I am torn about this review. On one hand, I want to write it spoiler free and let you, the readers, find out why this is an absolute jewel of a book and what a huge mistake it would be not to read it. On the other hand, I want to prepare an all comprehensive alphabetized list of all the reasons as to why this book is a masterpiece. But the latter involves a lot of spoilers, and if there is one thing you should know about me, it is that, I don’t do spoilers. Not. One.
(and I am so indecisive that’s its taken me five months to choose a book for me to review. But this is a whole different story)
How would I describe this book in one word? Sultry.
Because that’s Evelyn Hugo. Sultry, desirable, oozing sex appeal. A dominating presence onscreen and off. A string of questionable scandals following her every move. and rumor has it, she has men eating out of the palm of her hand.
Or is that what the tabloids and the gossip mags wants you to think?
“I’m cynical and I’m bossy, and most people would consider me vaguely immoral.”
Once an undeniable seductress with an enchanting stage presence, who was considered an epitome of beauty, Evelyn, now at the ripe old age of 79, has decided to divulge about a subject she has long kept private: her seven husbands. And she promises it would be as scandalous and salacious as the readers expect.
And who is the lucky reporter who gets to dive into the personal life of one of the most delicious scandal makers in Hollywood? A no name reporter named Monique. (And I will let you in on a secret, no one is more surprised than Monique herself.)
This book is a ride. There is no other way to describe the Topsy-turvy world that Evelyn opens up for us. Evelyn is a Hollywood actress in the 80’s and that in itself is an invite for racism, sexism, sheer misogyny and having to conform to almost ridiculous social norms that will make you clench your fist and grit your teeth and contemplating roundhouse kicking every stupid character in the family jewels.
Anyway, back to Evelyn and Monique, our two leading ladies. Monique soon finds out that when Evelyn meant all the details, she meant them all. Including her long standing frenemy rivalry with the her once costar, Celia.
“Is Evelyn Hugo going to tell me just enough to keep me on the edge of my seat but never enough to truly reveal anything?“
Evelyn is a good storyteller. And as it turns out, her habit of giving the audience just enough to leave them wanting more, translates perfectly onto the page as it does in her movies. Her ‘greatest love’ is a secret she holds close to her heart and as we read through her story, husband after husband, our minds circle back to the inevitable question, “is this the lucky one?”.
The more Evelyn revealed about her life, the more I, as a reader, connected to her. I understood her when she talked about how people looked at her differently at the age of 15, when her body changed, how she realized how hard it is to break into a man’s world, how she played the game to get ahead, married for lust, love, desperation and in the end, regretted it all. How she bore the brunt to the media’s criticism as well as the film industry’s sexism. And in some ways, she used both to her advantage.
Basically, Evelyn explores what it means to really make it and what is the ultimate price one pays for it.
“People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘you’re safe with me’- that’s intimacy.”
She manipulated and lied and did anything to get to the top. She crossed boundaries and tore down stereotypes and pushed the limits in a world where being a person of color and a female were one of the worst things to be. She was not cut from the same cloth as the other girls her industry. She was an entirely new cloth and she was not afraid to show it.
“Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box.”
And even though she did despicable things, as a reader, I was strangely drawn to her. I understood her decisions, I understood her motive, her ambition and most of her, her craving to be loved, to be seen as more than a vapid, attention loving whore than the media inevitably portrayed her as.
And the interview she gave Monique was raw, honest and at times, unapologetically blunt. She took the readers to a dark, gritty, and highly intoxicating place, beyond the shimmering lights and the fame of the big screen. She took them through the hidden nooks and crannies of one of the most sought out places in the world. Hollywood.
And she didn’t leave any secrets behind.