The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
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 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—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.
Okay, okay. I get the hype.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has been on my radar for a while and it’s one I was never 100% certain I was going to get to, despite seeing all the rave reviews, until I discovered that it features a prominent f/f relationship. To know a novel featuring queer women has been so popular made me determined to pick it up this year, and I finally did just that.
It’s 2017 and journalist Monique Grant, recently separated from her husband and trying to make a name for herself in the business she’s most passionate about, arrives at work and is met with the remarkable news that reclusive movie icon Evelyn Hugo has requested her specifically to interview her for a feature in the magazine Monique works for. Naturally Monique jumps at the chance, but when she meets Evelyn she discovers she’s been summoned under false pretenses: Evelyn doesn’t want to do an interview for a magazine. Evelyn wants Monique to write her biography.
What follows is Evelyn telling Monique her entire life story, from her humble beginnings to her Oscar-winning stardom and the seven husbands she acquires along the way.
Is this book a masterpiece? No, but did it keep me gripped and entertained throughout? Absolutely. This novel is so readable, I’ll definitely be checking out more from Taylor Jenkins Reid in future, and it made me realise that, contrary to what I’ve always thought, I can enjoy books about fame. I’ve never gravitated towards books about celebrity because I don’t tend to enjoy reading books about people so wealthy they have dollar bills spilling from their eyeballs, but this book was so much more about what you have to give up and let go of for fame and success.
I loved discovering how Evelyn manipulated the media who were constantly trying to trip her up – she’s a Slytherin to her core, and she’s fantastic – and I also loved how much bisexual pride there is in this book. Evelyn spends so much of her life being forced to choose one or the other; she has to let go of her Cuban heritage and hide one half of her sexuality in order to be successful as she rises to stardom in the mid-20th century. Despite all that, though, when she’s able to tell her life story she takes pride in being all that she is.
I also have to praise this novel for showing how those who identify as bisexual can face backlash from the LGBT+ community as well as from those who identify as heterosexual, something that sadly still happens today. For anyone looking for strong bi rep I can’t recommend this book enough, and I’m so glad that a novel which explores this has been so widely read and loved.
The book isn’t without its flaws; I preferred the first half of the novel to the second half, mainly because I loved reading about how Evelyn worked her way to stardom from nothing, and I’m still not sure how satisfied I am with Evelyn’s connection to Monique. But that’s not to say the second half is bad by any means, because it really isn’t. This entire novel was a pure joy to read and Evelyn is one of those characters who’s going to stay with me forever.
If nothing else, I finished this novel gutted that Evelyn isn’t real. I’d love to watch her movies.