A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo- by Taylor Jenkins Reid- Feature and Review


From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

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 in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating 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 takes—to face the truth.




\ The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a 2017 Atria Books publication.

A story so well written I had to remind myself it was a work of fiction.

The cleverly titled novel appealed to my interest in old Hollywood, the scandals and cover-ups the public never had the slightest clue existed.

Evelyn Hugo is a faded movie star in advanced years who has decided to write her life story- a deliciously scandalous tell all with a sharp focus on her seven marriages.

To help with this task, she lures Monique Grant to her home under false pretenses, but soon seduces her into agreeing to take the job, by making her an offer she couldn’t resist.

The story moves slowly at first while Evelyn settles into her story and Monique learns how to handle Evelyn, often using Evelyn’s own advice against her to gain leverage.

But, once they have come to an understanding, Evelyn’s story takes center stage and what a story it was.

The first question Monique asked Evelyn is:

‘Who was the great love of your life?'

It seems like a reasonable enough question, considering Evelyn’s numerous marriages, but it turns out to be much more complicated than what it may seem on the surface.

I admit, I sat literally spellbound and mesmerized by Evelyn and her turbulent life as an actress and movie star, and the amazing twists and turns her life took in search of personal peace, love, and contentment. Her storytelling was an Academy Award performance.

Evelyn made concessions along the way to fame, allowing herself to be recreated by erasing her Cuban heritage and features, as well as leaving her first husband for a chance at fame and fortune.

Her love life takes many twists and turns as does her career, but what the public witnessed was nothing at all like what went on behind closed doors. Her life was like the old Hollywood is all ‘smoke and mirrors’ adage personified.

While Monique is the interviewer, her life and background deserves a close look. She is depressed over her failed marriage and her seemingly dead -end position at work. This gig is worth the incredible risk she takes, but she could never have guessed the monumental impact Evelyn Hugo would have on her life.

Naturally, I thought of Elizabeth Taylor and her many marriages, but the story also had a hint of Marilyn Monroe’s humble beginnings as well. However, a few of Evelyn's leading men mimicked or could have been modeled after real movie stars from that era as well.

But, the most significant points come from the relationships Evelyn developed, outside of the public eye, and how they managed to keep the situation a secret for so many years.

Each husband is given their own chapter with a special title that applies to them personally or to Evelyn’s relationship or opinion of them.

I disliked many of them, and really loved others, as did Evelyn. But beware of Evelyn’s spin on things. She is determined to tell this tale her way and her outlook is often a matter of perspective.

As things progress, I began to see how Evelyn’s influence on Monique begins to take hold. She gives good advice even if it sounds selfish, greedy, or cold. She didn’t get to be the great ‘Evelyn Hugo’ without some verve.

Although there are strong passages regarding sexuality, and the hidden secret lives people were forced to resort to in those days, for me, the powerful transformation Monique undergoes under Evelyn’s tutelage is what sticks with me the most.

Now, this story could have worked as a fictional tell all from Hollywood’s golden age, but there are a couple of 'Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night'moments you won’t see it coming, which left me utterly speechless and completely flabbergasted. My emotions exploded in a million different directions at that point.

The conclusion is riddled with rich bittersweet irony, but couldn't have been more fitting.

Overall, this is an incredibly well written story, very atmospheric, multi-layered, thought provoking, and utterly hypnotizing. Someday, I would like to re-read this one so I can absorb all those nuances I missed leading up to that stunning conclusion.

This one was so good I had a little book hangover for a couple of days. Highly recommend!!





Taylor Jenkins Reid is the author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, and two other novels. She lives in Los Angeles. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @tjenkinsreid.

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