What’s it all about?:
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 in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
What did I think?:
I don’t think I’ve heard a bad word said about this novel. So when my lovely blogger friend Janel who blogs over at Keeper Of Pages, suggested that we choose it for our July buddy read, I jumped at the chance. My only hesitation was that I’ve heard Evelyn Hugo reads as if it were “chick-lit.” I’m not the biggest fan of that genre, particularly if it involves romance so I think that’s why I wavered a little bit before picking it up. Well, I needn’t have worried because this is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year and is definitely one I’ll be pushing into the hands of everyone who hasn’t read it yet. (You’re next, Chrissi Reads!). I’m not even sure if I can do justice to how wonderful this novel is in a short sum up but believe me, this book is totally worth your time. It’s a touching, raw and honest account of a Hollywood icon who is telling her story to reporter Monique, particularly of her seven husbands and, more specifically, revealing who was her greatest love.
Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo.
I don’t want to go into any more detail about the synopsis, the above extract from Goodreads does it kind of perfectly but I just want to re-iterate that I wasn’t prepared for how this book was going to make me feel. This is why I thank all the deities for buddy reads as if I hadn’t had anyone to discuss moments of this book with, I think I might have gone slightly mad. I was also delighted that Janel was just as invested and excited about the story as I was and as with all our other collaborations, we had a fantastic reading experience together once more. As for the narrative itself, I believe I became hooked incredibly quickly, curious about Evelyn’s story immediately and desperate to understand why she was choosing to reveal all of her secrets at that moment in her life and to that particular person (Monique).
I think we’re all aware of the fickle, occasionally dangerous side of Hollywood, particularly when you become an icon, similar to what our lead, Evelyn Hugo experiences but I certainly wasn’t expecting the beautiful way in which Taylor Jenkins Reid illustrated the dark side of the industry and how it can change/affect a person’s mindset. We’d all like to believe that it’s changed for the better in contemporary times but of course that’s not true, prejudice, sexism and bigotry are still rife – we just need to look at the recent scandals and disgusting behaviour of a certain director to have evidence of that! Back when Evelyn was a younger actress just starting out in the business though, things were demonstrably worse. She was even compelled to mask her true Cuban heritage by dying her hair blonde and portraying the image of a Marilyn Monroe-esque sex siren to get ahead in her chosen career.
What makes Evelyn such a fascinating character to read about? Yes, it’s the struggles she had to go through to get to the top and the sacrifices she made in her personal life to get there and, as I’ve mentioned, it’s a brilliant portrayal of Hollywood ideals at its ugliest. However, the most compelling thing for me about Hugo was the mistakes she made, the flaws in her character, her good heart underneath a steely, determined exterior and the dignity she maintains throughout despite intense suffering in her life. She felt so genuine and normal and of course, as she begins to reveal her secrets, the reader becomes more intrigued and fully immersed in her life. By the end of this novel, I felt like I knew Evelyn on such an intimate level, almost as if she was a real person and Janel and I both discussed how we felt as if we could google her life story on the web and there she’d be. I’m now hugely excited to read something else by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Evelyn Hugo stole my heart, broke it a little bit and made me long for more.
Thank you once again to Janel for an amazing buddy reading experience. Check out her fantastic review HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
Past buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages (we’re so good at this that we’ve given everything that we’ve read together so far FIVE STARS!)