Bi-racial journalist Monique Grant, mid-thirties, and newly separated, works for a magazine but in a stalled way. Her big break comes when an ageing screen icon requests Monique as the writer to whom she will speak. Evelyn Hugo is famous for having had seven husbands as well as her screen work, and sex goddess persona.
Evelyn’s life is certainly interesting. Raised poor in Hell’s Kitchen, daughter of Cubans, with a mother dead by the time Evelyn was eleven, her success in Hollywood is down to her own determination. Naturally, it isn’t easy, and Evelyn has many insightful things to say about women with drive, and the accommodations they make in dealing with male power. Very topical. It’s also about homosexuality, and the lengths to which people had to go to prevent their lives becoming totally unzipped. Saddening, now that we’re in a more tolerant age. To say Evelyn is tough is an understatement.
The chapters alternate between Evelyn’s memories and Monique’s response to her subject in the present day. There are also short media pieces from back when, recording the gossip magazine view of the stars. It’s still all about the image created.
By the end, Monique is quite conflicted about what she thinks of Evelyn, which increases dramatically when Evelyn drops a bombshell re Monique’s father. In fact, this is probably the book’s greatest strength. We’re not allowed to view things in black and white. The book turns full circle when we discover the relevance of Monique’s early success with a piece on euthanasia. Evelyn read it and liked it. This thoughtful book raises many issues to do with female power, morality, drive, intimacy and love. Excellent read.