Book Review for “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Summary: “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.”
This is another of those books that I saw advertised all over the place when it was released in 2017, and while it piqued my interest, I let it slide. However, after reading her “Daisy Jones & The Six” I knew that I had to get myself a copy of this book, and see what all the fuss was about – mostly because I realized with Daisy Jones, the fuss was very well deserved. Yes, I knew that some reviewers liked this better than Daisy Jones, while others found this the lesser novel. But you know me; I have to make up my own mind, and all the hype in the world isn’t going to sway me one way or another! So… here’s what I found.
Let’s start with the writing here, since a good story is only as good as how the author tells it, and Reid has a knack of drawing her readers in from the first lines. As I mentioned before, Reid’s style of writing is subtle, and straightforward, with just enough descriptive passages to set the mood. What fascinates me is that from there, she just seemingly lets the rest of the story tell itself. The whole book feels like it was effortless to write, since it flowed so naturally. Of course, we know that’s probably not how it happened, but I totally envy how unforced Reid’s prose feels in her novels. This doesn’t mean that her style is boring, but that it has just enough color to it, to ensure that there’s the right atmosphere, and then doesn’t get in the way of the action. Probably the best way to describe it would be perfectly balanced.
Using this, Reid then tells us this story, and although there is one major plot – that of the title of the book – there’s a subplot here as well. By this I mean that on the one hand, we have Evelyn telling her life story to Monique, while on the other hand we have Monique’s story, that includes her own personal life as well as the relationship that she develops with Evelyn throughout the interviewing process. Once again, Reid shows just the right amount of restraint regarding Monique, so that her story remains just enough in the background so that Evelyn’s story can be front and center. Of course, Reid could just as easily have written Evelyn’s story without the interview and Monique sections, but you’ll see how important Monique is to the story when you reach the end of the book.
All this said, the real heart of this book is Evelyn herself, and her story. Obviously, this sounds like it is a character driven novel, and in general, I wouldn’t argue too much with that assessment. However, so much goes on in Evelyn’s life – you have to be doing something or going somewhere to meet seven men to marry, right – that the plot here is also prominent, and no one can accuse this book of having “nothing happening.” The thing is, Evelyn’s evolving personality, all of her failures, all of her successes, and all of her sacrifices, are inexorably entwined in this book. What this means is that once again, I have to say that Reid has perfectly balanced these two driving elements – character and plot – which fuels the “can’t put down” feeling I got while reading this book.
Now, to say that this book is perfect would, however, be incorrect. While I liked how Reid ended this book, with concision and a good twist that was unexpected, I’m afraid that the character of Grace and Evelyn’s relationship with her was uneven. Not that it wasn’t plausible, because it was; it just didn’t feel significant enough to me. Despite this, I have to admit that she did make me cry, so that’s something in this book’s favor (but I’m unsure if everyone will get as emotional at the thing that brought tears to my eyes). Also, I realize that Evelyn’s ethnicity and Reid’s are the same, but the dilemmas that this should have caused, seemed to fade into the background too easily, and there were only a few passages where it came through. Finally, because I’m totally straight, I’m unsure if Reid got Evelyn’s bisexuality right, but certainly the parts that involved Celia and Hollywood’s changing attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community over these time periods rang true to me (but I hope the lesbians and bisexuals who have read this novel will correct me if I’m wrong).
All told, this novel was just excellent, although I have to say that I did like Daisy Jones a touch bit more, especially because the ending of that book smacked me in the face, while this one just had me only mildly surprised. I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for more books by Reid, and I can therefore warmly recommend this book with a very healthy four and a half stars out of five!
Atria Books released “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid on June 13, 2017. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you.