Saturday, May 12, 2018

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 401
Format: E-book
Published: June, 2017
Price: $11.9 -> Rp166.273 (Amazon)
Rating: 4½ / 5 stars

Date started: April 23, 2018 - Date finished: April 24, 2018

From Taylor Jenkins Reid, “a genius when it comes to stories about life and love” (Redbook), comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

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 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 a 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.

Written with Reid’s signature talent for “creating complex, likable characters” (Real Simple), this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.
Evelyn Hugo is an actress that started her career in the 1950s and was very popular until the late 1980s. She starred in several movies and went on to be nominated and eventually won an Oscar. She's essentially like on par with Marilyn Monroe mixed with either Joan Crawford or Bette Davis. When people call her, they refer to her with her full name. Besides her career, the other thing that's interesting about Evelyn is the fact that during those years she's been married seven times with seven different husbands.

Fast forward to present day and to another character, we have Monique Grant, who just started working as a journalist for a big magazine. One day, she was called into her boss's office saying that Evelyn Hugo, asked for Monique personally to interview her and she doesn't want any other journalist besides her. This was baffling because Monique is not that popular of a writer except for a piece she did before her gig with the magazine, but even though the request was unusual, Monique's boss couldn't pass up an opportunity to interview the Evelyn Hugo.

When Monique arrived to interview Evelyn, little did she know that Evelyn doesn't want to do an interview for the magazine, instead she offered Monique the chance of a lifetime, which is to write Evelyn's biography, a tell-all-no-holds-barred account of her life as a famous actress and the wife of seven different husbands. Monique was still confused as to why Evelyn wants her and only her to write this book, but on the other hand she would be stupid to pass up this opportunity.
"You and I will meet over the next however many days it takes, and I will tell you absolutely everything. And then our relationship will be over, and you will be free–or perhaps should I say bound–to write it into a book and sell it to the highest bidder. And I do mean highest. I insist that you be ruthless in your negotiating, Monique. Make them pay you what they would pay a white man. And then, once you've done that, every penny from it will be yours."
This was the very definition of an unputdownable book. I started this book at midnight and several hours later I was halfway through it, I would've powered through it but decided not to because I needed some sleep to prepare for an interview in the afternoon and during that interview all I kept thinking was that I couldn't wait to get home and finish this book. This book flows so seamlessly between past and present. The author really created this VERY interesting life for Evelyn. I loved how the chapters were written out to correspond with the people Evelyn married, so each chapter we follow Evelyn's life when from the start of her career to when she decided to stop acting.
Maybe I'm overthinking that photo, but I'm starting to notice a pattern: Evelyn always leaves you hoping you'll get just a little bit more. And she always denies you.
So many important topics were discussed here, most importantly about impact of fame, what people will do for it, love, domestic abuse, racism, death and dealing with grief and how people view sexuality in the 1950s-80s. I can't speak for the accurateness of those discussed topics but I personally felt I learned a few things from this book.
This is something that everyone should know about stars. We like to be told we are adored, and we want you to repeat yourself. Later in life, people would always come up to me and say, "I'm sure you don't want to hear me blabbering on about how great you are," and I always say as if I'm joking, "Oh, one more time won't hurt." But the truth is, praise is just an addiction. The more of it you need just to stay even.
"When you're given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn't give things, you take things. If you learn one thing from me it should be that."
My only problem with this book is that we didn't get to know more of Monique. I feel like the author could've made a little bit more of an effort into her characterization because Evelyn definitely stole the spotlight from her in this book. To me, Monique only purpose in this book was to listen to Evelyn's stories and react to them. Evelyn is just one of those characters that's fleshed out so well that you need to step back and realize that she's not actually a real person. I also really liked that as a main character, Evelyn is of Cuban heritage and Monique is biracial.
People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is "You're safe with me"–that's intimacy.
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.
I bet you're wondering why I didn't give this book a 5 star rating because this review is full of praises for this book. Well, to answer your question, I had to duck down half a star because of Monique's characterization and how I wanted so much more out of her. No doubt, one of my favourites of this year and I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone. Just read it, period.

That's all for now!


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