REVIEW: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Published: 13th June 2017

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 391 (paperback)/ 12 hours and 10 minutes (audiobook)

Format: Audiobook (via Scribd & narrated by Alma Cuervo and Julia Whelan

RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)/audiobook listened to with monthly subscription

5/5 Stars

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.

As a long time fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s work, I was scared to pick up The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo initially. The book was so hyped, with everyone loving it so passionately that I simply left it alone for years. I wasn’t ready for the emotional turmoil I knew Reid was going to wreck on me. When I picked this book up towards the end of 2020,  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo ruined me, as I knew it would.

Everything you have previously heard about this book is true, for Taylor Jenkins Reid is a phenomenal writer; perhaps even one of the best of our times. Romantic to their very core, Reid’s novels are hard-hitting contemporaries that threaten to strike at the heart of the reader. Through her characters and their stories, Reid asks the reader to reevaluate their own lives, perspectives, prejudices and preconceived notions about others. She forces us to explore our human psyches, tearing apart our base desires, fears and even our dreams, usually without us aware that we are doing so until we are forced to confront and accept the very things that matter most. Love. Acceptance.

Told through dual timeline and perspective,  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is one hell of a book. With Monique’s naivety and Evelyn’s hard-won wisdom, the two teach each other about life, love, and what it means to be happy, in the most unexpected of ways. Having listened to Alma Cuervo and Julia Wheland expert narration of Hugo’s life and Monique’s meeting with the mysterious superstar, I’m itching to physically read this book once more and see exactly how Reid worked her magic stylistically with her writing. Each character’s voice was strong and unique, and I was transported between the two timelines (New York in the 1950s and 60s compared to now) with so much finesse and ease that it was like there was a movie playing out before me. Or better yet, I was witnessing a private conversation between friends. It felt illicit and dangerous, as though I was eavesdropping and hearing all the nitty-gritty details that made Hugo who she was.

By approaching Evelyn Hugo through the eyes of Monique, a young journalist facing life’s crossroads, Reid positions the reader to deep dive behind the ritz and glitz of the world of Hollywood’s most elite via the perspective of an ‘everyday person’. Much like Monique, after hearing of her fame and success, the reader will have their preconceived expectations of what Evelyn Hugo’s life will have been like, which positions Reid perfectly to explore her key themes of identity, power, sexuality, acceptance, family, love, race, gender and what it means to be human. Reid deep dives through life’s toughest decisions, allowing the reader to react and face their own choices, expectations and realities at their own pace.

While I adored Monique and Evelyn Hugo’s interactions and characterisation, the real strength of this story comes from its supporting characters – Evelyn’s seven husbands, and to a lesser extent, Monique’s husband and both women’s families – for its through them, that we begin to see how these characters have been shaped by their acquaintances and life experiences. Evelyn’s great loves are a defining part of her personality, character growth and identity.

The queer and colour representation in this book was dynamic with many sexualities and identities explored on the page. Evelyn Hugo herself spent the majority of the book demanding that her bisexuality not be overlooked, mislabelled or reduced in any shape or form, while also explaining the lengths she went to shed her heritage and ‘white pass’ to get her to the top. Celia was steadfast in her identity as a lesbian, resenting to the very core that she needed to pass as a cis woman in a heterosexual relationship to be taken seriously. Harry hid his feelings for men publicly, knowing that it would destroy his career standing, but found comfort in his private life and behind closed doors.

I really can’t say too much about this book without giving away the story, but I implore you to pick up a copy of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo if you haven’t already done so, ASAP. It’s a wild, passionate and fraught ride that will leave you desperate for more, and longing to hug your loved ones close.

I highly recommend  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

To purchase a copy of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, visit the following online retailers:

Simon & Schuster | Amazon AUS | Amazon USA | Angus & Robertson | Barnes & NobleBooktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks | Harry Hartog | Kinokuniya | QBD

To learn more about Taylor Jenkins Reid, visit the following social media pages:

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

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