Monique Grant is a magazine reporter whose personal life is a mess when she gets the professional opportunity of a lifetime: world-famous, award-winning starlet Evelyn Hugo has requested Monique to be the writer in charge of crafting her life story, including all the scandalous truths about her seven marriages. Monique is bewildered: why her, of all people? As Monique listens to Evelyn’s story unfurl, she realizes there’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to this woman’s life–and there are lasting consequences for Monique, too.
This is a departure for Taylor Jenkins Reid, whose previous works are smart, engaging, and emotionally resonant reads filled with flawed, realistic characters. The celebrity tell-all aspect of this novel could go off the rails quickly, but Reid has a handle on her story and her characters, and the result is a largely nuanced, wholly captivating romp of a story. It’s also un-put-down-able.
Although Evelyn could be easily dismissed as a calculating and cold-hearted ruthless bitch determined to make it to the top, Reid allows her to be a real human and presents her story without judgment. Fully aware of the challenges of being a woman in the male-dominated film industry, Evelyn plays to her strengths and hides what she sees as her weaknesses–specifically her Cuban heritage and her true sexuality. The result is captivating and all too believable.
The story’s weakest point is the character of Monique, who clearly serves as a gateway to Evelyn’s story. Although the majority of the novel takes place chronologically as readers traverse through Evelyn’s storied rise to fame, there are breaks where Monique herself deals with present-day personal issues, including a crumbling marriage and a suspicious editor. These moments are almost startlingly boring in comparison, but it hardly matters, as readers jump right back into Evelyn’s compelling world.
A gem of a read, and one that will surprise devoted readers of Reid’s other works–and attract new fans, as well. Highly recommended.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Atria Books: 2017. Library copy.