Book Title and Author: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publication date and Publisher: June 13, 2017 by Atria Books
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Adult Fiction
Pages: 400 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: June 15, 2017 (Kindle)
From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.
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 in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating 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 takes—to face the truth.
Once again, Taylor Jenkins Reid delivers an emotional and unique story although the story of famous Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo is completely unlike anything that Reid has written before, and I say that as a compliment. If possible, her writing has only gotten better, and she has completely outdone herself with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Oh yes, this novel is much more complex, more carefully crafted, the narrative richer, and the twists and turns so intricate that they are like a finely woven pattern. And of course there is the drama and emotion one can always expect in a Reid novel, and it is so beautifully done in Evelyn Hugo that it is breathtakingly beautiful. And as always, when I read a Reid novel, I cried more times than I care to admit, but she has that ability to know exactly where to make the reader feel such depth of emotions you cannot help but admire her for knowing exactly how to draw you in and make you so connected to every part of the story and the characters.
What can I say about the phenomenal and legendary Hollywood actress Evelyn Hugo?! She appears so vividly real you almost believe you are reading about a living, classic Hollywood star instead of a fictional character! Evelyn literally could have been pulled off the cover of a magazine cover as real as Reid characterized her; it was pure perfection by Reid! I’m a fan of old movies from the 50’s and 60’s and in my mind’s eye, I visualized a lush and sensuous blend of Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, and Elizabeth Taylor for Evelyn’s gorgeous looks. But, Evelyn is much more than her beauty although she used her looks for advantage throughout her life anytime she wanted to achieve personal success. Oh, no! She is an extremely smart, powerful woman, and that as much as her beauty is how she made it as an A-lister in Hollywood!
But, for all her beauty, wealth, and fame, Evelyn is in no way perfect. In fact, she really isn’t that nice of a person; I would call her a narcissist. She left plenty of scandals, affairs, and backstabbing in her wake during the 50’s in Hollywood as she climbed her way to the pinnacle of fame that lasted well into the 80’s, and she didn’t really look back. Along with her fame, came heartache and pain, not only her own but for many of those who shared her life. Including her seven husbands.
It is her decision to suddenly share her stories of her rise to fame in Hollywood and her deepest secrets that lead her to grant her first interview in decades. There is one stipulation though; she will only give the interview to Monique Grant, a junior magazine reporter, which seems so odd at the time. Not only that but when she meets Monique, Evelyn makes it very clear that she is not offering an interview at all, but wants Monique to write a tell-all book of her entire life’s story–a once in a lifetime opportunity that Evelyn only offers Monique or it will never be written. Of course, Monique takes her up on the offer to write the book since her own life is at an emotional crossroads although she does question why she is chosen to tell the story. Indeed, that same question stays with you throughout the book! You immediately wonder, why Monique? Why did Evelyn pick a relatively unknown journalist to interview her when she could pick any journalist in the world? I’ll tell you I had some wild ideas about why Monique was chosen, all of which were so wrong! So, when the real reason comes out towards the end of the book, I was quite shocked! As was Monique!
When Monique interviews Evelyn, Evelyn shares details about her terrible childhood, the horrible things she had to do to make her break in sexist, 50’s Hollywood, many of the lies she has told over the years, and shares intimate and sometimes very disturbing details about each of the relationships she shared with each of her seven husbands. She did love a few of her husbands, but most of her marriages were made to further her career, or to hide her own secret and life long affair with the great love of her life. What I loved was that when she talks about her secret love, it is the only time you really see the real Evelyn Hugo. It is this hidden romance that is both touching and heartbreaking because of its beauty and its secretness that truly sets the novel apart from any of the other summer reads of 2017 since Reid so eloquently touches on themes that I’m not going to outright spoil but will say that the unexpected part of the novel is an absolutely perfect twist that fully embraces feminine sexuality.
The way the book was written was very captivating. It is told as conversations between Monique and Evelyn and the chapters are broken down by her different husbands. The details are lush and juicy and bring to life the glamor of Old Hollywood. The majority of the story takes place in the past with Monique asking questions of Evelyn in the present about what she’s been told. I will say at times it was difficult to read about how sexualized women were in 50’s Hollywood and suppressed because of their gender. The history in the book was extremely interesting as Reid explored the themes of sexism, sexuality, and domestic abuse in the 50’s and 60’s through to the historical changes experienced by women in the mid-80’s.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was an absolutely stunning read. I would give it more than 5 stars if I could, and it is definitely on my list of top reads of 2017. It is an emotional story that will leave you feeling so many feelings. The story is less about Evelyn’s failed marriages and more about forgiveness and acceptance. Oh, and about love, deep abiding love. If you love beautifully written stories about deception, dark secrets, romance, undying love, and heartache, then you will thoroughly enjoy this book. Reid has written another mesmerizing novel that is a perfect summer read!