You would think at first glance of the cover, that this book is going to be a dull story listing the seven husbands and why the marriages failed. It’s not! It is so much more than that and focuses on the compelling character of Evelyn Hugo, Hollywood movie icon.
The book centres around Evelyn’s interview with magazine reporter, ‘Monique’ at Eveylyn’s home. Evelyn announces she wants to give her a ‘tell all’ biography but that it can only be written by Monique. It is a life-changing opportunity that could make Monique millions. Evelyn tells her story from 1st POV and it expertly unfolds throughout the book; you won’t be disappointed!
Evelyn is such an intriguing character. I liken her to ‘Evita’, coming from a poverty-stricken background and hardening to the world as she climbs the ladder of success. She develops a no-nonsense and somewhat harsh attitude with her determination to make it big, but she has a softer side too; when she loves someone, she truly loves them.
“People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth.”
The true love story in this book is almost a side story to the husbands that Evelyn marries, although she does fall in love with one or two of them!
One of the main characters is Harry, the loveable friend who is homosexual, and like a brother to Evelyn. Harry is with her from the beginning and helps her onto the ladder, seeing the talent she possesses. But he’s so much more than her agent, he sees the real Evelyn and understands her. They form a unique bond and he is my second favourite character in the book.
Then there is Celia, a celebrity in the same world as Evelyn’s who happens to be a lesbian. I love how this book crosses socio-political boundaries and it gave great insight into the non-acceptance of homosexuality in the 50s/60s, as well as the trials of being a woman in a man’s world! These complex issues are handled brilliantly by the author and could even help to remove remaining stigma.
Whilst Evelyn seems selfish at times, she is so well developed and rounded as a character, that there are many elements you will love about her. She is frank, funny, very intelligent, and sometimes tragic in many ways. When she loses everything, you cannot help but feel sorry for her. Also, her struggles with her own identity are clear, and ultimately all the fame and fortune that she strives for are more of a hinderance than help.
The book switches back and forth from the interview with Monique to the dramas of Evelyn’s life. Tension builds as you become aware there must be a reason why she chose Monique to be her ghost-writer. I relish a book that has a suspense element with some surprises in store, and this book did not disappoint.
It is the first book I have read by this author, and I loved her style of writing. So much so, that I read it twice! Once on audible and once in paperback. I highly recommend the audible version as the narration is excellent.
The ending was extremely satisfying, which is often not the case with books I’ve read recently. I gave it a well-deserved 5 stars, but as with all books, it is down to an individual’s taste. In our book club of eight, four of us gave it 5 stars, three gave it 4.5 stars, and one gave it 3 stars.
I would say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ with this one. It is a fantastic story, expertly written, and I could not put it down from beginning to end.
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