The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Taylor Jenkins Reid


Shelfie Score: 78%

Likeminded Reader Score: Login


Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 400

Synopsis:

From Taylor Jenkins Reid, “a genius when it comes to stories about life and love” (Redbook), comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine. Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie 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 for the job, no o...

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Written Reviews of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2)

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Joan

This was a very enjoyable read. The characters and plot were interesting and there were a couple of unexpected twists along the way. At times I felt like I was reading a memoir filled with emotion and heart. Highly recommend the audiobook!

Ann Fernandez

You know, I've never read a Taylor Jenkins Reid book before this, and I didn't want to. I only picked this up when I thought it was literary fiction, and I will tell you right now, it isn't. The writing style is very chick-lit, which definitely isn't a bad thing, it makes this book a complete breeze, and the plot is way more centered on romance than any literary fiction I've read.

However, I think it's fantastic.

Sure, there are some things that bothered me *cough* *cough* Celia *cough* *cough*, but they don't change how much of this book I could relate to on a multitude of levels, and how good it really was.

If you haven't heard or read of this book yet, it's essentially about this reporter Monique, a recently divorced journalist, who ends up interviewing Evelyn Hugo, a Latina pop icon from the 50's and 60's, especially famous for marrying seven whole husbands. Except she's not doing an interview. She's writing the biography of Evelyn's entire life, and thus learning every dirty secret she's ever hidden.

That's basically what the entire book is about, or at least what I can tell you. There are other reviews that I personally feel ruin the small surprises in the book I adored, but whatever.

We actually have a lot to talk about, so much so that I will actually divide this up between talking about Evelyn, some important side characters, pacing, and themes, because the themes in this book deserve their own section.

? Evelyn Hugo ?

(AKA The Queen)

Okay, Evelyn is one of my favorite characters of all time. Possibly my favorite character of all time, but I don't want to choose between all of them.

She's kind of everything I want in a female protagonist: cunning, cutthroat, manipulative, ambitious, loyal, and just fucking incredible.

So, she's obviously my spirit animal.

I think there's a line in this book that says, "When I'm in a rough situation, I think, 'What would Evelyn do?'" Or something along those lines, and honestly, me too. Evelyn is just so understandable, you really see where she's coming from with every single decision she makes, no matter whether you agree or disagree. And I agreed with every single one. It probably says something about me, the fact that I agreed with everything she did, even when it would royally screw someone over.

Like I said before, she's an incredibly cutthroat character. She's willing to use anyone and everyone to get what she wants in the end, no matter who it is, or how "innocent" they are (because, tbh, almost all the characters have some trash aspect to them that really works well). I feel she has more of a place in a really dark fantasy novel than in here.

She can be genuinely loyal to the people she loves and cares for. She will do just about anything for them, even when they don't want her to, or if they didn't ask for her help.

Evelyn throughout the novel develops a lot of complex feelings when it comes to her body, and how she feels as though it's her only way to get through life in many ways, her beauty her only asset. It really paints her as so painfully human, because many simply see and want her for her body and nothing else.

Now, I'm going to mention the weird dubious/non-consensual sex scenes in this book. I feel as though, while Evelyn does consent to have sex every time, there are multiple points throughout the novel in which she only has sex with people as a way to get what she wants, whether it's out of them or out of being with them. It feels very uncomfortable and so sad to watch her do this, because she's constantly wishing she was with someone who actually cared for her as a person instead of as a commodity.

Anyway, I thought that anyone who has been in this situation might not want to experience it again on the multiple occasions it occurs here.

She also has this sort of mentality that's really captivating, this "if you want something, take it, because this world isn't going to hand it us" ideology which ends up really shaping all of her decisions throughout the novel, and it's just so appealing and powerful to see that from a woman of color specifically, considering the way women of color are portrayed in the media as a whole.

On the other hand, I enjoyed how much of that ambition and drive ruins a lot of the relationships she has throughout the novel, and how she learns that being at the top is not only incredibly lonely, but just so unsatisfying with all she's sacrificed to get there.

At least, that's what we're meant to believe. However, I've always kind of doubted this was the real case, considering everything else that I'm not going into right now, but I do really enjoy this mixture of progression and regression we get from all these characters. Sure, they change some things about themselves, but they always have the same flaws, just hidden, or in different forms.

I have a lot more things to talk about regarding Evelyn, but some are spoilers, and others I'm just going to mention later on, so there's not much of a point.

? Monique Grant ?

(AKA The Plot Device)

Monique, objectively, is a character I would be fine with having as our second protagonist, if she weren't so much of a damn plot device. It really feels as though she has a tiny back-story, which was fine for the first 30 pages or so, but then that backstory just became all P had going on, and it became really clear that, compared to Evelyn, she was cardboard.

There were some things about her that were interesting, like being the biracial child between a white woman and a black man, and we never talked much about it (since we barely saw her, and it's probably not a good idea for a white woman to talk about the biracial experience in contemporary society).

I wished there were a bit more about her separation from her husband, I understand she wasn't quite the main focus, but I also found her slight obsession with Evelyn to be a bit much. In all honesty, I think she would've had a more compelling narrative had she been in a somewhat unhappy marriage, or had her story taken place a few weeks before they separated.

I did her mini-character arc at the end, though I never felt as though it wrapped that nicely. To be fair, I don't think her arc was meant to be wrapped nicely compared to everyone else. After all, she still has a long time to figure her life out, while we see people live their lives from their twenties all the way to their graves, or near their graves.

I honestly would've been fine just not mentioning her at all, since, again, she's a plot device and not much else, but I feel as though I kind of had to, especially when she is central to the story.

? Celia St. James ?

(AKA The Worst)

It's been over a month since I read this book, and I still have mixed feelings about Celia. I thought I could get my thoughts all coherent if I gave myself time, but I've given myself plenty of time, and I'm still just as conflicted about her character.

At first, I really liked Celia. I thought she was a fun cinnamon roll who was also kind of clever and witty. I kept on reading, and still, I really liked her character, even when she would get into arguments with Evelyn, where I would side with Evelyn.

However, she started making really gross comments that made me want to throw her into a fire.

First, there were a bunch of biphobic comments she made that were just really disgusting and hurtful, and just really, really gross (and, for those asking, yes, they were directed towards a bisexual character, not just in general) about them having to "pick a side," and how, when she was happy with this person, she would act as though they were attracted to one sex, and when she was angry with this person, she would act as though they were attracted with the other, and all I wanted to do was shout, "THAT'S NOT HOW BISEXUALITY WORKS!"

Then there were the comments she made towards Evelyn that really ended up tearing her down. Evelyn is considered a sex symbol, which I'm going to talk more about later, but Celia constantly says how, while Evelyn is more popular, it's only because of her looks instead of her acting range, which she also claims is much weaker than her own. This ends up really crippling Evelyn's confidence in her own acting ability and really makes her insecure later on in life, which really broke my heart. Either way, these comments were so unnecessary and so hurtful, not to mention kind of misogynistic, in a weird way.

She does apologize for all of these comments at some point, and some others I can't mention, but I never quite forgave her, even though I knew she had grown past her ignorance.

? Harry Cameron ?

(AKA The REAL Cinnamon Roll)

I love this guy, but I'm also kind of angry with him at the same time. It's different than with Celia, because I understand more of what Harry was going through when he decided to be really inconsiderate and selfish, but that doesn't make me not mad, you know?

Harry is such a pure bean. He's always there for Evelyn, was there in the very beginning, and just cares so much about her. He constantly looks out for her, even when it may conflict with his best interests, and is just so heartbreakingly loyal.

And it's also this devoted loyalty that makes me really irritated with him by the end of the book, because, unlike Evelyn, he never saw the positions he was putting people in so he could accomodate to Evelyn's life and her wishes, as well as his own.

I think that's all I can say without spoilers, so I'm going to move on.

? The Husbands ?

(AKA The Pacing)

The husbands, I feel, are incredibly well-done. None of them blur together, they all have their own distinct personalities and behaviors, and they're all important to how Evelyn's life plays out, in one way or another. None of them feel like throwaway husbands, or like they were there just to get the number up to seven.

As a matter of fact, Evelyn divides her story up with her multiple marriages, one named after Ernie Diaz, another after Mick Riva, etc. It works really well, and flows with the construction of this story.

There's also this idea of Evelyn almost being defined by her husbands, since it's what she's most known for, the mention of her husbands in the title even coming before her own name. Yet in the end, the husbands are really defined by her. They're just her husbands, while she'll always be the titular Evelyn Hugo.

Of course, I would also like to mention the pacing here, since I consider it related to the husbands. The pacing flows very well, it never felt as though we were checking off a box to what was supposed to happen next, it all felt very natural. It could also be the writing as well that affects it, since it does read a lot like chick-lit, which makes this book so easy to read, even with the kind of tiny font.

? Themes ?

(AKA Identity)

There are so many wonderful themes in this book that I really adore. We really see so many characters, Evelyn in particular, just give up so much of their identity so they can fit into what society wants them to be. They're stripped down to their bare bones, until they're unsure of who they truly are.

Evelyn is robbed of her last name and her dark hair in order to look white, and get the roles she's always wanted. Her culture is literally ripped away from her, and she becomes very hesitant to call it her own from then on.

I related to this so much, it's terrifying. Not the white-washing, but the questioning of your own identity. People in my own life have said that I wasn't a "real Hispanic" because I didn't listen to enough Spanish music, I didn't like dancing, I wasn't talkative, I wasn't enough of my own stereotype.

Of course, these two situations are very different, but because of mine I've always struggled to say "I am represented by this," becuase it always felt as though someone was going to call me a fraud, which Evelyn, at some points, also feels in this novel, and I can't tell you how good it felt to see this kind of a character.

There are multiple characters in this novel who identify as LGBTQ+ and have to hide it in order to get work and live the lives they want to. You watch them become very frustrated with all the rouses they are forced to put up, all for their reputation to still be somewhat decent so they can still be in the industry.

You genuinely do understand their annoyance at the world they live in and the ridicule they're forced to deal with, and you just wish they were born in a time where they could both be themselves and be truly happy. You see as they wish they could properly identify with who they are, but have to keep their identity hidden, and thus find it hard to claim being a member of the community.

There's also an interesting depiction of being a woman in Hollywood, especially in this time period. They're constantly pitted against each other for roles, and would be easily thrown to the side if they were to reject a big enough star. They're incredibly sexualized, and, unless they can act well enough, are seen as worthless if they don't fit the bill anymore.

This puts Evelyn in an interesting position, because, like I said before, she really objectifies herself and her body because of how much it is valued in the industry. She worries constantly as she gets older and older that no one will want to see her anymore on screen, especially once she has already shown so much of her body that there's no "surprise" to it.

She genuinely does use her body as a commodity throughout the novel, ensuring the movie will sell if she does something almost, but not too scandalous, that will have men come back for a second look. It is, however, really depressing when she does truly claim her body, for her pleasure and hers alone, yet she recieves so much backlash.

Overall, Evelyn and many other characters throw away so many aspects of their identity in order to fit into Hollywood's perfect mold, as well as society's, and they all have so many regrets because of it. They feel a large disconnect with their identities because of it, even as decades pass.

That's why I was so disappointed with the end of this book.

There is this final article, really meant to summarize all of Evelyn Hugo's life, all of what this book was about, and in my opinion, it does a huge disservice to the book as a whole. It focused solely on the secrets Evelyn had, on her love life, and never about any of the other themes in this novel.

I really wanted to grab Reid from the book and say, "Sweetheart, this isn't all you wrote about. You wrote a goddamn masterpiece, and yet this is all you think it's about?" I wanted it to talk about how fame truly strips you of your identity, how it commodifies and objectifies women, all so you can properly fit into the limelight for a handful of years, before the public tires of you. But I'm not the author, so I can't really tell people what this book was meant to be. It speaks for itself.

I probably would've given this book a 5/5 stars, even with Celia and Monique, if it weren't for this, because it left me feeling very empty about what this entire book was about.

Either way, I do have to thank Reid, for Evelyn Hugo. For giving me a character I could genuinely relate to like none other.

   
   

Bookaxe Characteristics for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Character and Plot:

Characters in depth

Fast-paced plot

Language and Style:

Straight to the point

Language and style central

New Information:

Pure entertainment

Introduces you to new ideas

Outlook:

Explores the darker side of life
Light-hearted and optimistic

Explicitness:

No swearing or violence etc
Frequent swearing and violence etc

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