Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Historical Fiction, LGBTQ
Publisher: Atria Books
Date published: June 13th 2017
Page Count: 391
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ’80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means–and what it costs–to face the truth.
I’ve been iffy about starting the Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo for a while now, but I’m glad when I finally picked it up. Despite not having much of an intrigue with Hollywood or celebrity actresses and actors in real life, I found myself indulging in all the drama and scandals of Evelyn’s past.
The story is told through the eyes of Monique Grant, a 35 year-old journalist for Vivant who was chosen to interview the famous and reclusive actress, Evelyn Hugo, about her decision to auction off her dresses in order to make a donation to a breast cancer charity. When Evelyn reveals to Monique that she specifically requested Monique in order to get her to write her biography, Monique is shocked as well as confused to why her. However, it’s only a matter of days before she realizes how her world is tangled into Evelyn’s.
The story premise was just so interesting once you got more involved with the story. I think what made this book so interesting was the setting and time that the story took place. This is my first time reading a book that took place in Hollywood and during the 50s era, and it was quite a different experience imagining it from the view of an insider. It almost felt like watching a movie; the black and white films, the glamour of the Oscars, the flashes from the cameras of all the paparazzi. I definitely believe that Taylor Jenkins Reid has a penchant for making books that call for their own movie adaptations.
The story was told in two timelines, the present one with Monique and Evelyn, and the past on where Evelyn recounts her life. I loved how easily and flawlessly Evelyn’s past flew through the decades to the present. Watching the two timelines finally intersect at the end was just pure satisfaction.
I was slightly underwhelmed by the plot twist at the end. Though most of my disappointment stemmed from the fact that I was anticipating a big shocking reveal. But then again, this is not a thriller nor a plot driven piece. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about Evelyn’s journey in Hollywood and coming to peace with herself and her identity.
What made the story memorable and ultimately made me decide to finally give it five stars was how it tackled so many issues of the 50s in both a head-on and nuanced way. Evelyn lived in an era that was only for straight white men, and she challenged it in every way possible. She was a strong personality figure, and had a strong voice in her narrative; it was difficult not to see why she was an unforgettable force to be reckoned with at her time.
“Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box. Don’t do that.”
“It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly.”
“It’s a hard business, reconciling what the truth used to be with what the truth is now.”
“You can be sorry about something and not regret it.”