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

My Rating: 4/5

The Blurb: 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 1950’s to leaving show business in the 80’s – 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 nears its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Written with Reid’s signature talent for creating “complex, likeable characters” (Real Simple), this is a mesmerising journey through the splendour of Old Hollywood into the sobering realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means – an what it costs – to face the truth.

My Review: I picked up this book after reading and falling completely for Daisy Jones & the Six; wanting to find out for myself if the hype surrounding Taylor Jenkins Reid (TJR) was based on a strong foundation of skilled writing and superb story telling or something else entirely. And I was not disappointed. While Daisy Jones remains my favourite of the two novels, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was unputdownable.

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s vivid portrayal of Old Hollywood and the 1950’s kept me enthralled. The reality of Hollywood’s ‘casting couch’; the sexualisation of women, homophobia, racism and domestic abuse; beautifully written; not a word wasted or out of place.

But the true beauty of the novel is Evelyn’s character herself.

Evelyn Hugo is described as “impure and scrappy and formidable” but beneath her ruthless ambition lies a vulnerability – a need to be seen, to be loved, a need to prove herself worthy to the world at all costs. Right from the moment Evelyn began to tell her story I fell for her, flaws and all. My heart broke for her a little with the lengths she felt she had to go to for fame and power; and with all that she endured as she slept (and married) her way to the top only to realise it all means nothing without the “daily peace of loving freely”; without being able to be true to yourself.

A young, desperately ambitious Cuban-Spanish girl, Evelyn trades her virginity for a ride to Hollywood; escaping the harsh realities of her home life; to fulfil her mother’s dream of becoming a movie star. It would take Evelyn “years to figure out that life doesn’t get easier simply because it gets more glamorous”.

I was utterly captivated by Evelyn; all at once hating and loving her. I envied her strength; her willingness to get back up after she’d been knocked down. I loathed her unashamedly manipulative, cold heart; her blind ambition; but then was able to forgive her all this juxtaposed with the unwavering love and devotion to her best friend, her daughter and the true love of her life.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Monique. I found myself completely disinterested in Monique’s story line; viewing it almost till the end as a distraction from the real story. It wasn’t until the slightly predictable twist that I really even considered what role Monique was playing in the novel. It pains me but it is Monique’s story that stops this being a 5/5 for me.

Even so, I highly recommend reading this one if you haven’t already.