Love, Loss & Ambition: Reviewing the Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
TITLE: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
AUTHOR: Taylor Jenkins Reid
GENRE: Literary fiction, Romance
PUBLISHER: Washington Square Press
PUBLICATION DATE: June 13, 2017
TWs: domestic violence, homosexuality and sexual identity
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look into the glitz and glamour of Old Hollywood and the unapologetic grit it takes to climb to the top. Loosely based on several iconic actresses such as Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, it’s a phenomenal story about the price of fame and the flaws of the human condition.
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.
Where do I even start? Evelyn Hugo is a complicated person with an even more complex past, but that’s what makes her such a compelling character worthy of basing an entire book on. Whether you like or hate her will depend on your ability to accept someone’s ugly truths. She’s far from perfect, but her imperfections are what make her deeply human and will leave a lasting impression on you long after you have closed the book.
Evelyn learned early in her childhood that her power was her sexuality, which she never hesitated to use to her advantage in her rise to stardom. To say that her path to fame was difficult would be an understatement. She hurt people she loved and made sacrifices that chipped away at her own truths. But you will never find her apologizing for her ambitions.
She shed blood, sweat, and tears to build the life she wanted for herself, and it took tremendous courage and tenacity to do that. But while her persistence is admirable, her execution wasn’t always the best. She can be cold, calculating, and manipulative. And her relationships aren’t the healthiest, as evidenced by her numerous husbands. But despite her flaws, she’s also quite compassionate and willing to do anything for the people she loves, often to her own detriment. These contrasting personalities, along with her unabashed honesty, added great depth and authenticity to her character, which made for a captivating read.
The author sheds light on the human experience by taking Evelyn through a lot of trauma and loss along the way, and you feel for her pain and what she has had to go through. Was it her fault for making the decisions she did, or was it just her making the best of the circumstances that life threw her away? This is one of the many questions I walked away from this book with.
She is one of the most relatable characters in this book. Fresh off a failed marriage and going nowhere in her career, she is given the chance of a lifetime to work with Evelyn to write a tell-all book. Through her time with Evelyn, Monique learns to embody the confidence that Evelyn seems to effortlessly possess.
You get to see how Evelyn influences her to take life into her own hands, and I’m glad she was able to get what she deserved. And that’s the kind of effect a character like Evelyn has – she inspires you to want more for yourself and pushes you to go out there and get it.
Taylor Jenkins Reid has a knack for spinning convincing and compelling stories. Just when you think you know where she’s going with the story, there’s an emotional twist waiting around the corner. And this is one of the reasons why I love her books so much.
The ending gave me such mixed feelings. I was satisfied but wanted more of Evelyn’s story. I was both happy and heartbroken. The only thing I’m sure of is that I’ll be talking about this book to anyone who will listen for the foreseeable future.
One of the main themes in this book is accepting one’s sexual identity. The author explores how the characters struggled with figuring out their truths during a time when it wasn’t safe to talk about these issues out loud. I appreciated getting the perspective from inside the mind of someone navigating their emotions under public scrutiny and how this affected their perception of themselves and the people they loved.
Kudos to TJR for such a great representation of the LGBTQ community. Even though the world has progressed and people are talking more about it now, it’s saddening to know that the issues seen in this book still exist in some places.
The message portrayed about Hollywood in this book reminds me of a quote I read in Matthew Perry’s memoir – “you have to get famous to know that it’s not the answer. And nobody who is not famous will ever truly believe that.” Through her stories, Evelyn gives a realistic and unbridled portrayal of the ugly side of fame.
All the sacrifices she’s had to make and the people she had to hurt to stay relevant and be adored by the masses. But as we often learn, it’s not always worth it in the end, and the author did a great job of demonstrating this message to her readers.
TJR’s writing is seductive and poignant. It keeps you engaged and excited to see the story unfold. She chooses the perfect combinations of words to describe various aspects of life that you find yourself sitting back and thinking, “oh yeah, this is so true” but you never thought to express it out loud like that. Her writing impresses you with the truth and makes you reflect. She interspersed so many nuggets of wisdom that I almost ran out of post-it notes trying to highlight them all.
Reid’s dialogues are very intentional, especially those for Evelyn. And each chapter adds excellent dimension and value to who Evelyn is.
There are multiple formats and POVs used in this book that make for a great immersive read. She uses articles from newspapers and tabloids to compliment and progress the main story that in itself is told in a dual timeline. Everything worked together seamlessly to make you feel like you were right in the middle of the Hollywood world.
From the streets of Hell’s Kitchen in NYC to the red carpet in LA, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid will take you on an engaging and moving journey about finding the courage to chase your dreams. Taylor Jenkins Reid proves once again why she’s a remarkable storyteller, and this is one book you will not want to miss out on.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an absolute masterpiece filled with so much wisdom and inspiration that I couldn’t possibly fit all of its incredible quotes in the carousel below. Hence, the creation of an entire page dedicated to showcasing the best quotes that celebrate TJR’s sensational writing and Evelyn Hugo’s raw, unapologetic honesty.
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