Hi guys! It’s been awhile, huh? I’m delighted to end my blog hiatus with a review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, as part of the Canadian blog tour for the book. As some of you know, Taylor (or TJR) is one of my auto-buy authors, and this latest book of hers is, in my opinion, her most ambitious work to date.
Read on for my thoughts on this unique, feminist take on TJR’s fascinating Hollywood diva.
About the Book:
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Goodreads
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: After I Do, Maybe in Another Life, One True Loves
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: June 13th 2017
Source: ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada (thank you!)
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 one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. 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. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
Review:The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Most of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books are about love – romantic and otherwise. They feature contemporary characters, people who might be your best friend or your sister or your uncle. They’re people you could be friends with, or friendly with, and good people you unquestioningly feel for.
This one is different. While it still includes TJR’s trademark wisdom, directness, and honesty, the characters and themes make this book stand out from the rest of her oeuvre. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about an unapologetically strong, fierce, feminist of a main character. Someone who could be deemed unlikeable, someone definitely not shy, polite, or ready to just take things as they are.
Let me backtrack. As the synopsis indicates, writer Monique Grant is unexpectedly given the opportunity to write the tell-all memoir of Hollywood legend Evelyn Hugo. It’s the chance of a lifetime, but Monique’s not sure why it’s her chance. Still, the offer is too good to turn down. The novel alternates between scenes of Monique interviewing Evelyn and Monique’s own emotional history, but largely looks at Evelyn’s life, upbringing, and eventual stardom with her husbands as benchmarks.
You’ll quickly realize is that as much emphasis as the title (and in some ways, the world of the novel) places on Evelyn’s marriages, it’s not about the husbands at all. It’s about Evelyn – her desperation in poverty, her recognition of her own beauty and sexuality, and her understanding of how to use those gifts to her advantage.
What TJR has done with Evelyn Hugo is present a character who is unabashedly strong. There is no one like Evelyn Hugo in any of her previous books. No one who could be seen as both hero and villain, and no one as publicly vilified and vindicated at every turn. Every action that Evelyn makes throughout the novel has subtext. It’s these layers that make her such an extraordinary character.
For someone who has read almost all of TJR’s work, it’s a surprise. It feels a little jarring at first, because you’re not going to love these characters like your friends. And yet, it’s a departure that is completely understandable given the state of politics in the US. Add to that the fact that Taylor just had a daughter, and the dedication of the book makes perfect sense. TJR tells her daughter to “smash the patriarchy.” To me, there’s no doubt that Taylor did that with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
To say more about the plot would rob you of some of the surprises – and you need them. In fact, to me, the only part of this book that kept me from absolutely loving it was that the plot occasionally felt a little predictable. It’s like when you watch any kind of biopic of a performer – there are always moments that you can see coming, but you know they have to happen, even if it is a little cliche. In Evelyn Hugo, that felt especially true at the end.
The good thing is that despite the occasional predictability, and the fact that this book is a complete departure for TJR, it’s still a TJR book. It still has Taylor’s amazing secondary characters, incredible friendships, and moments of wisdom that make you nod and cry and highlight.
Feminism: If you only read this section of my reviews (I know some of you do, and that’s totally cool!), just know that this is probably one of the most feminist books I’ll read this year. It’s full on #feminist #bossbabe #bitchesgetthingsdone
Diversity: I really can’t give too many bonuses without giving things away, so I’m going to be vague and just say that there’s diversity in everything here – from race and ethnicity to sexual orientation. It’s hard finding fun books that do this well, so I applaud TJR for this.
The Final Word:
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is both a quick and complicated read. You could take it to the beach because of the Hollywood aspect, but you’ll come back with a surprisingly bold idea of what can and should be done for women, for people of colour, and for people who identify as queer. While it’s a departure from Taylor Jenkins Reid’s other works, it nonetheless includes her unapologetically emotional prose, her very human exploration of relationships, and her direct wisdom that speaks to something fundamental in your heart. A worthwhile summer read.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for inviting me to be part of THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO Canadian blog tour!
THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO is out in bookstores now – will you be reading it? Are you into Hollywood type reads? How about books that #resist? Know any other fun feminist reads that are emotional but also beachy? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the tour!