Starting at the young age of fourteen and ending when she’s seventy-nine (when we first meet Evelyn), Evelyn Hugo has gone from bombshell, to sexpot, to Oscar winner, to civil rights supporter. Evelyn knew what she wanted from an early age—to get out of Hell’s Kitchen and away from her abusive father, and to be the biggest star anyone has ever heard of. And she accomplished that! Partially because of her talent, partially because she knows her worth and is unafraid to get dirty in order to achieve her goals, and partially because there is no one better at using the press and scandals to serve their own interests. Evelyn is both a force to be reckoned with, but also a deeply flawed and lonely. Shown through the perspective of Evelyn as she dictates her memoir to Monique, the reader is taken back to the early days of Hollywood to watch Evelyn’s rise, and her stumbles, to and through stardom. For a story about a Hollywood starlet, this book is LAYERED, and I don’t think I was expecting the level of depth it had, even though many reviews warned me to expect the unexpected with this story.
In order to become Evelyn Hugo, Hollywood’s biggest star, Evelyn had to let go of who she was; erasing her identity to be what Hollywood wanted her to be. She knew and accepted this, always, but it does break your heart a little to watch her identity get stripped away so that she could be the blonde bombshell the screen so loved. The things Evelyn hid or changed, often denying the realest parts of herself in the process, really hit me in the feels, and there were parts at the end of the book that had me welling up with tears if that tells you anything. I won’t say more because the way the story unfolds is really lovely with getting to know all 7 of Evelyn’s husbands and the roles they played in her life, but I will say that I LOVED the inclusion of the fake articles to show the juxtaposition between what was Evelyn’s reality versus what the public got to see, and how the press portrayed her in return.
Honestly, there was very little I did not like about this book, or its story. It flowed beautifully and, while not necessarily one of those books you couldn’t put down (I had no issues stopping in reading for the night) it was never dull. It had a smooth, and highly enjoyable writing style. However, my only issues were that sometimes, with the book being told in 1st person, Monique didn’t always feel that distinct to me from Evelyn. Which may be mostly because we don’t really get to know Monique at the same level at which we get to know Evelyn, though I did enjoy their relationship and how they were able to help each other, even when that got . . . tricky, to say the least. But I also didn’t like Celia for a majority of the book, either. I found her to be so frustrating at times, that I often wondered why Evelyn even bothered having her around. Thankfully that changed toward the end, but still.
But, all in all, I LOVED this book and this story. It was so empowering, watching Evelyn be so unashamed to own her beauty, her sex appeal, her confidence, and to be the ball-buster she was, so unafraid of telling people what she wants, what she deserves—all because she knows her worth. I didn’t know how much I needed a story, to see a woman like that, until I read this book. But I also loved that the author didn’t shy away from Evelyn’s flaws, or the fact that, for a lot of Evelyn’s life, she was deeply lonely. Evelyn wasn’t perfect, but she didn’t let that be an excuse for anyone to treat her poorly. I will say there are some instances of spousal abuse in this book though, so just be forewarned if that kind of trauma is sensitive for you. I thought the author handled those topics amazingly well, but I’ve also never experienced such things for myself, either. Because this book brought tears to my eyes with that whole last third of the story, it easily gets 5 stars from me! This is such a satisfying, and empowering book!
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