It took me some time to get around to reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and then it took me some time to get around to gathering my thoughts on it. What. A. Book. Reading it made me understand why everybody in the book community was so obsessed with this book. At first, I was kind of intimidated to read it because I felt like this was the kind of book I might like and I was scared I won’t. I know, it’s a silly reason not to read it. I absolutely loved this book, I adored it. I was floored by it. I don’t necessarily adore Evelyn herself as much as I admire her despite her flaws and morally ambiguous things she has done.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo takes the form of a story within a story. Monique Grant is chosen to write Evelyn’s official biography- which seems odd at first, until she tells the story in full. Monique is a compelling protagonist in her own right and while her life can seem more mundane in comparison to the colorful life Evelyn has lived, it keeps the story grounded. Monique’s struggles are something everyday people can relate to and she is someone you can see yourself in, while still being her unique character, not a self-insert or camera for the reader to see the story through.
Modern-day chapters are interspersed with Evelyn’s recollections, from her start in Hollywood, to her rise, to the heyday of her fame, and finally to her quiet retirement. Monique does offer some commentary here and there, but for the most part I liked how she doesn’t judge much and let Evelyn tell her story.
And Evelyn has one hell of a story to tell, the kind which was perhaps suited to the glamorous Old Hollywood we all like to romanticize and seemed to fit the character of Evelyn Hugo, the kind of character who was inspired by many of the most glamorous real-life stars of the era. Taylor Jenkins Reid spun a wonderful yarn and her descriptions made me imagine every scene as though Evelyn’s life was a movie playing out in my mind.
This was a story of a tenacious woman who knew what she wanted and would do anything to get it in an era where the odds are stacked against women- especially queer women of color. Evelyn was a driven woman who wanted to be a star and was ready to do what it takes to be one. She is a woman in control who would not let men run her life and valued her independence and freedom. Most of all, while she lived her life a “closeted” bisexual, Evelyn is unapologetically queer. She is a bisexual woman and once she accepted that fact, she would not let it be erased. She herself says that the signs about her orientation were there if one would choose to see it. People had their image, their view of Evelyn Hugo and who she was, and then there’s the real Evelyn Hugo.
This was a rollercoaster ride of a story. You will laugh, cry, feel indignant, get angry. It’s a very human story about a star with very human flaws. I cried a lot reading this book and honestly, it deserves it. What a beautiful, fantastic book. Here, the layers of the incredible life the main character lived are stripped away until only the truth remains. And the truth was that Evelyn Hugo was a complex character who love her or hate her, read like an actual human.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was an incredible novel and one of the best adult fiction I’ve read. I will be definitely checking out more of the author’s work in the future.