This is my third time re-reading The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and once again I find myself completely awestruck by this beautiful gem of a story.
The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo tells the mesmerizing, gripping and heart wrenching story of a global super star named Evelyn Hugo, as she fights tooth and nail to pull herself out of poverty and become one of the highest paid actresses of Hollywood. The real mystery though, is her seven marriages, and her insistence in doing an interview with an obscure journalist.
Shocking, scandalous and riveting, The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo is a gripping novel that explores themes of feminine sexuality from the glittering lens of Old Hollywood. Each time I finished this book, I was left a sobbing, weeping mess.
Read on below for my full review, or see the quick version here.
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.
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.
Trigger Warnings: death, domestic violence and abuse, suicide (off-page), anti LGBTQ+ rhetoric, mild sexual scenes
Recommended Age Group: 16+
1. A Thoughtful Exploration Of Women’s Sexuality
Sexuality itself is one of the primary themes of this book, and Taylor Reid Jenkins puts the spotlight on women’s sexuality in particular. The subject itself is controversial–in our society, respectable women are not to express their desires. They are made to please, and not to be pleased. They are meant to be desirable but are not allowed to desire.
And Jenkins explore the hypocrisy of this mindset with a protagonist who is unafraid to break out of this narrative. From the very beginning, we see how society tries to use Evelyn’s own beauty against her; at the mere age of 14 she is led to believe that she must give her body if she wanted something.
We see Evelyn try to grow out of this mentality, and not without some serious struggles. I loved watching Evelyn slowly learn to see her worth and own her sexuality. Throughout the whole book, Evelyn is unapologetic, making bold choices and refusing to be shamed for it.
And I absolutely loved it. Smash the patriarchy sweetheart!
2. A Heartbreakingly Beautiful Romance
I want to make it clear that The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo is so much more than a love story. But romance is still the central element of the novel, and it is the most heartbreakingly beautiful, realistic, masterfully written love story that I have ever read.
I am serious guys. You might want to keep a box of tissues near you. And a stressball. And maybe some ice cream too. By the time you are done with the book, the bittersweet romance that Evelyn experienced will make you weep!
As you can tell by the title, Evelyn gets married seven times throughout her life, and each marriage shows the reader all the different kinds of complicated, messy and beautiful relationships that people can experience in their lifetimes.
Some of these relationships will make you shudder. Some will make you cry. Some will give you the warmest, fuzzy feelings in your stomach. And with each and every relationship, Jenkins explores how there are no “good guys” or “bad guys”; she shows us that even the best of us have our dark sides.
3. Sweeping, Immersive Storytelling With Realistic Characters
Taylor Jenkins Reid is an amazing storyteller and this book is the proof. The story is divided into chapters for each of her marriages, and each of these chapters begin with a moniker that describes Evelyn’s husbands in a few words. It also sets the tone of the chapters from early on, so you are left with anticipation for what will happen next and shocked when the unexpected happens. Suffice to say, reading this book was one hell of a roller-coaster ride, even when the monikers gave me clues on what to expect.
And of course, what really makes this book stand out are the characters. Jenkins gives us two very different leading characters–we have Monique, who is incredibly relatable, and we have Evelyn, who consistently scandalizes the readers with her choices.
4. Authentic Representation Of The Struggles Of Queer People, Women And People Of Color
The representation of diversity in this book was both authentic and so thought-provoking. You get to see the struggles of those in the LGBTQ+ community. There are many off-handed comments that, although mentioned lightly in dialogues, really makes you realize the struggles of people of color (particularly women) in a world dominated by white male privilege.
I loved seeing how accurately Jenkins explores the fears that queer people have when they consider the repercussions of being their most authentic self. As a bisexual woman who can only ever come out in this blog, it was painfully relatable for me.
And then there is the thought-provoking discussion on identity and self-awareness. Both Evelyn and Monique often have to struggle claiming their identities as women of color in a society where only white people are visible and valued.
Minor spoiler: Evelyn literally has to give up on her mother language, change her color and practice her accent before she is considered for important roles in films. Meanwhile, Monique often shares her frustrations of explaining to people how she is biracial and not just a black woman. It was both fascinating and a little heartbreaking to see these two women trying to assert their true identities in a world that is all-too willing to label them and fit them in a box.
5. An Immersive, Glittering World Of Old Hollywood
I am not kidding when I say this book is glamorous. With Jenkin’s immersive narration style and a cast of realistic characters who are climbing up the ladder of fame and glory, you get to dive deep into the glittering world of the rich and the privileged in Hollywood. The whole time I was reading this book, I felt like I was living Evelyn’s glamorous life in her shoes and was completely transported away.
What I also found really clever was how occasionally Jenkins would take a break from the glamor and bring the reader back to reality by switching to Monique’s perspective and her simpler, ordinary life. This back-and-forth really helps the reader to relate to a character whose experiences are familiar while making our other protagonist Evelyn seem truly larger than life.
6. A Deep Exploration Of Power Dynamics
This is another very big theme in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. Throughout the novel, Jenkins shows the imbalance of power between men and women in society in the most eye-opening way. We see how women’s career opportunities in Hollywood rely too greatly on their age and appearance–factors that should be affecting men’s opportunities similarly, and yet, women are the ones who pay the greater price.
The same imbalance of power is seen in a few of Evelyn’s marriage is well. And while most of it is seen through the lens of Hollywood, the fact remains that it is a reality for women everywhere, no matter how successful or beautiful they are.
There are so much more that this book has to offer its readers. I could go on and on. Needlessly to say, this is a book that is a MUST READ for everyone, no matter what genre you are most comfortable with. If I were to make a list of books that deeply resonated with me, The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo would be at the top of the list.
Quick Review: The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo By Taylor Jenkins Reid
I loved this book so much that my review ended up being 1500+ words. For those of you who didn’t have the patience (not that I blame you), here is the TL;DR version. These are the reasons why you should read The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid:
1. Exploration of feminine sexuality
2. A heartbreakingly beautiful romance
3. Amazing protagonist & characters
4. A deep dive into the world of Hollywood
5. Authentic representation of the struggles of women, queer people and people of color
To sum it up, this is a book that I am gonna keep revisiting over time. There was so much that I could relate to, and every time I read it, I find words of wisdom and comfort to help me get through the day. I strongly recommend this book to everyone.
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