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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid Book Cover, overlaid on Hollywood sign

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Rating:
3/5

Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Year: 2021

Genre: Romance, LGBTQ+, Historical Fiction

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo tells the story of aging and reclusive Hollywood legend, Evelyn Hugo who decides to detail all of her scandalous and glamoarous life to magazine reporter, Monique Grant.

Monique Grant is a reporter for magazine Vivant but her life isn’t exactly going smoothly at the moment. Her husband has just left her and at Vivant her work mainly revolves around opinion pieces and boring low-level reporting. So it comes as a major surprise when Evelyn Hugo requests Monique specifically to interview and report on her life. Monique wonders why her, and why now?

As Monique visits her apartment, she discovers Evelyn actually wants to release a biography of her life. Monique agrees and listens with fascination as Evelyn’s story unravels. From her troubled upbringing in New York to her journey to Los Angeles and eventually finding stardom, Evelyn details it all.

She opens up about what she did to reach the top of the acting world, as well as the risks, lives and loves she took, broke and lost along the way. Monique discovers a tale of ruthless ambition as Evelyn goes through her account of each of her seven husbands as well as a great forbidden love which dominated her entire life which she had to keep secret because of the times. However as Evelyn’s story intertwines with Monique’s and her family’s past, the tragic and irreversible truth may make Monique think differently about this famous actress and what she has let herself in for.

One of the things that Reid does really well in this book is evoke that classic “Old” Hollywood feel throughout much of the story. Evelyn comes across as a movie icon like any other of the 50s and 60s (actresses such as Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner spring to mind whilst you are reading who were indeed Reid’s inspiration in creating Evelyn). Evelyn is a very complex and complicated woman and her story is a very interesting one for the reader to learn about.

From her troubled upbringing and rise to the top, to her friendship and eventual love for fellow actress Celia St. James and the lengths she goes to keep it secret to protect her career, it makes for a very powerful and emotional read. Indeed, sometimes wanted to shout at her over what she was doing as it seemed her career and power mattered far more than the people around her.

I also really liked the structure of the book in how it interspersed Evelyn’s account with newspaper articles from the time which also shows a very interesting theme of the disconnect we have as people and fans with the celebrities we follow. Further, it shows how their public persona is in many ways a mask they use to protect themselves. There are times through the book where these articles are either scarily close to home and what is going on and other times where they are very wide off the mark which is surely a comment on media intrusion and speculation in famous people’s lives.

The other main character Monique is also very well written and her character arc is really interesting as Evelyn’s story teaches her to both stand up for herself and to go after what she wants and it is interesting to see her grow throughout the story. Their dynamic as two character is also very important as the book mainly focusses on these two women.

I will admit the book is quite slow to get going in the beginning as Monique and Evelyn thrash out details of the biography and Evelyn’s story isn’t really too interesting at the beginning. However once Celia enters the story¬† I found it much more interesting.

I would also say the big twist in the story which involves Monique’s family I did see coming from a mile away so when that does happen and considering it is meant to be one of the emotional punches of the story I didn’t really feel too much. You do also wonder why Monique herself doesn’t figure it out for herself before she gets to the end which does show to an extent her degree of naivety and ability to think the best of people when she maybe shouldn’t do that.

Overall I did find it an entertaining read and would recommend it but probably wouldn’t read it over and over again.

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