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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?
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.Amazon
This is my book review for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I intend to use the ***ASPECT method for my discussion and will not spoil the ending.
Welcome to Week 2 of my “ 7 Somethings of Evelyn Something”
Why THIS Book?
Well, I read the other “& Somethings of Evelyn Something” last week, and so it was time for this one!
This is a Hollywood/New York book! Yes, it is a young writer blogger in the big apple working for a magazine and wanting her big break…. But thankfully the New York bits are only there to give us a sort of setting, not atmosphere. Most of the book is in Hollywood which makes sense as it is about a movie star. The atmosphere is the most uninteresting aspect of this book… which doesn’t mean that the Hollywood bits are not interesting or believable, just that the plot is far more engrossing than any other part. More on that in a second.
The writing style switches between two voices as most of the book is a memoir in the first-person and the rest is the framing device of the first-person narration of Monique, our writer. There are also news clippings interjected throughout. On paper this narration style (or blending) might not work… and I have seen it not work so great in other novels) but Reid pulls it off here. There is never a moment of confusion as to who is talking or whose story we are in. Again though, there is nothing super special about the style. This is a novel that works because of the plot and characters.
Plot and Characters
The story is interesting. That sounds lackluster, but it is the simple truth. We are given to know early on that this famous film star has had seven husbands and so, of course, we want to know why and what happened to them. As the story deepens, (around chapter 18) we find out that there is another relationship that is actually super important, and watching that one unfold is a treat. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, we get a third little side plot that is basically two prongs about the writer’s life, and (surprise) it connects to the main plot seamlessly but still surprisingly.
I don’t spoil in my reviews so I can’t give details but I can tell you that all of the tendrils were interesting.
And it was all plot and Evelyn herself that kept me reading. This is a very, very, well plotted book with almost a formulaic trajectory and breadcrumbs laid in in chapter one that tied in flawlessly in the final chapter.
Again, it reads in many parts like a memoir which can be tricky to pull off. With many memoirs, we might start to wonder, “What makes you so special? Why should I care that you got divorced and went to India to find yourself?” Perhaps because it is a work of fiction, we never have to puzzle in this way because Evelyn is set up to be fascinating and therefore her memoir will be fascinating… and then we throw in the aspect that she is going to tell the behind the scenes “real” story of her life that the public doesn’t know… that is just icing on the cake.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I enjoyed the story. A lot. One aspect in particular really worked for me… and there is a conversation that I found so important and affirming that I have read it out loud to at least three people. But… I keep my reviews spoiler-free so I will resist the temptation. But.. umm.. It is on page 123 and the paragraph starts off “Haven’t you been listening…” It is representation, it is awesome, and it almost made me cry.
Here is a caveat for you: I don’t know a lot about “classic Hollywood.” Despite the fact that I do a boo/movie podcast, my exposure to “classic” cinema is pretty pedestrian. Actually, my exposure to film, in general, is more limited than I would like it to be… but that is what happens when you grow up without TV and when movies were only for Special Occasions. I am also not a “golden age of Hollywood” nerd like some of you out there. So… if Evelyn and all her film star contemporaries of the 60s are supposed to be stand-ins or homages to real-world movie stars… I lack the knowledge or cultural awareness to know or recognize them. To me, that is an added bonus. I don’t feel like I am missing out because I have only seen maybe 3 films from before 1970. If you can make those connections (if they are there to be made), then hooray for you. But if you are like me, have no fear. This book is 100% enjoyable with zero background Hollywood knowledge.
Would I recommend it?
Yup! As I said above, it is extremely well written and well plotted… and that means that the pace is perfect. It moves along quickly and you never feel like reading it is a burden. There is something here for most readers: romance, counter-culture, glamour, self-empowerment, tragedy, life lessons, and an ending that is bittersweet but perfect.
This is my 31st book review this year and while this book might not be in my top 3 of the year… it would definitely be in the top 10.
*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)
A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.
S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?
P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?
E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?
C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?
T This? Why did I read *This* book?