Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Goodreads: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication Date: 29 May 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

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 jump-start 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.

NOTE: I finished this book in March 2019 but for some reason didn’t post my review on my blog. I remember that I was traveling for work when I finished this and felt completely shattered at the airport waiting to board my late night flight. When I finished it, I felt like if I could give it all the stars, I absolutely would and even now, months later, I still feel that way. I believe the immediate words I used when I finished this were: Wow, holy heck, and why did this book have to end?!

One of my new all-time favourites, definitely a Top 2019 read. Fierce, heartbreaking and inspiring. I dare you to not fall in love with Evelyn Hugo!

I honestly don’t know why I waited so long to read Evelyn Hugo, despite all the insane hype. The story really surprised me from the start because it didn’t go at all the way I expected it to. Of course I thought it would be compelling, but maybe a little predictable. I didn’t anticipate that it would have me on the edge of my seat the whole time and greedily flipping through pages to learn more. How wrong I was! This was such a beautiful, sometimes tragic, life and love story—but it’s probably not the love story you’re expecting.

“It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly.

Evelyn Hugo is one of Hollywood’s darlings. Starting in the 50s when she exploded onto the scene with her tanned skin, blonde hair, dark brows, and her busty voluptuous figure. She dazzled Hollywood and the masses with her acting and won them over time and again with her looks and sexuality. She was one of the most complex and compelling characters I’ve had the pleasure to read in a very long time. Her character managed to evoke a range of contradicting emotions simultaneously. I was enamoured and repelled by her. I admired and pitied her. I loved and hated her. She was brilliant and cunning, always working angles to manipulate the people in her life to ensure that the outcome suited her agenda. Her sexuality was a weapon that she honed to perfection and brandished without hesitation when she wanted. As much as I found myself repelled by her blasé attitude towards some of her awful actions and thoughts, I honestly couldn’t stop myself from admiring her and falling in love with her anyway. She was unapologetic for always openly going after what she wanted, especially at a time when it was unheard of for women to do so, and I admired the hell out of her character for that. 

Her story was an endlessly fascinating journey that captivated me from chapter one. From her beginning as a Cuban girl growing up in Hell’s Kitchen, to her making when she moved to Hollywood and decided to become a star. To her career, her marriages, her friendships. To the exploration of love and sexuality throughout her life. To her struggle with her heritage in a society that wouldn’t accept it. All of it kept me hooked and constantly craving more. You not only learn about Evelyn Hugo and her Seven Husbands, you learn just how far a strong willed woman can go when she’s determined to be the biggest, brightest star there is.

“Evelyn looks at me with purpose. ‘Do you understand what I’m telling you? 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.'”

On the other hand, I wasn’t so invested in Monique. I didn’t love or hate her, I was just a little meh about her character. I felt for her at the end–I can’t imagine what learning something like this would do to a person–but otherwise I didn’t connect with her character. She did experience an empowering growth through the novel, but I saw her less as a “main” character and more as a plot device to help the story move along (as the character to hear Evelyn Hugo’s story).

Taylor Jenkins Reid is supremely talented. Her writing flows like water, her descriptions are vivid, and her characters are so full of life. There’s a simplicity to her writing that I love because it lets the story speak for itself and allows the characters to come to life without any need for embellishment. I honestly finished this book feeling as if I had said goodbye to real people, old friends even, whom I’d come to know and love, and my heart was broken over it. Her ability to take even the most morally questionable characters, and make them likeable and relatable is probably one of the main reasons why I love her writing.

This is the second TJR book that I’ve read and I can confidently say she has quickly become one of my favourite authors. I’m very much looking forward to reading more of her work as soon as I can get my hands on all of them! If you haven’t read this yet, I urge you to do it ASAP! 

Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? Did you love her as much as I did or were you kind of ‘meh’ about her story? Let me know in the comments and let’s have a little chat about one of my all time favourites!