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- Published on Amazon.com
I'll readily admit that, in addition to its gorgeous cover, tantalizing description, and rave reviews from critics and audiences alike, I purchased The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, under the pretense that it would be a deliciously dark and soapy all-access pass into Hollywood's underworld. I'd even created a Netgalley account for the sole purpose of requesting this book, even when I knew I was going to purchase it. Why? Because it isn't often that you find a book that you feel was written for you and others like you in mind. The kind of book that you reread like it's your first time. The kind of book you put on a pedestal and treat like a prized possession. And having finished reading the fictional account of Hollywood icon, Evelyn Hugo (and my first - and certainly not my last - Taylor Jenkins Reid novel), I'm glad my intuition was correct and I'm privileged to say this is my favorite book...ever.
To compile a 388 page novel into a short synopsis: Thirty-five year old ((view spoiler)) Monique Grant, a biracial, low-level journalist for New York's leading lifestyle magazine, Vivant, has been sought out for an exclusive interview with aging Hollywood actress, sex symbol, and philanthropist, Evelyn Hugo, by Evelyn herself. Monique is led to believe it has something to do with the charity fundraiser/gown auction Christie's is hosting. Monique views the interview as the opportunity of a lifetime and one that'll propel her career to the next level. But she soon learns Evelyn used the "interview" as a cover up so she wouldn't have to explain why she specifically requested Monique: to have Monique write a tell-all about Evelyn's life--including the seven husbands she's famous for marrying--and sell it to the highest bidder, with the understanding Monique could become a millionaire if she negotiates the perfect deal. In addition to that, the lives of both women intersect in unimaginable and shocking ways and Evelyn reveals why she requested Monique from the beginning. But it's not just that though. Monique finds herself comparing her life to Evelyn, often questioning "What would Evelyn do?", and it's to a degree where her own life parallels Evelyn and both of their perspectives are told in first person.
So, Evelyn's story begins and her stats are nothing short of impressive. Ranging from her humble beginnings in Hell's Kitchen in 1949 to her retirement from showbiz in 1989, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo spans 40 years of Evelyn's formative years as a woman, 34 years of her career on the silver screen, 13 films (those mentioned in the book, anyway), 4 Oscar nominations, 1 Oscar win, 7 husbands (and the reasons why she married them), and 1 child, and the 1 true love of her life.
-Evelyn's personality. She's candid, wise, and resolute. It's refreshing to see a celebrity so honest, even if she is fictional. It's hard to forget Evelyn and contrary to other reviews I've read, she's hardly unlikable. Especially as her story unfolds.
- How this book is part romance and part historical fiction. TJR seamlessly weaves the two subgenres together and while, in retrospect, they weren't supposed to work, they do.
- The amount of research gone into this book. It's clear that either TJR knows someone who works in Hollywood or she's done her homework. From references of actual historical events to the fashions of the 1950s and 60s to the names of films and the roles Evelyn have played, everything is so vivid and reflects a particular era in the book. I always like when a book teaches me something.
- TJR's writing. It's pristine and original. She brings Evelyn to life and makes her feel so real. I'm honestly upset I wasn't able to research this woman's life, binge watch her films, watch her interviews with talk show hosts, or collect posters of her. I didn't feel like I was reading about Monique interviewing Evelyn. I felt like I was conducting the interview, reveling in this woman's beauty and inadvertent charm.
- Evelyn's "curtain call" with Monique. I was left breathless. I wept. That's how perfect it was.
- At times, when the story focused on Celia's character, Evelyn felt like she was a supporting character rather than the protagonist. The lines were blurred because it felt like Evelyn and Celia's story as opposed to just Evelyn's.
- Certain parts of the story dragged too long. Granted, they were essential to the plot and Evelyn's character development but those parts bored me. A firmer editorial hand could've redacted 20-30 pages for a sleeker tale with snappy dialogue.
- Evelyn's rocky road to success. Yes, I loved her story but I wanted her to win more than she lost. I wanted her to be married less and the mother of at least one more child (I was thinking a son, who lived a normal life with a respectable profession and a family in California, who checked up on his mother every once in a full moon).
-Her retirement. Evelyn retreated into solace without going out with a bang. Another blockbuster film with more details about the filming process would've been an insightful entrance, maybe even another Oscar win. Anything worthy, instead of the filler stuff.
Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is this summer's must-read. It's not always glitzy or glamorous as we're lead to believe, but it's insightful, intriguing, suspenseful, and sexy in every way. And in some ways, it's even nostalgic for those of us who've always dreamt of what Hollywood is like and of being a star in Hollywood. Finishing this book, you'll want to watch classic films and research the person Evelyn Hugo resembles the most (IMO, she's a striking combination of Sophia Loren and Raquel Welch. I don't know why others are saying Marilyn Monroe. Outside of the blonde hair, big boobs, and sex appeal I don't see it. And she's only Elizabeth Taylor because she's been married to seven different men. Celia would be Audrey Hepburn, for sure). It doesn't matter though, because Evelyn Hugo is certainly unforgettable. I don't regret purchasing this book at all and like I said, it's my favorite book...ever.