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

03 May 2022
By Isobel C, Student at Liverpool John Moores University

I discovered The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo from spending way too much time on TikTok last year. After scrolling so far, I reached #BookTok, with a page full of mass hype over this novel. I felt compelled to buy it.

I’ll be honest - I’m not a regular reader. I struggle to find the time to sit down, concentrate and read a book. But surprisingly, I lost myself in this one and managed to read all of it in two sittings. For me, that’s impressive! It’s a real page-turner.

Ready to share her life story, recluse Evelyn Hugo chooses unknown reporter Monique Grant to write her biography full of Hollywood glamour and scandal. Summoned to Evelyn’s home, Monique listens to Evelyn recall her life of fame, fortune, and failed relationships. The book retells a journey of deceit, scandal, friendship, and forbidden love. As Evelyn nears the end of her story, you’ll find that her life crosses with Monique’s in a heartbreaking way.

Evelyn is a woman in a man’s world and is determined to make her mark. She is a character full of ambition, and the more Evelyn reveals about herself, the further you’ll be gripped. You’ll increasingly want to know more about her. Why did she become a recluse? Why had she chosen Monique? Which of her seven husbands did she love most? Why did she only want the book published after her death?

Despite the fact it takes some time to reach the grittiness of Hugo’s story, it is all a part of her mysterious allure. Some parts feel slow-paced, but I didn’t mind as it helped me connect and visualise what she was going through, and how she felt at all of those points in time.

I liked the mixed prose, varying from Monique’s point of view to flashbacks as Evelyn recalls past events. The novel also includes ‘articles’, which makes it feel like you are living in that time, reading a celebrity gossip page.

Themes of romance, intimacy, and friendship alongside sexuality, racism and motherhood are all explored. With two biracial main characters and gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters the book includes a lot of much-needed representation. Evelyn’s bisexuality and Cuban heritage is unveiled during the plot, and given her celebrity status and the attitudes of the time from the era the book was set in, it’s moving to follow.

It is easy to lose yourself in the fiction of Evelyn Hugo. I felt disappointed by the end that she was not a real 50s Hollywood starlet, and this was not a memoir I was reading. I would have loved to see the films she starred in! I’m hoping some director makes a film adaptation - I’d love to see it brought to life on the screen.

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I am a third year Media, Culture and Communication student at LJMU. In my spare time, I like reading books and fashion magazines.