I know I’m bucking the crowd of most reviews on this one and I guess I could honestly go as high as 3.5 stars (gave it three on Goodreads). Because while this novel was a fast and enjoyable read, there’s no heavy lifting required.
Reclusive movie star Evelyn Hugo is a legend, whose fame in Hollywood stretched across three decades (1950s – 1980s) and seven marriages. Now, nearly 80, she engineers a meeting with a young, little-known reporter named Monique Grant and offers her a chance to publish Evelyn’s “true” biography. Which turns out to be quite a different story from the one the public knows. Ambitious Monique, recently separated from her own husband, signs on. And the two women begin a series of lengthy meetings where Evelyn delivers a series of monologues and Monique takes notes.
The story begins like many Hollywood success stories we’ve all read. Initially, Evelyn’s fame rests primarily on her exotic beauty, which attracts the lust of nearly every actor, producer, and director she meets. Though acting talent also emerges over the years, it turns out Evelyn’s success is much more the result of her own steely determination. She has been willing to do ANYTHING to get ahead.
The stories behind her seven marriages are not what you might expect. This is not the story of an optimistic woman searching for love, but being continually disappointed. Evelyn DOES have one “deep romantic love” throughout most of her life. Only that has little to do with her marriages.
It’s not a very flattering picture of Hollywood which gets characterized as a gathering place for ruthless, self-absorbed misfits. (Wait, does that count as a spoiler?) There are a few additional themes sprinkled in: alcoholism, physical abuse, childhood rebellion to name a few. But they turn out to be mostly window-dressing, not subjects handled seriously. And there’s also one, late-in-the-day, plot surprise. But overall, this is not a deeply thoughtful novel with nuance or finesse. Bottom line: a good beach read.
More about the author, Taylor Jenkins Reid.