Evelyn Hugo is stunning. She is gorgeous and breathtaking and gravitationally captivating. The fact that she isn't real does nothing to diminish interest or fascination. And despite the obvious influence, she's no shadow of a once-living Hollywood starlet - not even Elizabeth Taylor. Yes, I fell a little bit in love with Evelyn Hugo, and I devoured her story. It was the Hollywood legend I wanted it to be - flashy and hollow, yes, but also deliciously and believably queer. We've always been here, after all.
I liked, too, the novel's quiet devotion to dignity in death, and the right to die movement. It was presented sympathetically without being a spectacle, and offered as something worth thinking about; it's a form of agency that's incredibly important (and I urge anyone who hasn't to read Terry Pratchett's wonderful article, "My Case for a Euthanasia Tribunal").
The novel's shortcoming is the insignificance of its protagonist. I found it nearly impossible to care about Monique, even though she, like Hugo, has a culturally-significant position which deserves attention and understanding. But unlike Evelyn Hugo, Monique is not magnetic. She's just an unremarkable woman with one good story under her belt, a lot of self-doubt, and a far-reaching orbit she doesn't know circles a major Hollywood star. The novel does her a disservice in giving Monique so little narrative of her own; she is a writer of other people's story, but she has a life, too. She has a mother who sounds like she has a story to tell, a lifetime of grief from a father who died too soon, and a very boring marriage and pending divorce from an equally boring man who is such a confusing void in the story. Why is he even part of this? He's not im portant. Monique is not Evelyn - the writer will not anchor points of her life by a list of spouses - and the divorce plot is the weakest of the whole.
In the end, the story feels incomplete, but I suppose we have to accept that Monique's story has been sacrificed at the altar of Evelyn Hugo.