Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

MADI SCOTT | REPEAT OFFENDERS



Poor Ernie Diaz.

Goddamn Don Adler.

Gullible Mick Riva.

Clever Rex North.

Brilliant, Kind hearted, Tortured Harry Cameron.

Disappointing Max Girard.

Agreeable Robert Jamison.


These are the seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo.


Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2017 novel has made a resurgence in 2021. Almost overnight, it became a book that I couldn’t seem to avoid. It was suggested on TikTok, promoted by Instagram book clubs, even close friends kept asking if I had read it yet, and to be completely honest, I really wasn’t that interested in reading it.


There was just something about the cover and the description of the historical fiction novel that didn’t interest me – not that I actually knew anything about it, but I was just certain I didn’t want to join the masses and read historical fiction; it’s just not my go-to genre. But boy, was I wrong.


I’m glad I finally caved and downloaded a sample after talking to a friend. I still didn’t have any idea of what the book was about; I was going in blind. But by the first husband – Ernie Diaz, I was hooked. So hooked that I now look forward to reading her more recent novels which have also been highly recommended: Daisy Jones & The Six and Malibu Rising.


I really think going in with literally zero expectations and any idea of what I was about to read added to my enjoyment, and I would recommend that everyone else do the same. Seriously. Stop reading this article and go buy the book.


*


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo starts with the unlikely interview between magazine reporter Monique Grant and the reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo. Selected to write Evelyn’s biography, Monique is summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment and settles in to hear her story.


What emerges is a story that perfectly encapsulates the old Hollywood glamour starting in the ‘50s and winding up throughout the ‘80s to the present day. As someone who really enjoys the odd Gene Kelly or Audrey Hepburn movie and has been known to fall into a rabbit hole regarding some of the drama and gossip of the era, I really think Reid conjures up the perfect character in Evelyn Hugo. The amount of detail that is woven into the story, with made up movie titles, production studios, and supporting casts, makes you really ponder if it is all make believe. And it wasn’t just me; there are numerous questions from readers asking if the novel was in fact based on reality because it’s hard to comprehend how effortlessly Reid creates a completely fictional world that feels so real.


The novel switches between the past and the present in a seamless way, allowing readers to completely immerse themselves in the life of a glamorous movie star.


Even when transported back into reality and following the life of Monique Grant, I was still engrossed. Learning about Evelyn’s life at the same speed as Monique is often tedious, especially with Evelyn’s hints that both you, the reader, and Monique are missing a very large piece of the story. That mystery of trying to piece together the ending with limited amounts of information adds to the suspense of the novel. You know the ending will be surprising, yet you can’t help but keep guessing what the next turn will be.


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is full of twists and turns, and no matter how many times I thought I had figured out some part of Evelyn’s life, I was always proven wrong. A biography style book can sound quite dull and slow, yet Evelyn’s life is so full of excitement, heartbreak, and drama that it can be hard not to rush through the story.


Without spoiling too much, because I think the surprises add to the greatness of the novel, the exploration of LGBTQ+ relationships from an old-Hollywood point of view was especially noteworthy. The amount of care and detail Reid put into the intertwining storylines was impossible to miss and added a whole other dimension to the insight into the personal lives of golden cinema’s biggest stars.


Reading a book that you know has a twist ending can often be difficult to enjoy. You read faster and faster whilst conjuring up all these possibilities in your mind, and once you reach that surprise ending, you can often be disappointed. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was not like that. Even as the story reached its close, revelation after revelation came out, and with each new piece of information, I was surprised at how well everything clicked into place. The ending was both satisfying and heartbreakingly sad, yet I can’t stop recommending it to friends.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was a refreshing take on the historical fiction genre, exploring facets of fame that aren’t usually touched upon in novels. As someone who doesn’t tend to pick up anything historical in nature, this book has encouraged me to read more genres outside of my comfort zone and has become one of my favourites reads of 2021.


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