I don’t like this book. I love it. The main character is brave, brilliant and ruthless.
Evelyn Hugo has more pizzazz that most real people (me included). How can a life this vibrant be fictional?
As an actress in Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’, she was world-famous. Now in her late seventies, Evelyn’s retired from the big screen.
Still a household name, she’s known for her movie career and her many husbands. The press is desperate for interviews with this elusive former-leading-lady.
When her team says she’ll speak to a journalist (but only one), everyone expects a leader in their field. Instead Evelyn Hugo picks Monique, a talented writer with a stalled career and a rocky marriage.
Why would Hollywood’s living legend choose her? Monique has no idea.
Evelyn says: “I don’t feel regret for the things that I’ve done”. I wish I could say the same. Right now, I’m wishing that I read this book months ago.
Evelyn steals every scene that she’s in, but her interactions with Monique sparkle. She offers the writer a once-in-a-career-opportunity – the chance to create her exclusive, tell-all memoir.
Anyone looking for a technical account of film-making will be disappointed. This is a story about Evelyn’s rise to fame and her seven husbands. But the main focus is a single question: Who was the love of Evelyn’s life? Monique (and the general public) want to find out.
Fact & Fiction
What we’re left with is much more than a fictional memoir. Author, Taylor Jenkins Reid, shows the terrible pressure on LGBTQ movie stars to hide their orientations.
Throughout the book, actors and actresses know that being seen in public with the person they love will destroy their life. Characters have to hide their real relationships.
Evelyn creates a story that will be accepted by society’s prejudices. The daughter of Cuban immigrants to the USA, she alters her back story, dyes her hair blond and changes her name from Herrera to Hugo for a shot at starring roles.
She does whatever she needs to succeed, using her looks and men’s attraction to her.
But Evelyn’s public image isn’t the whole truth. The memoir she gives Monique is her personal narrative and reveals the domestic abuse and discrimination behind Hollywood’s glamour.
In the present, Evelyn is still complex and hardheaded. She pushes Monique to make the most of every situation. Or, in Evelyn’s words: “do yourself a favour and learn how to grab life by the balls, dear”.
She’s determined that the journalist demands a good price for the memoirs, telling her to “make them pay you what they would pay a white man”.
Over the course of the book, Monique develops confidence in her own abilities and even negotiates with Evelyn to reach her own career goals.
It’s the growing respect between the two women that makes this story such a good read. They’ve both experienced tragedies but together they find a level of closure.
I’d love to quote the last line but I won’t. It contains too many spoilers. Let’s just say that Evelyn finally tells the world the name of her greatest love.
Verdict: If, like me, you’ve failed to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo for far too long, do yourself a favour and find a copy today. This fun, gossipy read also raises important social questions.