“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” is delectable, all-consuming and deeply emotional. For readers that might be in a current reading slump, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2017 novel is sure to reinspire your love of books; it is the definition of a page-turner. In fact, you might be familiar with the title from its recent popularity on BookTok, a TikTok sub-community that shares book suggestions.
The plot is difficult to summarize without spoilers, but the basic premise involves a recently divorced journalist, Monique Grant, looking to kick-start her career. The perfect opportunity she needs to write an award-winning piece falls neatly into her hands – maybe a little too perfectly. World-famous movie star Evelyn Hugo offers Monique the opportunity to write a feature about her dramatic and fabulous life, of which the public knows very little except the basic facts. For one, Evelyn was married seven times to various costars, directors and other socialites.
As Monique learns the story of Evelyn’s life, deep truths and startling secrets are revealed. Behind the glamorous details, however, Evelyn reveals herself as a complicated person, who knows the virtues of good and evil and of love and loss.
The best kind of character renders readers unable to form a clear opinion on their likability. These characters are the most realistic and unarguably human. Evelyn Hugo is that kind of character. She is cunning, smart and resilient, and while there are compelling reasons behind her decisions, readers might not always agree with her choices.
“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” is also a truthful glimpse into Hollywood production from the 1950s to 1980s. It acknowledges the sparking glamor of a Hollywood lifestyle, but also exposes the less-glamorous part of the true goings-on in movie making. Through her characters, Reid explores gender dynamics, such as the beauty standards that seem to affect women more than men in the public eye, and the culture of celebrity competition and controlling agencies.
Reid’s characterization is really what makes this novel shine, but her world-building is commendable. Even though the movies and people she creates for Evelyn’s story are inevitably based on real figures in history, they are still entirely unique to her novel and seamlessly believable. Evelyn herself is reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner and Rita Hayworth. Some of Evelyn’s husbands are comparable to celebrity heartthrobs like Frank Sinatra and Mickey Rooney. Yet because these public figures are usually so disconnected from reality, Evelyn Hugo’s character edifies their archetypes.
This novel is deep, revealing and exciting. It is sure to make readers shed a tear at least once, and it expertly explores themes of love, friendship, fame and grief. Each character has an identity that forges a bond with the reader, and their traits resonate with a diverse crowd.
Rating: 5/5 stars