THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO
BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID
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.
This book was both utterly heartbreaking yet heartwarming. The story of a Hollywood starlet who took power for herself using her sexuality. We get to follow the journey of Evelyn’s life through interviews of an exclusive tell-all autobiography that she had decided to give to a seemingly unknown journalist plucked from obscurity. Like Daisy Jones, we’re left to wonder what exactly the connection between the journalist and interviewee is.
It was a sordid tale full of scandal, sexual exploits, and the highs and lows of being a young and hot star in the spotlight during such a different time in Hollywood. Evelyn used her sexuality to her advantage from a scarily young age and continued to use it to climb her way to fame and make a name for herself. She had to disown her heritage, become more white and fit the narrative that was laid out for her. Evelyn Hugo hid a lot to become the star she had always dreamed of being and it of course came with a cost.
Like Monique, I too was engrossed by Evelyn the moment she walked onto the page. She felt like someone that could have existed in real life and probably did in a way. How many woman have to hide behind a persona to “make it?” To be as successful as a man? She was effortlessly confident, knew who she was, what she wanted and what she was willing to do or sacrifice to get it.
Now this is where is get semi-spoilery but as it’s such a huge plot of the book and easily guessable I need to include it. Evelyn was bisexual in a time where it was truly life ending. I loved how she approached her sexual identity and it was this huge part of her that she had to keep hidden from almost everyone. Her great love was not one of her seven husbands. She couldn’t come out, it wasn’t safe to do so, instead having to hide behind fake marriages and using them as publicity stunts. It was heartbreaking following her real life story and the lengths she had to go to so that she could be with the woman she loved. We got to see how the years effected her and the LGBT+ community. How the world changed, yet not fast enough.
Jenkins Reid can write a damn good story which I already knew from Daisy Jones and The Six. I was very intrigued by how the book was set up from the get go and was unable to put it down. While Daisy had this untouchable almost unrealistic persona Evelyn, had hers cracked open from the get go. She wasn’t perfect, all good or bad, but this morally grey realistic person with no regrets for what she had to do for herself or her family to survive.