Wow, what can I say about this book?
It’s been on my radar for so long but I just never got around to getting my hands on it.
I’m so glad I’ve finally taken the plunge.
At first I was almost deterred by the rave reviews of 5* ratings accompanied by reams of praise but I now find myself agreeing with the sentiments of those reviews: this book is amazing.
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 is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. 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. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
Firstly, it’s the only fictional book I know of that charts a young woman’s transformation into a Hollywood star in the 1950s/1960s which is a huge factor in why I love it. I’m a massive fan of this time period, as you may know and it was amazing to read about what felt like such a raw and honest account of what someone like Marilyn Monroe might have experienced. This is artfully done by Jenkins Reid, you truly feel like you’re reading the makings of a biography and not the imaginings of an author in the twenty-first century.
Secondly, the plot. As a writer myself I can only marvel at how the plot sweeps you along and keeps you captivated for the entirety of the book. I read it in three days and the time just flew by. Too often novels can drag you along, making you struggle to keep up or move at a glacial pace, making you sit through laborious descriptions of trees and the like. This novel hit the absolute sweet spot for me. And the twists in the tale were like easter eggs, you felt the emotional impact of each one, nothing was wasted.
Thirdly, without giving any spoilers, Taylor Jenkins Reid deals with subject matter that makes this story both modern and emotional. The character of Evelyn Hugo is tough enough to add an essential realism to the romance in the book (and I’m not the biggest romance fan). The realness of that character is a testament to Jenkins Reid’s enormous talent and the platform from which this story catapults to the stars of what fiction can be.
I certainly won’t forget this book in a hurry and will whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who asks me for book suggestions this year, and the next, and the next.