Publication date : June 13th, 2017
Publisher : Atria Books
Genre : Adult | Historical Fiction
Page Count: 391
Synopsis : 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. (From Goodreads)
CW: Sexual assault, statutory rape, domestic physical abuse, cheating, homophobia, biphobia, alcoholism, death of loved ones, serious illnesses, mentions of suicide.
Since last december, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was ALL over my twitter timeline, everytime one of my friends read it, they became obsessed with it and joined the hype train, so it just kept getting more and more hype everyday so I eventually caved at the end of January and got it. And let me tell you. I don’t think any of my words will ever do it justice. It’s just too good, and it deserves every single praise I’ve heard about it and more. My expectations for it were sky-rocketing and it STILL managed to go above them, and fairly easily. All this to say that this review will be a struggle to write and I apologize in advance if it only half makes sense.
The writing is beautiful. It’s raw, emotional and brutally honest. Which fits Evelyn’s character perfectly. Taylor Jenkins Reid is an amazing writer, the way she threads words together to make impactful sentences astounds me. There’s also the fact that she ends some of the more important chapters with these cliffhanger type sentences that scare the shit out of you and make you want to stop while everything and everyone is okay, while simultaneously compelling you to keep reading.
The book is written from two POVs. It starts off with Monique’s but it’s mostly carried by Evelyn’s and spanning throughout multiple decades following her from age fourteen until well after she retired . I wouldn’t say it alternates because it’s not exactly true. Besides a few chapters at the start and at the end, most of the book is from Evelyn’s perspective as she tells her truth and life story. Monique’s chapters in the middle serve as a break between different stages of Evelyn’s life.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo starts with the question “Who is Evelyn Hugo’s one true love?” and the answer is given pretty early on so putting it in this review wouldn’t really be a spoiler but the book is an experience for the reader so I don’t want to give any piece of it away. Especially not about the characters (besides Evelyn and Monique) because Evelyn’s relationships with them are what makes the story what it is. While reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel it navigating in a grey area from start to finish. Nothing and no one is ever defined as good or bad and in my opinion, that’s what makes it so great. It’s just so real and complex.
Through Evelyn Hugo’s experiences as a queer woman of color (bisexual and cuban to be exact), the author explores Old Hollywood and the many issues a woman like her could encounter during that time. The sexism, her male peers’ needs always being above hers. The racism, having to change her name, hair color, language and accent to *pass* and succeed in the industry. But more than anything, the terrible queerphobia at the time and its very real consequences on her life and relationships. The pain of having to hide a huge part of her identity (with others) and the fear that comes with the life threatening possibility of being outted. There was a gutting quote in the book that just said it all:
“You imagine a world where the two of you can go out to dinner on a Saturday night, and no one thinks twice about it. It makes you want to cry, the simplicity of it. The smallness of it. You have worked so hard for a life so grand. And now all you want are the smallest freedoms. The daily peace of loving plainly.”
Granted, this described above is still the reality of a lot of queer people today but back then it was EVERY SINGLE queer person’s reality. It was constant hiding for everyone with the inevitable strain that can put on relationships.
The title can be misleading because you would go in expecting to learn all about Evelyn’s seven husbands and although that’s there and every section of the book is named after one of them, it’s not the main focus of the book. It’s main focus is our protagonist sharing her truth, unfiltered. This is about her paving her way in a world that’s set on bringing her down. Her wins, her losses. Her struggles. All the scandals and back stabbing. All the decisions she had to make, why she made them and their rippling consequences. Her story is so deep and multilayered, it’s ultimately heartbreaking but it had its happy moments.
I think that what makes this book mine and a lot of people’s favourite (or, one of them at least) is Evelyn herself as a character. She’s one of the best or THE best crafted character I’ve ever read about. A walking, talking, mezmerizing, breathtakingly beautiful, mystery. And no matter how many terrible decisions she made I still admired her because she knew what she wanted and had the gutts to do whatever it takes to get it. She’s in no means a good person, in fact, she’s quite awful but so captivating that you can’t help but fall in love with her. She’s strong, confident, ambitous and extremely smart. I was fascinated and compelled by the way her brain worked and connected things, how she could get herself out of the most impossible situations. I think that what makes it impossible to hate her is that she’s fully aware of her actions ad that she owns up to them and never tries to hide who she really is.
The other *main* character is Monique. I put that between * because to me, she didn’t really feel like a main character, she was more like a vessel to carry Evelyn’s story. Don’t get me wrong, she has a strong character arc but it felt a bit overshadowed by Evelyn’s. Monique is a thirty five year old biracial black woman who just got separated and feels stuck in her career. I quite liked her to be honest and how through discovering Evelyn’s story, she was inspired to take life by the horns and not be afraid to pursue what she really wants. I really liked seeing her bloom in that sense.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a book that moved me deeply and that I know will stick with me my whole life. It touched me and resonated with me in such deep ways that I couldn’t help but fall head over heels for it. It just put a lot of my thoughts and feelings into words that I struggled finding for myself.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.