one pen, one book #3: parker 51 & unreliable narrators
The wind ruffles your hair as you sit on a bench. There is a line to get into the restaurant, but you have to wait for the others to arrive anyway. The noise of the restaurant: clanking cutlery, chatter, laughter, clinking glasses come out in sharp bursts when they open the door. A car passes, almost splashing the dirty rainwater in the gutter. You decide to get up and wait at the back of the line, you might as well use the time to wait both for your friends and for the line.
I am not the type of person that looks at the “fiction” section in a bookstore, I mostly dive straight into fantasy/sci-fi section. Therefore, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid has been an interesting book to read. I started it after a friend told me about it and it took me a while to finish it. It is a book about complex characters and what people are willing to sacrifice to get what they want. I wasn’t super captivated by it, but in the end I was interested enough that I finished it on the train.
I’ll start by talking about the pen I inked up while reading this book. It is a Parker 51 with a 21 Super’s cap, dove grey and Diamine’s Emerald ink. I had gotten this pen for extremely cheap, and used it for a while thinking that it was actually a 21 Super. But after a conversation with a very knowledgable gentleman, it turned out to be a 51 with a 21 Super cap. The 51 seemed appropriate as it was in production for the most of the time when the book was set, and I can kind of imagine Evelyn Hugo using it. It’s a simple but durable pen, writes a wet fine line, almost a medium. I like the understated grey colour and the small hooded nib as well. The pen is light and the section isn’t too thick, so I can write comfortably with it for a very long time without tiring out my hand. To be honest, I didn’t use it much, as I am not a very big vintage pen collector/user and I was a little afraid to use. It seems like a little use won’t be bad for it, and the writing experience is just too joyful for it to sit in storage.
Consequently, I bit the bullet and inked it up with Diamine Emerald, a beautiful green. It’s not very bright nor very murky, just a brilliant emerald colour. It was the first green ink I got, and I haven’t used it very often since. An emerald coloured dress was supposed to be Evelyn Hugo’s signature look, so I decided it would be a suitable choice. I have been using this pen quite often while I was reading this book. I hadn’t used both the ink and the pen in a while and forgot how wonderful they both write.
The part I want to talk about in the book is the additional discussion points that the publisher added to the back of the book. There is a section for questions for discussion and another for “enhance your book club”. It’s a brilliant idea! I had never seen such a thing before, and it makes me want to have a book club. I especially like the one about having an old Hollywood movies themed party and watching an old classic from the 50’s. I never turn an excuse to dress up, and watching Hitchcock or Grace Kelly in the meantime seems like a great night for me. I’ll even make the cocktails!
One of the questions at the back of the book was asking about whether Evelyn Hugo is a reliable narrator or not, and whether the reader’s opinion change at the end of the book. I did not think Evelyn Hugo was a reliable narrator since the beginning, and the ending did not changed my mind. I genuinely believe that she was as sincere as she could be, but I also think that she wanted her story to be framed in a very specific way. She spends all her life making a persona out of herself, going as far as to change her name form the very beginning. But this persona, in return, shields herself from the outside world, a lot of the things she does is to protect the image of this persona, even if it costs her her loved ones. I don’t think she knows where Evelyn Hugo the superstar actress starts and the Evelyn Hugo the human ends. Thus, her story would reflect this differentiation. She even goes as far as to say “Make sure you write this part, spell it out if necessary.” She tells that she wants people to know that she was not a good person. She is wrong. She made the decisions that she chose to do, and suffered the consequences if necessary. That makes her human. I imagine it can be a very humbling experience to decide to sit with a biographer to tell your life’s story, especially for a very famous person. She wants to come across as a reliable narrator, and just enough unsure about herself that the biographer in the book believes her reliability. I do not doubt her sincerity, and I do not blame her for being unreliable.
The complexity of Evelyn Hugo was well done. In my opinion, the only character that felt flat was the biographer, the second main character of the story. Her struggles in her life doesn’t feel genuine, they just feel like they were written to reflect Evelyn’s own story and draw parallels, except the ending.
The book has been okay, but I am happier about how my ink-pen combination turned out. It was great to go back to old favourites: Emerald ink being a favourite of mine, and the 51 being a favourite of pretty much everyone.
Thank you for reading!