The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5
Man did this book exceed my expectations! Or, more accurately, my lack of expectations. I’d seen glowing reviews floating around linked to this elegant emerald covered story, and in a moment of FOMO, decided I should give it a try. Despite having come out a couple years ago, there was quite a hold for this guy at the library, which I suspect has to do with the sudden explosion of Taylor Jenkins Reid as a result of her most recent novel, Daisy Jones & the Six (which is also on my list).
When I first started The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I was not immediately impressed. The storyline of the narrator, Monique, seemed kind of bland and clichéd. She and her husband had recently split up, she was struggling to make it big in the publishing industry in New York, life is hard, we get it. Her boss Frankie, calls her into her office one day to tell her that Evelyn Hugo, a hugely famous star now getting on in age, has agreed to an exclusive interview with their magazine, Vivant, if, and only if, Monique is assigned to the piece. Monique, a junior writer with no big stories at the magazine under her belt. I was a little exasperated, but also intrigued as to why this woman was chosen so specifically.
From there we meet Evelyn, who refuses to explain her choice of writer to Monique, but does tell her that rather than the fluff piece Vivant was expecting, she wants Monique to write Evelyn’s biography to be published post-mortem. Although immediately concerned for her job security, Monique sees the immense value writing the piece would provide to her, and is able to leverage Evelyn’s need for her in order to give Vivant a little of what they are expecting as well. The majority of the rest of the novel depicts Evelyn’s life, starting as a young Cuban immigrant leaving home to try to make it as an actress in Los Angeles. At first, Evelyn utilizes her good looks and maturing body to get roles, and is eventually rebranded as a blonde bombshell, and begins to book roles based on her own fame.
Evelyn talks Monique through her marriages to each of her seven husbands. In fact, Reid chooses to separate her story into segments for each husband, which I found very effective. Throughout each marriage, a couple people remain constant in Evelyn’s life: Harry, her best friend, who works behind the scenes on many movies with her, and Celia, a fellow actress who we soon learn to be the one true love of Evelyn’s life. In fact, much of the novel focuses on the lack of LGBTQ rights, and the consequences of being outwardly gay in the society Evelyn grew up in. We come to learn that each of her husbands served a purpose, either to appease fans, or act as a cover so she could be with Celia without raising suspicion.
I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of Evelyn’s life, although there were times when it felt a little bit repetitive with all the marriages and descriptions of them falling apart. Ultimately, though, I was very impressed with Reid’s storytelling abilities, and I was on the edge of my seat to find out where the connection between Evelyn and Monique would fit in. The suspense towards this reveal built up wonderfully towards the end of the novel, and the follow-up to Monique’s shock provided a satisfying ending. I’m excited to jump on the Taylor Jenkins Reid bandwagon, and can’t wait to see what she has in store next.