I’ve been a huge fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid since I read her other novel One True Loves. Just as similarly as I felt about that novel, I feel the same way here.
The story is fantastic covering the imaginary screen legend Evelyn Hugo and her tumultuous love life only to reveal one big truth; not everything you see is real.
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.
Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, 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.
Ok, let’s talk about this. A beautiful bombshell from the 50s and 60s of Hollywood fame finds this one female reporter that she wants to tell her entire life story to. It’s 2017 and Evelyn Hugo is squaring away her affairs to prepare for the inevitable; her death.
Right off the bat, you’re asking yourself a ton of questions. Who is Evelyn Hugo? Why is she asking Monique to write her article about her? What is it about her past that is so illicit that a tell-all book is the only way to say it?
I don’t know if I should spoil it or not, but to give you an idea of what the secret is, let’s just say that it’s something that was completely unaccepted during the 1960s and sort of on its way to full understanding in 2017. People still chastise these humans for being who they are, but they are stronger and more supported than in the past.
And I loved this story. Not only was it exposed and raw, but it felt like this could have easily been the memoir of some other Hollywood starlet. But I think the one thing that truly made this book a joy to read was the constant parade of love spread throughout the whole story.
Even when Evelyn and her friends were faced with some strange circumstances or even when she was the center of the gossip rags, there was always someone there to love her and to be loved and share love. From her fictional life, you can see the years that were wrought with pain and suffering, but no one person suffers the entirety of their life and luckily neither did Evelyn Hugo.
The writing style was also pretty pleasant to read. When Evelyn talked about her life, it was written in the first person. I always find that when you’re reading in the first person it’s like jumping into their brain or a pensieve and seeing for yourself what’s happening.
The story between Monique and Evelyn was written in the third person. Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure where the heck that storyline was supposed to go. What was the point of Monique being there? But as Evelyn Hugo says everything comes in due time. You’ll find out why Monique was asked to interview her and while it was shocking to hear the truth, it wasn’t that bad.
I just think about how people have changed so much these days. There’s so much more self-expression and self-identification. You really learn who you are and if that means that you’re 50 years old and you find out that you’re gay, then yeah that’s real.
People nowadays dig through the roots of their existence and find these hard truths that thirty years ago would have been frowned upon. NO ONE wants to be lynched for being something different. And even though as a society we still have a long way to go towards pure, unadulterated acceptance, you have to admit that we’ve all come a long way from a life that some of us still remember.
And this is what Evelyn Hugo does for us. She makes us realize and understand that there’s a generation born in the wrong generation. There are people still deeply hidden in the closet. People afraid to walk down the wrong street at the wrong time. And one day we’ll all be free to tell our story the way Evelyn Hugo did without frustration or malice or regret.
When those people are ready to tell those stories, I’ll definitely be one of the ones listening.