Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction
From Taylor Jenkins Reid, “a genius when it comes to stories about life and love” (Redbook), comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.
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 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—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.
Written with Reid’s signature talent for “creating complex, likable characters” (Real Simple), this is a fascinating 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 takes—to face the truth.
Can we start by taking a moment of silence to appreciate the beauty of that absolutely stunning cover?! It’s breathtakingly gorgeous and it’s even more so in person. This book was different than what I had expected, I assumed it would be a campy, lighthearted read where an aging movie star detailed her life. It actually had way more depth and heart than that, it explored some substantial themes including sexism, racism and sexuality especially as they were handled in the 50’s and 60’s.
Monique is shocked when her editor informs her that the Evelyn Hugo is doing her first interview in years and has specifically asked for her. In fact, she won’t do it unless Monique is the writer. The why isn’t answered until much later, but the journey there was a captivating experience. What’s more, when they meet for the first time Evelyn tells her she’s actually ready to tell the story of her fascinating and tragic life that no one in the world knows and she wants Monique to write a book. The addition of the mystery as to Evelyn’s true motivations was constantly in the back of my mind, but when it was revealed, I have to admit I was pretty shocked. The clues were all there, I just missed them.
It’s told in sections separated into one for each of Evelyn’s seven husbands. The bulk is told in the past and there are a few scenes in the present, mostly Monique reacting to what Evelyn has just told her. The big question is who was the true love of her life? I found myself so curious about this and was really into the story of her life. The price of fame is high and Evelyn paid dearly.
Evelyn was a highly complex woman, she’s bold, unflinching, fierce, unapologetic and surprisingly tender and vulnerable as well. She was so well crafted that I felt like I was getting the inside scoop on a Hollywood icons life even though she’s fictional. It was so glamorous, scandalous and filled with juicy gossip but it was also emotive and touching, I even cried at one point. It really read like the epic saga of one woman’s life and I enjoyed every mesmerizing page of this book.
Overall rating: 5/5
Thanks to the publisher and Booksparks for my review copy.