THIS BOOK!! Five stars will never be enough to rate such a masterpiece. This book is so overwhelmingly amazing and awe inspiring and simply spellbinding. I have rarely been engrossed by a book, rarely been moved to almost tears by books. The only times it happened were so far three other times, when I read Forest of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrow of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, and The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk.
This book is so gripping, rife with punch-in-the-gut events and circumstances where you want to choose sides, you want to judge decisions and choices made, you want to blame someone and say “I’d not have done that if I were in their place” and then stop because you’re not sure whether you’d do it or not.
Evelyn Hugo breaks your heart, and you’ll happily let it break your heart repeatedly. This is the kind of book where you get how ugly life and reality are, and yet you can’t hate them. Reality is the air we breathe in. It’s polluted, yet we need it.
This book reminded me of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrow of Ava Lavender. It’s books like these that break you heart, crush your souls, and make your eyes sting with tears. And yet, and yet you let it because the pain is so beautiful, so poignant you can’t deny being a masochist to its painful blows at you. You rather put up your face at its fist to willingly be hurt. Because the pain such books inflict is goddamn beautiful and ugly at the same time.
The story is similar to the 2008 Bollywood film Fashion by Madhur Bhandarkar, where to become a supermodel, Meghna, the protagonist, sacrifices anything and everything including her conscience and love. Similarly was the case with the protagonist, Evelyn Hugo, who sacrificed and pawned everything she had; her body, her relationship, her name, her identity, the love of her life, even her sexuality.
If you are asked who you think is a strong female character, a lot of people would answer Lara Croft, Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior and Hermione Granger. Hey, I’m not saying they aren’t. Indeed they are.
But for me, personally, I’ve never read about a character so complicated and complex, so gray and shades of gray, so utterly confusing you can’t label her as one category of virtue and vice. She is the strongest character I’ve ever read about. Her story is so poignant and touching, it’ll grip and rip your heart.
As the story goes, a rookie journalist gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview Evelyn Hugo, one of the biggest legendary stars in Hollywood. Portrayed after Elizabeth Taylor, Evelyn Hugo began her life as a Cuban immigrant who escaped her shady life in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, after trading her virginity and accepting a marital life at the tender age of 15, just to go to Hollywood. Throughout the book, Evelyn married seven men, all of them for both valid and questionable reasons. Some out of love (be it romantic or platonic), some out of merely deals. The divorces were reasonable as well.
Despite all her questionable choices and decisions, you can’t stop both judging and showing empathy for Evelyn. Her struggles to juggle her personal life and everlasting love for co-star Celia St. James, and her desperation to prove her worth as a star made her always struggle, and sometimes lose, sometimes win, but never in a streak.
This book is also a slap on your face about how ugly and disgusting the limelight glamorous life of a movie star is. This book explores ambition and female sexuality daringly, and challenges you to challenge them. The abuse and amount of immorality of the characters are never one-sided and simply black and white. Everyone has their reasons, and often the reasons are ambiguous. Like in Ava Lavender, you can’t make judgements about the characters easily.
If you’ve enjoyed watching and feeling sad for Priyanka Chopra in Fashion (2008), if you enjoy truly morally gray characters, if you want to read a book with equal literary meaning as Ava Lavender, pick up this book. The whole book will entice you, bind you, engross you, and one by one, tear apart your heart until the tear ducts in your eyes can’t hold back the flow.