Reclusive Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant to write her story, no one is more astounded than Monique herself.
Determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career, Monique listens in fascination. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s – and, of course, the seven husbands along the way – Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. But as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
First, let me start with saying the blurb in no way does The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo anything resembling justice.
Evelyn Hugo is like one of those Magic’s Secrets Revealed! shows: gloriously painted pictures of emerald dresses and 1950s Hollywood being pulled back to reveal exactly what that glamour was hiding – alcoholism, abuse, the many shades of sexuality, the price of beauty, and what it meant to be LQBTQ and a woman of colour in a world of rich, white, male privilege happy to build you up, as long as they reserved the right to viciously tear you down. It’s masterfully crafted by Taylor Jenkins Reid, who basically owns the patent for on fictional biographies: no one creates flawed, charismatic fictional celebrities like she does, so fully-realised you have to Google them to make sure they’re actually fictional. (See also: one of my favourite books of last year, Daisy Jones and The Six). Evelyn Hugo has only been on my bookshelf for three months, but they were three months too long. I laughed, I cried, and in spite of everything, I fell in love with Evelyn: I dare you not to, too.
I’m gushing. I can’t help it.
Let’s get on with it.
❗️Mild spoilers ahead!❗️
👍The misleading blurb does one thing: it allows the reader to go in blind, so you’re finding out Evelyn’s secrets along with her unwitting biographer, Monique. I thought I was getting a gossipy Hollywood story, and I’d have been happy with that – but it’s so much more.
👍I’ve used the word once already, but there’s no other way to describe it: the way the plot is woven is masterful. I did guess the big reveal, but I think that was a combination of pausing in the right place, and not being able to get the book off my mind. But guessing the reveal didn’t spoil anything, because it was laced in so well that the how was just as important as the what. It’s a masterclass in the importance of the relationship between character and plot.
👍And on the subject of character: each and every one is vivid, multi-dimensional, driven, complicated, flawed but sympathetic (well, maybe a couple of the husbands skip that last one). Like I said: Taylor Jenkins Reid could write the masterclass.
👍Evelyn’s life is divided into sections relating to each of her seven husbands, but it never feels like their story: it’s who she was, and how she changed, around each, and they’re just a convenient organisational system. And that organisational system is amusing, as each husband is given a moniker: ‘Goddamn Don Adler’, ‘Disappointing Max Girard’. I like to think of them as Evelyn reducing each husband to one little adjective. It feels very efficiently Evelyn, somehow.
👍And of course, the entire backdrop of sleazy Hollywood behind the glamour is so vivid it’s almost a character of its own. You get sucked right in.
❤️Evelyn effing Hugo. That’s it.
🌟Favourite character: Evelyn. Is that any surprise?
🌟Favourite quote: ‘”I like you this way. I like you impure and scrappy and formidable. I like the Evelyn Hugo who sees the world for what it is and then goes out there and wrestles what she wants out of it. So, you know, put whatever label you want on it, just don’t change. That would be the real tragedy.”‘
🌟Favourite moment: I love the moments between Evelyn and Harry (like the one in that quote above) – but there’s also something powerful in the last words of the novel. One in particular: ‘Wife’.
This book is:
Part of a duology🔶 Part of a trilogy🔶 Part of a series
Action-packed🔶Charming🔶 Clever🔶 Comforting🔶Creepy🔶 Dark🔶Emotional 🔶Funny🔶Gripping🔶 Haunting🔶Heartbreaking 🔶Intense🔶Mysterious🔶Powerful 🔶Quirky🔶Romantic🔶Sad🔶Scary🔶Sweet🔶Tear-jerking🔶 Tense🔶Touching 🔶Twisted🔶 Violent🔶 Witty
Middle Grade🔶 YA🔶Adult
You should beware of:
Insinuations of/talk of sexual abuse; domestic abuse; violence against women; cancer; vehicular manslaughter; parental death
You’ll probably love it if you loved:
Daisy Jones and The Six, also by Taylor Jenkins Reid