Year Published : 2017
Genre : General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Old Hollywood, LGBTQ
Edition : Kindle Edition
# of Pages : 388 pages
Time Spent Reading : 6.5 hours (Completed)
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.
I’ve been watching a lot of book reviewers on Youtube for the past eight months or so and around this book’s release it came up constantly, followed by a glowing and universal praise unlike any other newer novel I can think of.
My expectations were pretty enormous going in and I’m glad to say that nearly all aspects of this book are solid. The writing is approachable but smart and consistent throughout. This was not life-changing amounts of greatness that I was expecting given the hype, but hey, I liked Evelyn well enough as a character so I liked hearing her life story. I think people who dislike or don’t connect with her as a character could really struggle to get into it though.
Evelyn Hugo is a (fictional, though amazingly real-seeming) old Hollywood superstar on the level of Marylin Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor. I kind of pictured her as those two combined with Rita Hayworth.
Between the chapters are a bunch of tabloid-style little articles and references to her career that are well-crafted and convincing. We follow her journey from a broke and motherless orphan living in squalor to a life of hard-won superstardom, and finally the lattermost years of her life as she recounts every main event, every relationship, and some shocking secrets to an interviewer.
My main issue is that Evelyn and the interviewer were the two most vivid characters. There are so many characters in this book- between Evelyn’s 7 husbands, relatives and friends, and a few others of import, and none of them feel as sharply realized. Somehow, it all ends up working out though from the sheer force of Evelyn’s personality. Her reactions to these people and how they drove her life forward give the story enough flavor.
There are many great passages and the ending is quite moving. I’m leaving out a massive part of the plot in this spoiler-free review, as I feel like mentioning it is too big of a spoiler. But I’ll just say- there is a central relationship at the heart of Evelyn’s journey that is very touching and adds emotional gravitas to the story. It really made me feel and think about what people in similar situations went through at that period of time, what people are still going through.
Another criticism to touch upon is actually linked to one of the strong points of the book. I like that there is a lack of exhaustive detail about glitz and glamour and richness, and that Evelyn herself has minimal to no interest in such things.
But there were many points where I was left questioning why Evelyn works so hard for her reputation and keeps all the secrets she has. There is a sort of blank spot where there should be an explanation for Evelyn’s motive to climb so high up the social ladder. Her life as an actress and the methods of her craft, or her activities as a fashion icon, these aspects are glossed over in favor of other things.
Overall Rating – 8.5/10
Why You Should Try It – Evelyn is fictional but convincing and likable as a rags-to-riches Old Hollywood icon. There are worthwhile surprises along the way and a focus on interpersonal relationships instead of glitz and glamour. The simple, friendly writing style makes this a good go-between when transitioning from YA to adult fiction. The main storyline- and the reasons for Evelyn doing what she does- are touching.
Critique – The writing style is so direct and inviting but can be too simple. While the lack of glitz and glamour was a good thing for me, it made vague some aspects of Evelyn’s career and motivations.The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel (Amazon Link, Click To Read A Sample)