Synopsis: From Taylor Jenkins Reid 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.
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 through the decades—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.
Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, 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.
You already know what the first words out of my mouth (fingers? Never mind that sounds gross) are going to be. WHY IS THIS SYNOPSIS SO GODDAMN LONG.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
First off (I can call this first off if I freaking want to!!!) I wanna say: DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU THAT HISTORICAL FICTION CAN’T BE DIVERSE. Tell that anthropomorphized tennis ball they’re either uncreative or a secret bigot or a full-on dunce or ALL THREE. Because this book pulls it off with more than a tablespoon of grace, I’ll tell you that.
My guy, there aren’t even that many characters in this book. And we’re following the majority of them starting in the 1950s. Not exactly, y’know, the peak of support for diversity in America. AND STILL WE DON’T LACK FOR REPRESENTATION. Do you get how great that is? I’m ready to punch the whitesplainers of Disney’s Frozen in their boring pale faces. The word “Frozen” is actually a reference to the lack of movement in the creativity centers of their brains. (Follow for more behind the scenes Disney-Pixar facts.)
This book includes three (three!) interracial relationships. Actually, it’s more like ten if you count the fact that our protagonist is Latina. Yes! This may be the bare minimum, but I’m so used to YA wherein one pale as snow teen romances a – gasp – pale as paper teen! Diversity in young adult books = one character is of Western European descent and the other Eastern European. Talk about a vanilla romance. (Buh dum ch.)
This book proves how effortless it is to provide diversity. It’s as simple as dropping a few words in the description, and the difference in the believability and intricacy of the story is incredible.
I will say we don’t often get a good look at the variance in culture that comes with diversity here. Evelyn Hugo, though the daughter of Cuban immigrants, purposefully represses her heritage in order to fit in with the whitewashed 1950s and ’60s cinema scene. Our narrator, though half-black, expresses a fear that someone will tell her she’s “not black enough.” I wish the ethnic diversity played a little more into the text, but it didn’t feel unrealistic or anything. The reasoning was explained.
But there’s even more diversity. Like, it gets even better. Because, again, despite the time setting, this book contains A SH*T TON of LGBT+ rep. And these are some of the most beautifully portrayed LGBT+ relationships I’ve ever read. If you don’t read this book for anything else, read it for that fine-ass inclusion, boi.
Beyond that, this is the ultimate guilty pleasure book. IT IS SO FUN READING ABOUT OLD HOLLYWOOD AND OLD MOVIES. I wanted to watch the entire Evelyn Hugo canon after this, and then it was like, oh wait, she’s not real.
I don’t have much else to say. This is chick-lit-y historical fiction at its finest. It’s just so fun. Some people say they got bored halfway through, and I get why you could, but I didn’t. I really fell in love with the world of this book, and the depiction of Old Hollywood, and all that jazz.
A lot is revealed over the course of the book, and the best part is just being surprised at each twist and turn, so I don’t want to go to specifics even a little. I’m just going to cut off this review here before I risk, like, accidentally mentioning that Evelyn Hugo’s third husband turned her into a vampire and she was a vampire the whole time and she turns Monique at the end of the book.*
Bottom line: This is very fun and cool and maybe even important. Read it!!!
*This isn’t true, by the way. Duh.