The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – Well, I Cried My Eyes Out Reading This

“Where’s Xiaolong?” you ask, looking for your little axolotl friend.

Varian the Toadshifter looks up at you from their sewing. “Ah, Xiaolong is very sad today.” You ask why, wondering what in the world could make Xiaolong, usually so chipper and happy, so sad! “She read a book,” is all Varian says, and they point in the direction of the pond.

You follow Varian’s webbed finger and, indeed, you see the bright pink of Xiaolong’s gills poking out from behind the brush. As you approach, you hear her sniffling and hiccuping.

Xiaolong the axolotl, wearing an upside down flower hat, holding a book to her chest and crying loudly.Xiaolong looks up at you when you approach, her eyes glistening with tears and her eyes puffy. “Hello friend,” she says, her gills a little droopy. “I just read such an amazing book.” You ask her why she is crying. “The best books are the ones that move your heart and this one moved mine so much.” She starts sobbing again.

“Maybe I should come back another time?” you ask, not wanting to invade her space.

“No!” she exclaims even louder, jumping to her feet. “I must tell you about this book! Because I think you will love it!” she says, tears streaming down her face. You ask her about the book and hand her some tissues – just in case. She takes the tissues from you, dabs her eyes, and with a big inhale says, “So, this book is called The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo…

Summary:

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 in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My review:

Whilst Reid’s previous books explored the lives of ordinary everyday women and the mundane but significant turning points in their lives, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo dives into the extraordinary, grand, and tumultuous life of infamous bombshell classic actress, Evelyn Hugo. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was significantly different to her other books, but what I did not expect was that I would come to love The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo so, so much. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is Reid’s best book yet.

AN UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTER STUDY

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo features two fantastic female protagonists: rookie journalist Monique who is trying to get her life together after her husband left her, and the now-elderly classical actress Evelyn Hugo, who is as charismatic as she is enigmatic. As Evelyn Hugo tells Monique her story, her rise to fame and everything she did to get there, she and the reader are transported to the 1960’s, the time of classical Hollywood. The story spans several decades, and we learn about the juicy in’s and out’s of Evelyn’s life; the scandals, the betrayals, the sex, the victories, and the losses.

Reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, what stole my heart was Evelyn Hugo herself; an enigma, a goddess among women, powerful, sensual, and a class of her own. Evelyn Hugo is a woman who knows what she wants, lives unapologetically with a refreshing awareness of her actions and their consequences, and someone who knew her own power; she knew what people thought of her and she manipulated others to her advantage. However, rather than a presentation of someone being simply good versus bad, we see a character that was compelling, fascinating, and morally grey. By the end of this book, I could not help but empathise with and love Evelyn Hugo deeply.

THEMATICALLY RICH, SET IN OLD HOLLYWOOD

Paired with Evelyn Hugo’s fantastic character study was an exploration to sexist and racist Old Hollywood. As the book follows Evelyn from the age of fourteen to her old age, a variety of themes are explored: the racism, sexism, and heteronormativity of the 1960’s, the price of fame, sensationalism of celebrity news, friendship, marriage, parenthood, and love in all its colours. Some parts were devastating and difficult to read, but it was true to its time period, capturing what it was like to be a woman under the public’s gaze and scrutiny, in a time of oppressive patriarchy.

Distinct in the story’s theme is the price of fame, such as the invasiveness of paparazzi and rumours, and how sometimes appearances mean everything. Juxtaposed with this, and also most profound, was an exploration of the terrible pain of hiding and burying the most important and truest parts of ourselves deep inside us, and how, sometimes, we have to mourn our losses in secret covered in a veil of lies and facades. There was a quote I truly loved from the book – one that, I believe, bore the essence of the story. And it is this:

You imagine a world where the two of you can go out to dinner on a Saturday night, and no one thinks twice about it. It makes you want to cry, the simplicity of it. The smallness of it. You have worked so hard for a life so grand. And now all you want are the smallest freedoms. The daily peace of loving plainly.

AT ITS HEART, A STORY ABOUT REGRETS AND LOVE

The title of this book may prompt several assumptions regarding the story’s subject matter, but at its heart, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about living, loving, and regret. From lying about her age to white-washing herself, Evelyn Hugo’s climb to the pinnacle of fame is not without sacrifices. Beginning at Evelyn’s life as a young teen when she wasn’t Evelyn Hugo but Evelyn Elena Herrera, the daughter of Cuban immigrants, we see all of her decisions at every turn, and how Hollywood of its time shaped her to who she would become. Indeed, readers will come to learn about the woman Evelyn Hugo had to be, and how the burdens of those expectations forced upon her influenced the trajectory of her life told in hindsight tinged with bittersweet.

Reading this book, I had a burning question: who was Evelyn Hugo’s true love? Though, after discovering who her true love was, I came to realise that The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was never ultimately about who she loved, but it was about how love shaped her life and how she chose to live it. It is a heart-wrenching and beautiful exploration, and through all that she endures and survives, at the heart of this book is about the price of love, but also loving fiercely, loving without regret, and the gift of sharing your life with the people you love, however brief life may be.

MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is not a flawless book, but it was profound and full of heartache. It moved me. Evelyn’s story, and how it connects to Monique, is a story wrapped with intrigue, mystery, drama, and tragedy; a story that is certainly as emotional as it is captivating. Though it may be different to Reid’s other work, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo shares its deep and thoughtful portrayal and exploration of the human condition and how life and humans are messy. A fantastic book, one that I loved very much, and will never ever forget.

Goodreads | Book Depository | My review on Goodreads


Is this book for you?

Premise in a sentence: A classic actress tells a rookie journalist her life story, including the story of her seven husbands.

Perfect for: Readers who love emotional and heavier romance and drama stories; those who have read Reid’s previous work; readers interested in Old Hollywood.

Think twice if: you don’t have the capacity to read something heavier and emotional; also check the content and trigger warnings below.

Genre: adult, historical fiction, romance

Trigger/content warnings: anti-bisexual rhetoric, anti-gay rhetoric, physical and domestic abuse, death, suicide (off-page)


Let’s discuss!

I have been a long time fan of Reid’s brilliant books, but The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is my most favourite yet and remains to be one of my favourite books of all time. This book is indeed hard-hitting, but you will love Reid’s emotional and profound exploration of identity, love, and life will make you yearn for more of her work.

  • Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? If so, what did you think of it?
  • Have you read any of Reid’s other works? What did you think of them?
  • A big part of this book is about love and identity. Do you have any recommendations of books that explore similar themes?
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31 thoughts on “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – Well, I Cried My Eyes Out Reading This

  1. Wonderful review, CW! I read this book a few months ago and absolutely loved it. I agree with everything you said in this review; this is such a gorgeously written and emotional book. I was close to tears because of the ending, and the plot twist completely shocked me as well. 😭💞

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh no, I never want to see Xiaolong cry ever again! But this was a wonderful review, CW; I’ve been meaning to pick this book up for a while (haven’t even put it on my TBR yet), but now I’ll at least let everyone on Goodreads know I want to read it, lol. Who knows, maybe I can request the audiobook!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kaitlyn!
      Aw! You are sweet. 💛 Don’t worry, I promise there will be more smiles than tears from Xiaolong.
      Thank you so much! It’s honestly a wonderful book and I highly recommend it. YES! Definitely get the audiobook – that’s how I listened to it and it is brilliantly performed. Evelyn’s voice actress took me awhile to get used to, but by the end, I thought she was perfect! I hope you enjoy it if you get the chance to read it. 💛

      Liked by 1 person

  3. omg Xiaolong 😭😭 same 😭😭 This is honestly one of the best reviews I’ve read, CW! I absolutely love how you’ve formatted everything. I adored this book to pieces, it’s easily an all time favourite. It’s not usually a genre I’d reach for, but I’m so glad I did. Even if my heart was shattered into a million pieces. I’m so glad you enjoyed it too!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a beautiful review as always ❤ I have heard so, so much about this book and I can’t wait to read it, I hope I’ll be able to soon, it sounds absolutely incredible, emotional and heartbreaking, too, exactly the kind of book I’d fall in love with ❤
    Thank you for sharing! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Spoiler alert:
    The two husbands and permanent coverup of her imperfect yet u relenting love for another women in 1960s America of Evelyn Hugo
    This book had so many feels. So. So many.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Wendy!
      AH oh my gosh you absolutely have to read it. I think this will be a book that you’ll really love, so I hope that if you read it that you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
      And aw, thank you! It means so much to me that you think so. 💛

      Like

  6. I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo earlier this year and loved it so much more than I expected. You know when you *know* you’ll highly enjoy a book, but it still manages to blow your mind? That was Evelyn Hugo for me. I rarely if ever cry on books, but this one made me tear up multiple times. Seeing Xiaolong’s tears nearly made me cry again – THE MEMORIES. 😭 I loved the characters of both the past and present, and felt such a strong connection to them. I haven’t yet read Reid’s other novels, but all of them are on my tbr. Fantastic review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Veronika!
      Yes! Isn’t it brilliant? I totally got the same vibe whilst reading as well. It was just so magnificent and moving and tender.
      HAHA, Xiaolong was me when I listened to this book (the performances in the audiobook are brilliant, by the way).
      I definitely recommend her other books! I adore MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE, as well as FOREVER INTERRUPTED. I hope you get the chance to read them because they are so so good. 💛

      Like

  7. SAME, XIAOLONG, SAME. This was a wonderful review of one of my favorite books! Evelyn Hugo definitely feels different than TJR’s other books, and imo, it’s her best work to date. You’re right; Evelyn herself is a huge part of the reason I was so enchanted by this story! She’s flawed, and she’s human, and that makes her so relatable. Ugh, now I wanna reread this! It’s been almost a year since I originally read it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Madalyn!
      Thank you so much! Indeed, it’s truly brilliant and I cannot read to wait what else she puts out next. I love the range of topics that Reid covers, and especially love that this one was a bit more political and historical than the previous ones. I really want to reread it too! I think I’ll love it even more than the first time. 💛

      Like

  8. I’ve been interested in this book for quite some time now, but it’s so hard to get a copy of it locally. Hopefully, I’ll have enough money to order it online because I AM SO INTRIGUED.

    Great review btw, CW! You’ve totally convinced me to bump this book higher in my soon-to-be-bought-and-read list. 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Allessandra!
      Oh dear! I totally understand the challenges of getting a book locally. I hope you will, in one way or another, get your hand on a copy so you can read it. It’s a truly brilliant book and one of my favourites of Reid’s. I hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to read it! 💛

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kaleena!
      Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed the review. 💛 It’s a really brilliant book and one that has stayed with me since I read it. I hope you get the opportunity to read it soon.

      AW, I’m glad you like the RPG aspect! I really enjoy writing it and putting it together, so am glad that someone enjoys it as well. 😊
      Hehehe, she is mostly a happy axolotl, so you’ll be seeing more smiles soon!

      Like

  9. AHHH CW YOUR REVIEW IS LIKE A PIECE OF ART IN ITSELF

    I swear I will be picking this one up ASAP now
    my library really won’t know what hit them but oooooh I love some good drama + theme exploration and this sounds right up my alley (also everyone loves it so I hope I do too)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ohhh… Loved this review!! Agree with everything! This is also my fav. audiobook narrations!!!
    Agree with what you said about how this book was never about “answering” the “who” (wrt. her true love) . It is about how a woman, who lived a full, rich, complete life – with the entire world watching and somehow managed to “preserve” a bit what is precious to her, to preserve that little bit of dignity which was continuously denied to her because of the world she lived in.

    Like

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