Three hundred years ago, Addie made a deal with a devil: her freedom to live life as she chooses in exchange for her soul when she’s ready to die. She didn’t realize the catch – loosening her ties for total freedom means that she can leave no mark. No one remembers her. No one knows her name. And then one day, someone does.
Let me start by saying that this book is worth every bit of the hype. I put it off, worried that I’d be the one person who wouldn’t like it. Nope. I savored every page over the ten days that I languidly read it, and I wish I’d spread out the last hundred pages or so for longer as I read them way too fast. There was so much good here. The writing was exquisite and immersive. The characterization was awesome, with people who were flawed and not always good but also lovable. The ending was perfect, in a really tricky situation. This will definitely end up being in my top books of the year.
There were a few things that struck me. First, while the books are very different, I saw a lot of parallels between Addie and The Night Circus. There is a certain dreamlike quality to both books, weaving in and out of time and history. There’s even a scene where Addie and Henry walk through an interactive art exhibit** that reminded me of the tent-mazes in the Circus. It’s not just that, though. On a personal level, both books were ones that reminded me of the joy involved in writing and creation. I read both while taking a break from writing, and both made me want to start again. They’re inspiring and beautiful and spoke directly to my core.
Second. There’s a particular scene where Henry takes Addie to the whisper gallery in Grand Central Station (for those who don’t know: you can whisper at the wall in one corner and have it sound perfectly audible on the other side of the room). He’s taking her to a spot she’s never known or experienced, something new in her 300+ years. It annoyed me at first, because how could she have missed this? I mean, this is a famous thing. It is literally mentioned on Wikipedia and on the Grand Central website as a thing to see there. My sister took me there on my first ever trip to NYC. So in all the many years Addie has been exploring the city, how did she not know? But then I had a realization: If someone had wanted to take her to this whisper gallery, they would forget her before they reached the other side of the room and began to talk via the audio arch. Yeah, it’s not particularly realistic that she wouldn’t have heard of this place, but it’s almost certain she never could have experienced it. So even though the scene stretched believability, I appreciated it all the same.
Last, because I don’t want to drone on too long about this book: the ending was incredible. The relationship between Addie and the “darkness” (the devil she made her deal with) is complex and interesting. I really worried about the different directions it might go. Without going into anything spoilery, the resolution between them was just as complex and interesting as the rest of their history. I cheered for Addie’s ingenuity, and while I mourned some of what was lost, I loved the perspective of time from the viewpoint of someone who has navigated three centuries of experience. It was just perfect.
I can see myself reading this book many times. Definitely need to check out an audio version to see if that will be equally brilliant. I love love love when I can add books like this one to my collection, and I’m so happy that I didn’t let the hype deter me!
**In the week since I finished this book, I discovered that there’s an interactive art installation here in SA that is very similar to the one in this book. I definitely need to go there when this whole covid thing is under control!