I hate Evelyn, but I think I like her very much
Wow, I’ve literally just finished this book but I can already tell that it’s one that’s going to stay with me for a while. It doesn’t make for the most comfortable of reads. Much like main protagonist Evelyn Hugo it’s brutally honest, unapologetic and morally grey but it’s also incredibly powerful, moving and compelling. It may have started out a little slow and I wasn’t sure it would live up to expectations but by the end I was an emotional wreck.
Reclusive Hollywood 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 to write her story, no one is more astounded than Monique herself.
Determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career, Monique listens in fascination. 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. But as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
Written with Reid’s signature talent for creating “complex, likeable characters” (Real Simple), this is a mesmerizing journey through the splendour of Old Hollywood into the sobering realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means – and what it costs – to face the truth.
It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly
This is the story of a life, Hollywood screen legend Evelyn Hugo’s life (and loves) to be exact. She may be getting older and has been out of the public eye for some time but she has that special something that draws everyone to her. When Monique Grant, a relatively unknown magazine reporter, is invited to interview the elusive star no one knows why but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for her to find out the truth behind the scandals and the press stories, to discover the reasons why her marriages didn’t last and who the real love of Evelyn’s life was.
As Evelyn tells her story to Monique it becomes clear that she has picked Monique for a reason, that there is some connection between them. As Monique hears Evelyn’s story and discovers a shocking truth it makes her reevaluate her own life and beliefs.
I have to admit I found Evelyn’s story fascinating. It begins in the 1950’s when she’s in her teens, living in Hells Kitchen and follows her to the glamour of early Hollywood where, through sheer force of will and perseverance, she gets her big break in the movies. She trades on her looks and transforms herself into the person she needs to be to become someone in a world that doesn’t want her. She learns to play the game, she falls in love, discovers others aren’t always who they seem, has her heart broken, loses everything that matters and wins it back. It’s a truly compelling story of a wonderfully complex character.
From reading other reviews it does seem like a lot of people really don’t like Evelyn but I have to confess I admired her. Yes, she’s selfish and ruthless and does the wrong thing a lot of the time but she owns her actions which is something I love. She doesn’t apologize for them and she doesn’t regret them. She knows exactly who she is and what she’s willing to do.
So if we’re going by the metric that all’s well that end’s well, then I guess it’s safe to say that I’m not sorry.
When I was starting this book I did wonder if seven husbands was a bit much, if it would be too many characters and relationships for me to become invested in any particular one, or if I would even remember each husband but they’re so well crafted that they can’t help but be memorable and every one of them brought something to the story.
I will say that Harry Cameron, husband five and Evelyn’s best friend, was far and away my favourite. He’s not without his own demons but the relationship between them is truly something to be envied even if it isn’t necessarily romantic love. The others are a bit of a mixed bag. A couple seem like they could be the real thing, some of which become disappointments, there are marriages of convenience (usually Evelyn’s convenience) and there are unexpected true partnerships which redefine what love and family really means.
Interspersed among these stories of Evelyn is Monique in the present day. She isn’t necessarily the strongest character, she’s trying to get over the break up of her own marriage and lacking confidence, but she really grows throughout the story as she learns from Evelyn. So much so that by the end I was cheering her on and completely heartbroken when she finds out the truth about why Evelyn picked her to write her story.
I am so glad that I picked up this book. It isn’t my usual type of read but the writing is truly wonderful (I’ve highlighted a lot) and it has some very powerful messages throughout while remaining a compelling story. This was my first book by Reid but it definitely won’t be my last.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book. This has in no way influenced my review.