Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Pub. Date: September 3rd 2019
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Atria Books
Format: Physical Book
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is one rare gem of a book! I can confidently say it’s my favorite read of the year & I doubt anything will top this. It’s also the book that gifted me a new auto-buy favorite author & a cast of characters that are truly memorable. Many have reviewed & gushed about just how amazing this story is, I’ve read eloquent reviews & watched countless booktubers sing its praises. The book that took the Bookish community by storm deserves all the love it continues to receive. The story of Evelyn Hugo born Evelyn Herrera to Cuban immigrants will lead you to believe you’re reading about a actual real life person and not a fictional character created by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Evelyn Hugo is a perfectly flawed Hollywood actress in her late 70’s who just wants to bare her truths and tell her story. She’s lived a very glamorous life and paid a heavy price to achieve true stardom. Now that all of her loved ones have passed away and she doesn’t have much to live, Evelyn wants the world to see her for who she really is. A bi-sexual Latinx woman who sacrificed major parts of her identity in exchange for fame, wealth, and power. After all, 1950’s Hollywood wasn’t a safe and accepting time for people in the LGBTQIAP+ community. Neither was it a thriving time for a Latinx woman trying to start their career in acting. Evelyn knew she was destined for more & ambitiously set out to become what she dreamed of.
“When you’re given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn’t give things, you take things. If you learn one thing from me, it should probably be that”
Evelyn Hugo seeks out Monique Grant, a bi-racial journalist who is stuck writing “puff pieces” for Vivant. Recently separated from her husband & on her way to divorce, Monique is feeling very underused at Vivant. When the invitation arrives from Evelyn Hugo explicitly requesting her, no one would’ve guessed it was for a ground breaking/career making opportunity. Evelyn Hugo wants to have her Biography written by Monique Grant but the reasons behind it will remain undisclosed until the right time. It is through these interview sessions between Evelyn & Monique that we get a first hand account of all the glam, first loves, secrets, lies and heart breaks. We learn of each of Evelyn’s husbands, all very different from one another. The role they played in Evelyns career & the real story behind what was printed on the covers of glossy magazines. There’s one part early on in their sessions that sticks out in my memory the most. Monique asks Evelyn whether she’s ready to come out as a gay woman to which Evelyn responds with such powerful & moving words…
“I’m bi-sexual. Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box, Monique. Don’t do that”
This truth is one she’s had to live privately & so delivering her most authentic self in her biography was key. We go on to learn what becomes of Evelyn once she leaves her first husband in Hell’s Kitchen & gets her first gig in a movie. We see her as a victim of domestic violence in her second marriage & how that affects her going forward. She takes full control of her life & gives the media/world the image they crave. Highly intelligent, Evelyn knew how to mold herself. She kept her real life very private & delivered the version that would get her the highly coveted roles. There was no such this as bad publicity & when she found herself in a negative light, it was only a matter of time before she rebounded into a better position.
“I’m not saying the gossip columnists printed what they knew to be a lie. I’m simply saying they were all too happy to believe the lie I was selling them. And of course, that’s the easiest lie to tell, one you know the other person desperately wants to be true”
This book truly had it all & has left such a lasting impression on me. I was deeply invested in Evelyn’s story and the small circle of loved ones she kept near and dear to her heart. I loved that this read as a historical fiction novel with glimpses into 1950’s Hollywood. We follow her career throughout the years, not just the behind the scenes takes as an actress but also politics & the LGBTQIAP+ community. As the story unfolds, we learn many shocking truths and ultimately discover the reasons for which Evelyn sought out Monique. I lost count of the times I felt raw emotion & stopped to highlight passages/quotes. Having read Daisy Jones & the Six earlier this year, my only hope is to continue to meet more complex realistic characters on the page I can grow attached to. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like a TJR novel, such unique plots & story telling skills! There is absolutely no doubt in mind I will be following Taylor Jenkins Reid throughout her literary career.
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