Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Synopsis: Ageing and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.

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—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.

Why on earth did it take me so long to read this utterly-captivating, perplexing yet thoroughly stunning story? Wow, just wow!

Taylor Jenkins Reid is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite author of 2020 so far. I read Daisy Jones and the Six back in January (review here, if you missed it the first time around) and absolutely loved it, even describing it as one of the best books I’ve ever read. That’s a bold statement because trust me, there’s been a lot of books over the years!

However, because of how much I loved Daisy Jones, I was somewhat fearful about reading anything else by Reid, even though I’d read so many positive reviews about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo from the book blogging community. After a spontaneous trip to my friend’s house, I couldn’t help but pick this up off her shelf and take it home, despite the fact I have a TBR pile longer than War and Peace. My friend offered a crucial piece of advice, saying “before you dive in, remember it’s not Daisy Jones and just appreciate the story in its own right” and that’s exactly what I did!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is completely divine – I loved everything about it. One of the things that kept me so hooked was Reid’s intricate character development. I loved and loathed Evelyn all at the same time, among several others, including Don, Max and Celia. They were all ruthless, manipulative and at times, completely diabolical human beings, yet I found them all totally enthralling and really wanted them to succeed.

I loved the structure of the novel, which meant that Monique, and us as readers, had to trust Evelyn’s testimony despite the fact she had proved herself to be incredibly untrustworthy – her stories could have easily been fallacious and inaccurate. As readers, I feel like there was always a subtle hint that perhaps we weren’t supposed to trust Evelyn and take her at her word? Yet there wasn’t a single point throughout her story where I questioned her authenticity. I believed every single memory she shared.

Despite the obvious glamour and seductiveness of the story, Reid didn’t shy away from hard-hitting topics. Issues around monogamy, domestic abuse and sexual orientation were all brought to the forefront of the story and handled carefully and sensitivity. The novel has also encouraged me to question my thoughts and beliefs on past and present gender power struggles and modern-day feminism, which I wasn’t really expecting when I first picked up the book.

The little twist at the end, ultimately connecting the dots between Evelyn and Monique, was a great way to tie up loose ends and round off the plot – I didn’t see it coming either, despite Evelyn’s assurance that there was more to come. I think I was so enchanted by the tales of old Hollywood that I didn’t give present-day Monique much thought at all if I’m totally honest, so I was really impressed with how everything concluded.

I genuinely cannot recommend this book highly enough – I know it’s one of those stories that will stay with me for a long, long time (Reid is very good at knocking those books out, isn’t she?) A well-deserved 5 stars from me!

Goodreads rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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