This book was incredible!
“Aging 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 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.”
I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into this book and I was a bit apprehensive since everyone loves it and it is such a hyped up book. And if I’m being honest, a part of me didn’t want to love this book as much as everyone else does because loving a book is such a personal and special thing, so I didn’t want my love for this book to be the same as everyone else’s love for this book – but I ended up loving it anyway!
Because I didn’t know what to expect, I was so pleasantly surprised at how many important topics and issues were discussed and explored in this book. Just to name a few, there was domestic abuse, infidelity, social pressures, identity in every single aspect – from identity in the LGBTQI+ community to racial and ethnic identity and just generally finding yourself and who you are. Additionally, there are less heavy issues explored, such as family relationships which I thought was very well done. Particularly, surrounding Monique’s family and when Evelyn is talking about helping her daughter through a really tough time. This part actually made me tear up a little bit as I am someone who really cherishes my relationship to my mum.
What really makes this book phenomenal is the characters. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s character development is amazing! She makes you fall in love with her characters immediately and you get to know them so well in so few pages. For example, on page 146 Monique says that she needs to “Evelyn Hugo” Evelyn Hugo and you know exactly what she means. Not even halfway through the book yet and you understand that Hugo’s ambition, determination, stubborn nature, and charm make her such an iconic character. And because you understand what Monique is saying, it in turn makes you more connecter with her too! I know everyone says this but the characters really do feel like real people and you forget that they are fictional. This is largely due to the fact that the author quite clearly gives the characters notable flaws and weaknesses. At one point in the book, Evelyn Hugo herself recognises that she probably hasn’t been a nice person. These flaws are what really help readers relate and connect to the characters because they can see some part of themselves in them. And honestly, this is quite refreshing. Often times, authors try and force characters into a fictional stereotype which you just wouldn’t see in society.
I think it is quite obvious that I would give this book 5 stars. However, as I was reading it, I was actually thinking this was going to be more of a 4 star read for me because although I was really enjoying it and I was loving the characters, there was a part of me that felt like I couldn’t really connect. And I think that is because this book talks a lot about being part of the LGBTQI+ community and the confusion that can often come with that, as well as discussing the effect of racial and ethnic identity in the 50s through to the present day. I personally do not identify as part of the LGBTQI+ community and I am not a part of an ethnic minority, so I couldn’t relate to some of the things the characters were going through (which I clearly recognise is due to my privilege). However, the ending of this book really solidified how amazing Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing is and this potentially has the best last line ever! This also reminded me that although relating and connecting to the story is great, you don’t need to for it to be a great book or for you to really enjoy it!