of artwork inspired by Addie, but even the qualities that Addie possesses felt superficial. In the novel, the artist, Samantha Bennings, creates a painting of the night sky and claims that she is inspired by Addie’s seven freckles. Her freckles are just a physical trait that has absolutely no relation to her inner character. In my experience, fictional characters that leave a strong impression on readers’ minds are multi-dimensional with strengths and weaknesses, backstory, goals and personalities. Good character development goes beyond external attributes (i.e. Addie’s seven freckles). When readers relate to the protagonist’s thoughts and motivations, the story will stand out and the character will linger on readers’ minds after they have finished reading. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue unfortunately lacks solid character development which greatly affected the enjoyment of this novel.