Official Synopsis from Goodreads: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ’80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
Written with Reid’s signature talent for creating “complex, likable characters” (Real Simple), this is a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it costs—to face the truth.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Approx 1953-2017 New York City and Hollywood
My Copy Came From: I purchased the paperback from my local bookstore, Copperfield’s.
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Review: Flat out entertaining. I really loved this book! The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid was on the top of many bloggers “Best Of” lists for 2018. Because it was such a popular read among bloggers, I felt that I should give it a try, as it did sound like a read I’d enjoy. An aging star, with what sounds like secrets, a back-and-forth in time plotline, lots of drama, and a love-her-or-hate-her main character, this was a book I was intrigued by. And I’m so glad to say that it didn’t disappoint!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has our title star, Evelyn Hugo, decide to finally reveal the truth behind her seven husbands and her life. Evelyn chooses Monique to write her story, and the story is told as Evelyn is talking to Monique in 2017, and so we get flashbacks to Evelyn’s past, with the more modern sections of Evelyn and Monique intermixed. I liked this way of telling the story. I’m drawn to stories that have the characters looking back on their lives, and Evelyn is such a polarizing character, and she lived a very full life, so there is lots to tell! Evelyn was such a wonderful character to read. She’s very love-her-or-hate-her, and is very manipulative, conniving, and dishonest, but she is oh-so-entertaining to read about. She wasn’t someone that I truly liked or admired, but she was the life of this story and when she’s on the page, you can’t look away. So Taylor Jenkins Reid really nailed the classic screen siren/most beautiful woman/Marilyn Monroe/Scarlet O’Hara vibe.
Evelyn looks at me with a purpose. “Do you understand what I’m telling you? When you’re given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn’t give things, you take things. If you learn one thing from me, it should probably be that.”
Because Evelyn’s star shines so brightly, the other characters don’t quite live up to her in terms of entertainment. Monique, our reporter, is curious and apprehensive why Evelyn has chosen her to write the story, and she’s a perfectly fine character, it’s just by comparison to Evelyn she felt a bit boring.
I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that Evelyn’s great forbidden love was a woman, fellow Hollywood screen star Celia St. James. This is revealed fairly early on in the book. While Evelyn and Celia’s relationship felt like true love, and I could see how they worked well together, I must admit that I couldn’t stand Celia at all. I found her to be whiny, controlling, and boring. Their relationship, and the fact that Evelyn was bisexual, is one of the reasons that she wants her story told. She wants to finally reveal to the world her true self, as she’s hidden it for so long.
People think that intimacy is about sex.
But intimacy is about truth.
When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is “You’re safe with me”—that’s intimacy.
Other characters are the seven men that Evelyn marries, and I found these relationships and marriages fascinating. It has made me look at famous Hollywood marriages a bit differently, wondering if things are really real or just PR moves. My favorite of Evelyn’s husbands was Harry Cameron, Evelyn’s life-long best friend and father of her daughter. I liked their friendship and how they supported each other and were always there for one another.
Can she really tell the truth? Is she capable of it?
I take a seat in the chair next to the sofa. I lean forward, with my notepad in my lap and a pen in my hand. I take out my phone, open the voice memo app, and hit record.
“You sure you’re ready?” I ask her.
Evelyn nods. “Everyone I loved is dead now. There’s no one left to protect. No one left to lie for but me. People have so closely followed the most intricate details of the fake story of my life. But it’s not…I don’t…I want them to know the real story. The real me.”
“All right,” I say. “Show me the real you, then. And I’ll make sure the world understands.”
Along with love, friendship, marriage, and Hollywood, we read about the treatment of women in Hollywood, and how Evelyn and Celia had to hide their relationship. When the big reveal comes of why Evelyn chose Monique to tell her story, I found it to be somewhat lackluster. Although, I keep thinking about it and there’s a lot to discuss here with that plot, and various other plots and characters. So I think this would be a great book club selection! The characters will definitely get you talking, and while there are some romance scenes, for me the book was all about the characters and the magnetizing pull of Evelyn Hugo. Love her or hate her, you can’t deny that she is a fascinating character to read about! I was hooked from the first page and couldn’t put it down.
Bottom Line: Mesmerizing and entertaining!