Hollywood Wives: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo | 2017
“Evelyn looks at me with purpose. "Do you understand what I'm telling you? 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 things, you take things. If you learn one thing from me, it should probably be that.” - The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
The Sum of It:
Relatively unknown magazine writer Monique Grant is shocked and thrilled when her boss tells her that the elusive and infinitely glamorous Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo has agreed to a profile, but insists on it being written by Monique. She's even more shocked when she visits Evelyn for the first time and is informed that the magazine article was just a cover; Evelyn has finally decided to authorize a biography of her life and she wants Monique to author it. Over the course of their subsequent interviews, Evelyn gradually reveals the myriad secrets of her personal life, long storied in the tabloids, but those stories merely concealed the hidden depths and intrigues of her reality. Famous for being married seven times, Monique (and readers of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) initially feels that the juiciest stories of Evelyn's life must lie in those relationships, but everyone quickly realizes the marriages (and the often labyrinthine motivations and mechanisms behind them) are only the beginning of the often surprising story Evelyn wants to tell. The truth of Evelyn's life leads to revelations at once gilded and gothic about the golden age of Hollywood, the blessings and curses of fame, and the sacrifices people might be willing to make for love.
The B & C Treatment:
I read this book over the course of less than a weekend, and not just because the plot was a quintessential page-turner. Though part of the book was set in the present, which sometimes makes it difficult for me to connect with characters (who knows why that is but them's the breaks), Jenkins manages to rapidly imbue each character with vivid depth, and you want to keep reading to get to know them better.
Evelyn, the true main character of the book, is equal parts Elizabeth Taylor, Jayne Mansfield, Rita Hayworth, and many other classic stars, but the combination creates a rich and unique character whose life is not just a mirror of the many stories we've heard about real starlets over the years. The themes explored in her life; love, loss, ruthlessness, and power, are all expertly wrapped in the intricacies of what feels like a very real personality, and the secrets she reveals lead the reader to ache and celebrate with her throughout. Each of Evelyn's relationships alone weaves a fascinating story, and together the effect is pretty spectacular. Though the book takes breaks to look in on the personal life of Monique, the biographer, the real life of the book is clearly with Evelyn's story, and I found myself rushing to get back to her each time. Evelyn's story is a very human one, and IMHO any reader would find aspects of her life to identify with.
The many settings of the book over the years, from fabulous mid-century Beverly Hills to Las Vegas in the sixties, New York in the eighties, coastal Spain in the nineties, and Evelyn's present-day Manhattan penthouse, straight out of a Nancy Meyers movie, each establish a very clear sense of place, with imagery that plays before the reader's eyes like glossy photos.
Overall, the book was excellent, and certainly one of my favorites this year. As its out in paperback now, we certainly recommend picking up a copy at your favorite local book shop.
You may like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo if you like:
Intricately woven stories about interconnected lives over time in often fabulous locations such as The Rocks, by Peter Nichols, or The Heart's Invisible Furies, by John Boyne; or
Glamorous but personal stories about relationships such as The After Party, by Anton DiSclafani, or The Dollhouse, by Fiona Davis.