The best book I’ve read in 2019.
As a librarian, there’s some books you hear about via word of mouth, and you hear about them every day until you finally give in and read it. Evelyn Hugo was one of those books for me. I was never avoiding reading the book, simply the life of a librarian does not give as much free time to read all the good books as you might think. This book ended up being chosen for my book club, finally giving me the chance to sink my teeth into it and holy cannoli, I would read 500 more pages of Evelyn Hugo.
I don’t want to talk too much about the plot as this is one of those books that needs to unfold for you as you read. The premise is simple. Evelyn Hugo is a famous film star, a true bombshell actress of the 50s-70s, who retired in the 80s and is now donating all of her iconic dresses to a charity auction. She contacts a famous magazine and wants Monique, a small time writer, to write her biography under a few conditions. Monique agrees and the two begin a whirlwind friendship/business partnership as Monique interviews Evelyn and learns about her life, her seven husbands, and the love of her life.
This is one of those books that I don’t want to even speak about, I just want to encourage you to read it. It’s incredible. I have read one other work by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones and the Six, which was also incredible, which leads me to believe Reid is a true genius author. She manages to take these characters and immerse you in the grey that exists within all of us. No one is good. No one is bad. No one is even in the middle. There’s nuance to every character and every single character has purpose. There are no NPCs or secondary characters here. Everyone has a reason to exist within the story and levels to their personality. I find that to be incredibly difficult and hard to find in a good novel, and Reid manages to do so with seemingly no effort. It’s a triumph. I love every character she writes, even if they are morally reprehensible. Some of her characters may be assholes, but they’re INTERESTING and compelling and I would read 10 more books with this cast.
Evelyn Hugo herself is possibly Reid’s crowning achievement. The dialogue and inner monologue she reveals will stay with me for a LONG time. Her words held so much weight throughput the story, and I wanted to wrap myself up on the couch and listen to her speak the way Monique was being allowed to. She isn’t a real actress but she felt so real and authentic.
“When you’re given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn’t give a thing, it takes things.”
“Heartbreak is loss. Divorce is just a piece of paper.”
There’s a million words I could write about this book. I could write about how fabulously intriguing all seven husbands were and how Evelyn used them for her own gain and her own downfall. I could write about how Monique grew as a person through knowing Evelyn. I could write about Evelyn coming to terms with her life, yet not having “regrets” in the same way many of us would.
I could write about all these things, but they wouldn’t matter.
You need to read this. You need to absorb it within yourself and see what it means to you, because it really moved me and made me think about it long after I closed the book.
From now on I strive to be more like Evelyn Hugo, and yet at the same time, nothing like her.
Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Three Descriptors: Compelling, Atmospheric, Character-Driven
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