The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo — Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

TITLE: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
AUTHOR: Taylor Jenkins Reid
RELEASED: June 13th, 2017; Atria Books
GENRE: Historical Fiction/Contemporary
AGE RANGE: Adult

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.

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“Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box. Don’t do that.”

Let me go ahead and say that I had no idea what to expect from this book. When it first released, I remember seeing it everywhere, and I honestly didn’t take any interest in it until I was told about how diverse it was. It’s full of incredible representation: you’ve got bi rep, gay rep, lesbian rep, a Cuban woman, a biracial woman—so when I heard about all of that, I finally decided to give it a try, and I’m so glad that I did, because whatever I thought Evelyn Hugo was about, didn’t hold a candle to the experience of reading it for myself.

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“People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘you’re safe with me’- that’s intimacy.”

Throughout the entire book, Evelyn is more or less laying her soul bare to Monique, this reporter who she’s asked to write her life story. As this famous actress, Evelyn’s memories are juicy and full of drama, hidden pains and secret triumphs, and most notably, her seven marriages—not one of them having been to the hidden love of her life. Despite the descriptions she gives for judgments she received and the snippets of gossip articles laid out intermittently through the book, Evelyn isn’t ashamed of herself in any way, and it creates this incredibly feminist, sex-positive atmosphere that I could’ve soaked in forever.

“I made it fifty-fifty. Which is about the cruelest thing you can do to someone you love, give them just enough good to make them stick through a hell of a lot of bad.”

Despite Evelyn’s status as this film goddess by this point, she feels so relatable and she manages to work even the celebrity aspects of her life into this narrative that anyone could understand, as she admits to the sins she committed and the lies she told, and even to the baser things like the fact that she realized early on, no amount of fame or fortune would ever truly satisfy a successful actress like herself. She constantly owns up to selfish motives and awful behaviors, yet she’s tremendously likable, and I think that’s a fact that points to how terrific Taylor Jenkins Reid’s storytelling is: because we are hearing everything through Evelyn’s memories, from the mouth of an elderly woman who has settled down and found peace, it makes it difficult to ever blame her for a single crime she committed.

“It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly.”

Of course, Evelyn’s not all bad—she overcame circumstances that many people would’ve simply given up under, and yet, she managed to love beautifully and to put her family first at every turn, even if the moves she made to protect them didn’t always make sense on the surface. Whether it’s her hidden love, or her endless commitment to her best friend, or her breathtaking adoration of her daughter, when you reach the end of the story and look back, it’s easy to see that nothing mattered more to Evelyn than the people she held dear, and it makes her feel spectacularly human.

“It’s a hard business, reconciling what the truth used to be with what the truth is now.”

Of course, Evelyn isn’t the only character who’s enjoyable in this book; underneath her memories is the story of Monique, the reporter who’s just trying to find her place in a world that doesn’t like to make room for strong women, much less women of color striking out on their own. She grows so much in a short span of time, and while the circumstances of the writing process aren’t always kind to her, and while she’s never really the star of the show, you can’t help but root for her, too—and everyone else in this complex, layered, masterpiece of a book.

“You have to find a job that makes your heart feel big instead of one that makes it feel small.”

I feel like there is so much more that I want to say, but at the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is one of the most brilliant pieces of writing I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It sets itself so solidly apart from anything I’ve ever read that even remotely resembled it, and is probably one of the most powerful, emotional, and incredible things I have ever read. I am forever grateful for each and every one of who you encouraged me to pick it up, and for Taylor Jenkins Reid, the genius behind the pages. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

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Just a 25-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

28 thoughts on “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo — Taylor Jenkins Reid

  1. I clearly did not read the right reviews for this book! Honestly, a close friend read and loved it but failed to tell how diverse it was, which baffles me? Now I will be adding it to my pile 💕 Thank you for shedding more light on this. I am surprised at how little mention I have seen of the fantastic representation!

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    1. Dude, the first several months after it came out, I didn’t hear ANYONE mention the queer rep! And I didn’t know about it having POC rep until about a month ago! It’s driving me nuts a little bit because it’s honestly a 100% crucial aspect of the story, so I don’t know why more people aren’t highlighting it in their reviews, lol. I hope you enjoy it! ♥

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  2. I love this book, it’s so good! It’s my new favourite. The synopsis definitely doesn’t give away how amazing this book is which is probably why it took me a while to pick up. Great review 🙂

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