My Sunday Book Review for one of my favorite reads on vacation – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by one of my new favorite authors, Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is a wonderfully written book full of revealing truths, compassion, survival, glamor and heartbreak where Evelyn tells her lifestory of her rise to fame in the 1950s thru 80s Hollywood.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“If you’re looking for a book to take on holiday this summer, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has got all the glitz and glamour to make it a perfect beach read.” —Bustle
From the New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & the Six—an entrancing and “wildly addictive journey of a reclusive Hollywood starlet” (PopSugar) as she reflects on her relentless rise to the top and 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 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.
“Heartbreaking, yet beautiful” (Jamie Blynn, Us Weekly), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is “Tinseltown drama at its finest” (Redbook): a mesmerizing 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 costs—to face the truth.
My 5 Star Review:
This book was not on my reading list, but a friend gave it to me at the pool while on vacation, and I was addicted. This book was an addictive, fictional story that read as juicy as though reading a biopic on any famous actress of the golden era. Iconic actress, Evelyn Hugo, begins telling her story of her meager beginnings as an immigrant child from Cuba who lived in Hell’s Kitchen New York as a child with an abusive father and her loving mother who died when Evelyn was a young child. Her mother’s dream was to make it to Hollywood, but she never did, so beautiful and cunning Evelyn vowed that she would get there for her mother.
The book begins by Evelyn handpicking journalist Monique (for reasons we will find out at the end of the book) to write her autobiography. Monique was a young journalist writing for Vivante magazine and jumped at the chance to have the only rights to writing about Evelyn’s life. Monique is told that she may publish it after Evelyn dies – which would be soon after Evelyn tells her story in detail, complete with raw honesty, truths, pain, and her ambitions, which made her become the most iconic movie star of her time. We will learn why she had seven husbands – each of them methodically chosen to both, advance her career, and to protect secrets.
Evelyn’s first husband was a handsome, but not so intelligent young man who lived above her apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. Ernie Diaz was going to Hollywood to become a grip on set, so Evelyn, aged 15, befriended and feigned her love for him so she could marry him to get away from her father – and a ride to Hollywood. Evelyn was sexy and smart and learned quickly which lunchbars the studio execs liked to hang out at in hopes of getting discovered. She was eventually discovered by producer Harry Cameron who got her some small roles, and incidentally, eventually became her best friend in life. Evelyn knew that to get the bigger roles she’d have to sleep her way to the top and had no qualms doing so.
In this story, we get to see the other side of Hollywood, what goes on in the backgrounds with producers and top execs calling the shots, fixing up dates with rising stars with big stars to be seen in public to attract buzz, the chauvenism and crap female actresses had to put up with, from leading men and execs. After Evelyn does her first big movie with leading man Don Adler, sparks fly between them, and suddenly, Evelyn is marrying Don, a man she thought she loved until she saw his dark side, but nevertheless, her marriage to him was a huge rung in her ladder to success. Don tries to ruin her career when she leaves him, which has producer friend Harry getting her new roles with a friend at another studio.
In the meantime, Evelyn befriends famous actress, Celia St. James, and it is that relationship that will become the utmost important in Evelyn’s life as she reveals that Celia became the love of her life, introducing secret bi-sexuality topic that was a forbidden thing back in the Hollywood 1950s. To detract the papparazi always on their trail, Evelyn comes up with a plan to marry hearthrob singer Mick Riva, formulating the plan with Celia that she’d make him fall for Evelyn, suggest going to Vegas, getting drunk and married and shortly annulled. Throughout the shenanigans of having to sleep with husbands and other men, Celia, a confirmed lesbian, was often jealous and broke it off with Evelyn several times. Evelyn begins doing movies with sex for French producer Max, and Celia can’t get passed that. Eventually, Evelyn gets a new role as Anna Karenina, playing with hot actor Rex North, who Evelyn marries to further her career. Meanwhile, Ev hears Celia married famous football quarterback John, and when Evelyn and Celia reconnect, they discover the perfect storm.
Evelyn and producer/best friend Harry Cameron formulate a plan to keep the press out of their personal lives and their choice of partners. Harry was in love with John and they’d quietly been together for a long time. Harry and Evelyn decide to marry so she could live with Celia and Harry with John without causing attention to the media. And Harry and Celia decide to have a child together because they both wanted a child – another thing Celia had to digest. The storyline is a clever one and depicts the times well, as in the early 60s, being gay was not even an option to admit to publicly. But once again, paradise is ruined when Celia can’t get past Evelyn’s sex scenes in a new movie produced by Max – starring her ex-husband Don Adler.
After many good years together, tragedy strikes Celia’s husband, and then Evelyn’s husband Harry who is heartbroken and ruined after John’s demise. Since Celia has once again left Evelyn, Ev caves to the advances of old friend producer Max and marries him. As Max’s love in reality was just star struck with Evelyn, she once again leaves him and makes her way back to Celia. They decide to leave the Hollywood world and move to Spain, and once again, to divert attention on them, Celia asks Evelyn if she’ll marry her playboy brother Robert, so the three of them can live happily ever after. But it wasn’t always happiness as Evelyn’s daughter Connor grew up struggling with the crazy Hollywood lifestyle, and Celia develops a serious illness. While married to Robert, Celia and Evelyn decide they must marry, not legally, but to sew up their lifetime love and committment. Robert becomes a great friend to Ev and even a good father figure to Connor.
Evelyn reveals this both enthralling, yet often, heartbreaking story to Monique, admitting her flaws and downfalls, detailed with reasons for doing everything she did in her life with resolve, despite a few regrets, her climb to stardom and whatever it took to get her star to rise, and ultimately, her real desire for privacy because of the greatest love of her life, Celia.
The author has painted a complex picture of characters caught up in the Hollywood glamor and the Hollywood emotional instability and heartache of actors and marriages, and at a time where being gay meant having to hide it from the public. By the time I finished this book, I felt like Evelyn really was a big movie star from the Hollywood glamor era who led a fascinating life. This was one of those ‘hard to put down’ books.