Publication information: June 17th, 2017 by Atria Books
Description (from Goodreads):
Ageing and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.
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.
Two sentence review: Stupid Milka, you should have just believed the hype on this one! The fact that Evelyn Hugo is not a real person is astounding – she comes alive on the pages of the book is such a way that you cannot stop yourself from caring about her, despite her mistakes.
For me, Evelyn Hugo is such a perfectly written, realistically flawed character. Yes, she is a glamorous movie star with a lot of stories to tell, but underneath all that glitz and glam is a woman trying her best to simultaneously protect those she love and climb up the ladder in Hollywood. Unfortunately in a world morbidly curious about the lives of celebrities doing both of those things simultaneously is not as easy as it might first seem, as Evelyn learns that despite all her money and beauty there are just some things that the society of the time would not find acceptable.
I went into this book expecting a certain kind of love story and got something completely different. Something I did not even know that I needed. What is considered “acceptable” and “forbidden” in the world about which Evelyn tells Monique, a journalist she scouts to write her biography, blurs and while Taylor Jenkins Reid introduces us to the mores of the time of Evelyn’s youth, the way she writes about Evelyn’s so-called forbidden love is done in a way that it is easy for you to be on Evelyn’s side, to feel sad that she was in the limelight in a society that could not embrace Evelyn as she truly was, not just the bombshell Evelyn that men obsessed over and women were jealous of.
While Evelyn and her life are the highlight of this book, reading about Monique and the growth of her confidence as she spends more time with Evelyn was also extremely interesting and rewarding and as the story goes on, Evelyn and Monique’s lives start to intertwine in unexpected ways. Taylor Jenkins Reid uses hindsight in interesting ways, allowing Evelyn of the present day to reflect on her past and some of the more questionable decisions she had made. What was extremely memorable for me, though, was the fact that while Evelyn has made mistakes, she never really wallows in how things could have been. Rather, she admits the missteps and proudly accepts the ways in which her life has unfurled – there have been highest of highs and lowest of lows. But I guess that is what live is to everyone, whether you are a movie star or not.
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