The atmosphere of Manhattan Beach put me in the mood to keep reading historical fiction. After seeing many people on the internet rave about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I picked it up. In my opinion at least, the hype is real and deserved.
In the 1950’s, Cuban-American Evelyn Ferrera gave up everything to go to Hollywood and become a star. She stopped speaking Spanish, married a man she did not love, dyed her hair blonde, and changed her name to Evelyn Hugo. She became a household name and a legendary star. But now Evelyn is nearly eighty. All of her old friends are gone, and she wants to come clean about her years of scandals and secrets. For some reason, she seeks out unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant to write her biography. Monique’s outlook and perception of her life will irreversibly change after she finds out she has a connection to the mysterious and beautiful Evelyn Hugo.
Wow, this book was good. This was another fairly atmospheric read. It felt very early Hollywood. It was glamorous, sexy, heartbreaking, romantic, and engrossing. The book gave a “behind the scenes” look at 19050’s through 1980’s Hollywood. You might think this book is just about rich people problems, (and it is to some extent) but it is so much more. Stars are actual people after all. Evelyn is such a complex and strong woman, but she has faults and makes mistakes. She falls down and pulls herself back up. Most of the side characters are also amazing, but some could use more development. Each of Evelyn’s husbands were interesting and often horrible, but they each served a purpose for Evelyn and made her character grow realistically.
The novel tries and succeeds in tackling tough subjects of the past as well as today’s social issues. Specifically, the novel is very LGBTQ+ oriented. People who were not heterosexual had a very hard time in old Hollywood. Being outed could easily ruin a career and/or get the person killed. There is also discussion on cultural identity, racism, sexism, sexuality and sex in general, self-confidence, and women’s control of their bodies. Somehow the novel touches on all of these things without being preachy and without slowly down the pacing.
This a brutally honest novel with a lot of heart. I laughed, cried, and could not put it down. I gave the novel five stars. This has been a great reading year for me so far, and I am still craving historical fiction for some reason!