Today I am marking off my thirtieth #30th checkpoint category for the POPSUGAR READING CHALLENGE 2020 with:
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.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid was first published in 2017. It has taken me some time to get to this book despite the praise I have seen attached to this novel. The endorsements this book has received are correct, I absolutely loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. A tale of old Hollywood, which is filled with moments of pure glamour, ultimate ambition, fierce drive, lasting friendships, true love and forbidden desires defines this dual timeline showpiece.
Evelyn Hugo was once the toast of Hollywood. However, this ageing starlet finds that she is now nearing the end of her life. Evelyn selects a relatively unknown magazine journalist named Monique Grant to work on her lucrative life story, an exposé that many other hungry writers have petitioned for. Monique wonders why this Hollywood powerhouse has selected her to pen her memoirs. Monique is a woman struggling with her current position, she is reeling from her recent separation from her estranged husband and her career is faltering. Monique knows that she has been handed the opportunity of a lifetime, but she lacks the confidence to truly commit to this assignment. However, Monique is soon lured in by the starlet’s life tale. From her humble beginnings in Hell’s Kitchen, to her first tentative steps in Hollywood and eventually each of Hugo’s seven marriages are revealed, with surprising truths. What remains clear is that with great fame comes sacrifice and ruthless ambition if you want to remain at the top. The most shocking of Evelyn Hugo’s past secrets is exposed, implicating Monique in a strange twist of fate.
Since I first set eyes on the stunning, graceful and eye catching cover of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2017 release, I have wanted to make the time to read this dual timeline novel. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo did not disappoint, in fact it dazzled me much more than I expected it to. I opted to listen to this one on audio format and I confess to taking an extra drive or walk just so I could continue following this story. It really is surprising, shocking, engrossing and addictive. If you are a fan of old Hollywood, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo will draw immediate appeal.
I loved how this novel was structured. Moving from present day New York, back to Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s predominately, it was very easy to get caught up in Hugo’s amazing life. Taylor Jenkins Reid does an excellent job of re-imaging Evelyn’s early life in Hell’s Kitchen and then to Hollywood, along with a number of other key locations. The author also does a fine job of illuminating her modern setting base, where Reid exposes the cutthroat world of magazine publishing and journalism. However, it was the recreation of Hollywood in times past that spoke to me the most. I revelled in the glitz and glamour of this era. I also found I was utterly intrigued by the underhanded decisions made by Hollywood executives that were made for business reasons only, not for the benefit of the stars themselves, which was quite sad reality.
Evelyn herself is an unforgettable lead. Evelyn is a character who will make you feel plenty of emotions from empathy, regret, sadness, laughter, admiration, ire and frustration. Evelyn Hugo is undoubtedly a larger than life character. Evelyn dominates this tale completely, she looms over all proceedings of this novel, leaving little room for her modern day counterpart, Monique. I didn’t take much of a liking to Monique, she was quite curt and whiny at times. However, I did see how pertinent Monique’s character was to the overall journey of this book. I also speculated as to why Monique was selected by Evelyn as the figure to compose her memoirs. When this component of the book was revealed the link really surprised me. It was carefully threaded into the novel by the author.
The aspect that drove me to listen to page after page of Evelyn’s story was not only the Hollywood aspect, but I speculated along with Monique who the great love of Evelyn’s life truly was, if there was one! As a young girl I was fascinated by Elizabeth Taylor and her many husbands so The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was the closest I have come to a tale of this nature, despite it being a fictionalised account of a Hollywood star’s life. As relationship after relationship, husband after husband is revealed by Evelyn, I soon got swept up in the emotion, love, lust desire, passion and ambition of it all. Each husband is characterised well by Taylor Jenkins Reid which truly makes this novel an immersive experience. There were moments of crushing lows and big highs. This novel also gives the reader an excellent back row view of the film and screen industry. Interspersed within the narrative are highlights from gossip columns which add further insight and speculation into the world of a screen star. Regret and the tyranny of choices reign supreme in this novel and it all builds towards an explosive end. I was taken aback with the final turn of events, but it seemed align with the notorious life of this screen siren.
All in all, I cannot recommend The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo enough. Taylor Jenkins Reid allows the reader to travel back in time, to a world of classic glamour, glitz, desire, success, sophistication, all thanks to a charismatic lead narrator, who leaves surprise after surprise until the bitter end of this enchanting novel.
***** 5 stars
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid was published on 1st September 2017 by Simon and Schuster. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid, visit here.