Katie’s corner: boss reads for boss moms

Nothing feeds the soul like sinking into a good book. This one just kept popping up all over the place, so Katie finally gave in and now she's sharing her thoughts.

By Katie Frawley

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Before the book:

I’ve been hearing about THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid for a few months now. One friend proposed it for our book club. Another friend suggested it as the perfect vacation read. Then the internet started advertising the book at me because the internet is creepy. So, fine! I’m reading it! Apparently, the universe (not to mention Jeff Bezos) wants me to read this book.

According to the jacket copy, this novel is about reclusive Hollywood icon, Evelyn Hugo, as she recounts her life story to her biographer, Monique Grant, a young magazine writer trying to make a name for herself.

The teaser also hints at hidden connections between Evelyn and Monique. I’m expecting glamour, romance, scandal, and the gradual emergence of seven husbands, no doubt. Having recently finished Joyce Carol Oates’s novel BLONDE, based on the life of Marilyn Monroe (a FABULOUS read), this book is right up my alley. I’ve always been a sucker for the magic of old Hollywood.

So I’m pretty pumped to dive in! My friends who have read it enjoyed it immensely. And it didn’t become a New York Times bestseller by being boring. A little flash and sparkle might be just the thing to carry me through these last few chaotic weeks before school resumes and my brain returns to full functionality.

Mid-read:

Holy moly. Okay. Here we go. I had to FORCE myself to stop reading so I could stay true to the Before/During/After format of this column.

I am all-the-way in for this story. I started yesterday, and I’m already more than half way through. What can I say? Evelyn Hugo is intriguing, although some of the “bombshell character revelations” I saw coming a mile away. The biographer, Monique Grant, is proving to be a delight to get to know. The narrative bounces back and forth between first person narratives, driven in turns by Evelyn then Monique. Evelyn’s chapters immerse the reader in her Hollywood life, while Monique’s chapters bring us back to “reality” and ground us in a larger narrative. The structure is truly wonderful. I am also delighted by the way the author peppers in other forms of media to inform the story (blog posts, tabloid stories, movie reviews). It punctuates the novel nicely and offers an additional perspective.

Then there are the steamy love scenes, raucous Hollywood parties, and moments of emotional honesty that really keep those pages turning. My friend who recommended this as a perfect vacation read wasn’t wrong…at least not yet. I’m on track to finish this sucker in three days, and I’m having a ball.

Final curtain:

Like the protagonist, Evelyn Hugo, my feelings about this book in its entirety are somewhat complicated. Ultimately, I’m a bit ambivalent. The first half of the book lays the groundwork for the truly meaningful relationships in Evelyn’s life that are then explored in the second half. I enjoyed the complexity of those relationships, the messiness, the depth. But on occasion, the writing felt a bit too on-the-nose. The author’s “message” may have been more effectively delivered with more subtlety and less preachiness. Although these moments didn’t spoil the book for me overall, I wish Taylor Jenkins Reid had trusted her audience more.

But that is pretty much my only complaint. I’m dying to hear what other readers think! How do YOU feel about Evelyn Hugo? Did you love her or hate her or (more likely) land somewhere in between? How did you feel when Evelyn revealed the connection between her and Monique? I certainly didn’t see that coming.

If you’re looking for a book that is hard to put down, I hope you’ll pick this one up. And please tweet me your thoughts when you finish. (No spoilers!!) I love to hear what you boss moms think.

 

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