The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid came to my attention due to the hype of its brilliance. Usually, with those types of novels—at least, in the past—the result, compared to the build-up, ended up being lukewarm at best and disappointing at worst. In my experience, titles of the latter included A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas, (though, to be fair, as the series continues, what was once excitement has started to dwindle) and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, which could have been because it was likened to Gone Girl at the time, rather than respected on its own merits.
Of course, believing into those comparisons and approaching the novels with high expectations was the first mistake. Hence why, when it comes to reading now, I adopt the mindset of expecting nothing.
Hence why The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was that much more stunning.
In short, it follows journalist, Monique Grant, interviewing adored actress, Evelyn Hugo, after being asked to write her biography. She tells her story, about climbing the ladder of Hollywood, marrying seven men, and the secrets of her life.
The first aspect was the diversity, shown within the first few pages. Our two narrators are women of colour, Monique is biracial (with a black father and white mother), and Evelyn Hugo is Cuban and born to immigrants. Much more comes to light, including gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters, which became appreciated further when you think of how many Hollywood stars were too. While I cannot speak for how well race and ethnicity was portrayed, the elements of queerness and sexuality were welcomed.
Because of these things (and because of the timeline of the story, from the mid-50s to present) sensitive and triggering topics were addressed, and, at times, called out. Although not heavy enough to overwhelm the substance, the way in which they were discussed felt thoughtful. Those topics included sexism, whitewashing, white male privilege, bisexual erasure, homophobia, and domestic violence. It did, at times, feel borderline too tragic, but when taking circumstances into consideration, it felt more raw in its realism than unnecessary.
“People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘you’re safe with me’- that’s intimacy.”
Because, at its core, it focuses on a woman’s identity, the choices she makes, the regrets and not-so-regrets, the emotional and heart-wrenching (or heartwarming) events that happened in her seventy-nine years, impacting not only those within her past but those in her future, including Monique. There were scattered moments that felt far-fetched, but everything else, such as the complex and in-depth relationships, conflict between personal and professional life, between truth and lies, outweighed those moments, guiding the focus back to the gritty and honest heart of the book.
Which, at face value, I thought would be what it says on the tin. A woman falls for seven men. In hindsight, it was naïve to assume it would be as simple as that, instead reading something far more complicated and tangled, something that has left a lasting effect on me two days after finishing it. Because, to me, what I found most interesting was this: marriage is not always done out of love, until, sometimes, it is.
Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? What did you think?