The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid Published 13 Jun 2017
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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.
Written with Reid's signature talent for creating "complex, likable characters" (Real Simple), this is a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means -and what it costs- to face the truth.
"The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" Reviews
Is Evelyn Hugo going to tell me just enough to keep me on the edge of my seat but never enough to truly reveal anything?
I can't say for sure what drew me to this book. It's not the kind of thing I usually pick up, and I haven't read anything by Reid before. But something about it intrigued me. So I checked out the kindle sample. Just a couple chapters, I figured, because I probably wouldn't like it anyway. And I was HOOKED.
It's perfect, easy beach read material. It's not particularly deep, it does not take the genre to new levels or make you think about something new, and yet it DID feel different. Evelyn Hugo's story was so delicious and compelling that it stood out, and kept me turning pages in a desperate need to discover the stories behind her seven husbands, and the answer to the one question everyone wants to know: who was her greatest love?
The framing of the story reminded me a lot of The Thirteenth Tale. Like that book, in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, a young woman - this time an ambitious journalist called Monique Grant - goes to interview an elderly woman. Unlike The Thirteenth Tale, this elderly woman happens to be one of the most famous actresses in the world.
Evelyn Hugo has lived a life in the public eye, but she is full of secrets. Only she knows what happened behind the scenes in her long career of scandals and highly-publicized heartbreaks. Just like the fictional world of the book longed to know the truth-- so did I. Reid and Evelyn's habit of giving you just enough to leave you wanting more was incredibly exciting. Throughout, we are encouraged to wonder why someone like Evelyn Hugo would specifically request a relatively-inexperienced journalist like Monique. Why Monique? What is Evelyn hiding?
The more I got to know Evelyn, the more I fell in love with her. She has made a lot of controversial decisions during her career, but she knows it and she also knows she'd probably do it all again. She's played the Hollywood game, dated famous men to further her career, and used her body to get what she wants. She has experienced the full force of the industry's sexism and, in some ways, capitalized on it. She is deeply flawed and aware of it. She has traded important aspects of her identity for more fame, more roles, more money. She was a badass Cuban woman working in an industry that didn't like women to be badass or Cuban. She manipulated and she lied. Despite everything, I liked her.
I stayed fully engrossed in the story of Evelyn Hugo - and of Monique Grant - from the opening chapters when Evelyn demanded an interview with only Monique, through decades of Hollywood in all its shimmering ugliness, right until the ending's final reveals. I enjoyed every moment.
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(4.5) I’ve been struggling with a lot of books lately because I just don’t care about them. I don’t care about the story. I don’t care about the characters. I just don’t care! I thought it was all me, that I must have a cold heart but then this book happened.
I thought this was a literary fiction but it read more like a chick lit. A deep chick lit if that can even be a thing. This book made me realize that it is absolutely not me but them!
I cared deeply for the flawed characters in this book. When reading a book heartless Emily does not cry. Ever. Well, I did while reading this one.
Just pick it up and read it already!
I want to be as motivated and focused in university as Evelyn Hugo was in continuing to flourish after all of her 7 divorces and getting richer than all of her 7 husbands combined.... then spend the rest of her days frolicking in sun hazed fields of butterflies and dandelion clocks with her wife.
This book was so wild I feel like it fundamentally changed me as a human being. I've witnessed cosmic justice at its coldest and its darkest. I'm genuinely so tempted to go buy myself an expensive bottle of wine and drink it alone in a hammock while listening to 80s music and cry just for the drama of it all. That probably won't solve all my life’s problems but it would certainly distract me from them.
so what is this book about?
Contrary to appearances, this is not the mere tale of a sultry glamourous woman with seven husbands and a tragic fame. This is the multifaceted story of a woman who's lived her whole life being two people, two images overlapping. A woman who was driven by the sheer compulsion for recognition combined with a need to charm people and shine and in that process, she’s built her own hell and heaven, solely crafted by the pure abstraction of her essence. A woman who’s got everyone to kneel before her throne unaware that it was born of lies so easily because everyone’s only ever liked the idea of her and not the reality of her.
This is her story after the mask has worn off and showed what was lurking behind it, her truth without being edited, moderated and filtered down by the time it makes it to the screen, and then given to the public to make them feel very comfortable.
This is her story 7 decades later after she’s decided it was never her job to make them feel comfortable in the first place. Evelyn Hugo no longer desires to be off on her own diva planet. She wanted to be on Earth. She wanted to be seen. She was past needing celebrity. She needed to be heard. She refuses to be trivialized for being a woman, a sex symbol, and a celebrity. She wasn’t just the Cuban girl who changed her name, dyed her hair, wore the emerald green silk dresses and the accompanying chains, smiled pretty, and shut up about everything else. She was ready to talk about the void, the unhappiness underneath the smile, her age, her divorces, and all the other unglamorous things that Hollywood likes to pretend never happens to its starlets.
She is ready to declare that youth and beauty and the movies and the seven husbands were not her accomplishments. The family she’s had and lost and the woman she's so fiercely loved for almost six decades were.
They are just husbands. I am Evelyn Hugo. And anyway, I think once people know the truth, they will be much more interested in my wife.
What I loved most about this book was how passionate it was in bringing to light so many important topics.
Starting with being a woman in an industry that beholds women to its whims, its likes and dislikes, promotes them as sexual objects and loves to build a woman up before tearing her down. An industry that estimates male celebrities based on intelligence or depth, while it values female celebrities based on how sexually available they are presented for male consumption. Especially when you're a woman of color. A woman of color could never escape from race or gender when she is making art. She can’t take off her color and sex and leave them at the door, and for that she's unfairly redeemed unimportant and undeserving of a storyline and character development.
This book was also single-handedly smashing the patriarchy. So buckle up.
Evelyn Hugo’s story was a Call Out against the men who had cut her down way below size and built themselves up at her expense, who only used her as an attention machine to brag about their accomplishments and relieve themselves of mental durress, who only considered her a sponge that they can fill with their worries and ego and squeeze out when they please. The men who admired her confidence only when it made her fun, flirty, and comfortable in her sexuality. But the second she claimed space for herself, demonstrated high standards, a strong will, and the kind of assertiveness required to challenge them, then all of a sudden, she was a bunch of derogatory terms.
And it's honestly so real how women are continuously expected to tone down and dilute their personalities in order for them to look more appealing to men. Women are always too opinionated, too educated, too confident, too strong willed, too passionate. Women are expected to chip away at their selves to become more soft and pliable and easy to stomach and all of it is just patriarchy's last attempt to uphold power and entitlement.
This book also broached the topic of divorce and how it often means eternal shame for women. How only women are blamed when their marriages fail and ostracized when they seek to open their lives up to a quiet and peaceful independence. The media tore into Evelyn after each divorce, dragged her, burned her (metaphorically) alive, and buried her body underneath thousands of unsubstantiated celebrity gossip while her husbands remained unscathed.
People don’t find it very sympathetic or endearing, a woman who puts herself first.
Prior to reading this book, I didn't know it centered a queer woman of color and that it repped lgbtq+ themes which is why I didn't pick it up sooner. I really can't emphasize enough the importance of highlighting reprensentation in books. Readers from marginalized communities, including myself, long to see themselves in fiction, to learn that they can be the heroes of their stories and to finally get to star. Queer themes and issues had a prominent presence in this historical novel and it's really important that this be mentioned in reviews and blurbs!!
You imagine a world where the two of you can go out to dinner together 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.
This book is about Evelyn Hugo being honest about her negative habits and mistakes and taking ownership of her faults and flaws. This is her demanding to be humanized after being put on a pedestal her entire life. And most importantly, this book is a reminder that no matter how glamorous other people’s lives might look, they've had days, many days, and many days in a row where they've felt unloved and rejected and ugly and like nothing they do has a point, they’re not all that different and untouchable after all.
Overall, I really loved this book. The plot twists were incredible. I really can't recommend it highly enough!!
30/11/17: so Evelyn’s had seven husbands and I can’t even get (1) one person to wave back at me when I say hi.............
“I spent half my time loving her and the other half hiding how much I loved her.”
This is one of the best books I’ve ever had the privilege to read. It is probably in the top five for best books I’ve ever read in my entire life. I have been looking for a book like this my entire life, and no combination of words I’m about to type, and you’re about to read, is going to do this masterpiece justice. But I will say that Gabby, Joce, and Elyse were all right, and I’m so happy I listened to them, because this book is worth every single ounce of hype.
And when I say that this book is lifechanging, I truly mean it. This book is sold as a historical romance, where you learn about a fictional, famous, old Hollywood actress and all her marriages. What you get is a book that stars a bisexual, Cuban woman who was never allowed to talk about the love of her life; her wife. And when I say I cried during this book, I truly mean that I probably need to buy a new copy because I was the biggest mess you’ve ever seen.
“And it will be the tragedy of my life that I cannot love you enough to make you mine. That you cannot be loved enough to be anyone’s.”
On top of this being a powerful book about race, sexuality, misogyny, and having to conform to societies norms, the true meaning I took from this book is that life is short, so damn short, and we shouldn’t spend it pretending to be something we aren’t. And we shouldn’t spend it doing anything less than loving the people who are worthy and deserving of our love.
“I didn’t need boys in order to feel good. And that realization gave me great power.”
We follow Evelyn from the very start; losing her mother very young, her body developing very quickly, noticing others noticing her developing body, marrying a man so she can leave the dead-end city she grew up in, so she can become something more. Evelyn is unapologetic with her actions, and it is one of the most empowering things I’ve ever read. She plays so many more parts than the roles she is cast in. And Evelyn learns really quickly how to play each and every man she is forced to interact with, and she quickly learns what she can gain from each and every one of them, too.
This story is told from two different timelines and two different points of view. One from Monique Grant, who is a biracial (white and African-American) woman who is going through a fresh divorce and trying to make something of herself in the journalism field. And her life changes the day her editor tells her how Evelyn Hugo is demanding her, and only her, to write something for her.
“Heartbreak is loss. Divorce is a piece of paper.”
The other timeline(s) are all the different times in Evelyn’s life, and the different seven husbands that she had, while she is recounting the events that lead her to be telling Monique this story. Evelyn has lived a very full life, and is in her late seventies now, and is finally ready to talk about her life. But the entire book we are guessing why she has chosen only Monique for this job.
“Make them pay you what they would pay a white man.”
If you guys have been following my reviews, you’ll probably know that I talk about found family and how important it is to me a lot, but The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is the epitome of how beautiful a found family can be. Evelyn and Harry’s friendship in this was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read in my entire reading life.
“When you write the ending, Monique, make sure the reader understands that all I was ever really looking for was family. Make sure it’s clear that I found it. Make sure they know that I am heartbroken without it.”
And the romance? The true romance in this book is the most romantic thing I have ever read in my entire life. And you guys know I’ve read a ton of romances, but they are all lesser to this. Every single one of them can’t compare with the romance in this book. I feel like every time I’ve used the word “perfect” to describe something that wasn’t the romance in this book, then I used the word wrong.
“Please never forget that the sun rises and sets with your smile. At least to me it does. You’re the only thing on this planet worth worshipping.”
How many Evelyn and Celias are there in the world? How many are still playing the role that Evelyn was forced to play? I cry for every single person who must hide who they are, and who they want to love. And this book talks about many big things in queer history; from the Stonewall riots to the disgusting Reagan administration, but life still isn't anywhere close to equal in 2018. The prejudices, the discrimination, the virus/syndrome blaming, the looks I’ve experienced holding a girl’s hand while walking into a restaurant? Those are still in 2018, in the United States, but people act like none of those things exists because marriage is legalized, begrudgingly. I’m not writing this review to get on my soapbox, but I promise, we have a lot more work to do. And this book, this book lit a fire under me.
I personally identify as pansexual, but I felt like the bisexual rep in this was a tier above anything my eyes have ever seen. Seeing Evelyn love all the parts of her, and all the different parts of her love, was something so awe-inspiring. I am still so overwhelmed with feelings, but if you identify as bi or pan, this is a love letter to you, I promise.
“I was a lesbian when she loved me and a straight woman when she hated me.”
This book also focuses a huge importance on motherhood throughout the entirety of this book, and then I read the acknowledgement and started weeping all over again. Taylor Jenkins Reid was able to evoke the strongest emotions from me, and I just pray that things will be different for the generation of kids being raised right now.
This was the first thing I’ve read by Taylor Jenkins Reid, but I will buy every single new thing she produces. The writing was so lyrical and addicting. I mean, I have a quote between almost every paragraph. This whole book deserves to be highlighted. The characters, well, my mind has now forever imagined that these are real people now, so there is that. The topics, themes, and discussions are beyond important. This book just makes me feel so passionately. This book is one of the most empowering pieces of literature I’ve ever consumed. And I am not the same person I was before this book.
“I told her every single day that her life had been the world’s greatest gift to me, that I believed I was put on earth not to make movies or wear emerald-green gowns and wave at crowds but to be her mother.”
If you guys ever take a recommendation from me; please have it be The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Please, I’m actually begging you. I promise, this book is lifechanging, and I equally promise you that this book changed mine. There is magic between these four-hundred-pages. Pure magic. This story is addicting, enthralling, and so important. And if you’re an Evelyn, in 2018, I see you, but I hope it doesn’t take you as long as it took her to be happy. This will forever be one of the best books of my life, and I’ll cherish it forever.
“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.”
Trigger/Content Warnings: death of a loved one, death of a child, talk of suicide, unhealthy dieting, underage sex with an adult, abortion, talk of miscarriage, a lot of physical abuse, cheating, dunk driving, and homophobic slurs.
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Buddy read with May & Alexis! ❤
“Make them pay you as much as they would a white man.”
this book made me experience all five stages of grief and simultaneously made me feel every positive emotion in the world and I have no idea how that is possible. but listen, if you only read one book I recommend you this year, this is a good choice. ✨✨✨
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is, yeah, about the seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Seven husbands who are sometimes awful and sometimes sympathetic and sometimes somewhere in between. Ernie, who she used to get to where she is, Don, who beat her till she barely knew whether to continue, Harry, who she loved more than any of them, Max, who loves the idea of her more than he could ever love her.
But I think, despite its marketing, this book is really about Evelyn. Awful, complicated, completely lovable Evelyn. Evelyn is a flawed, compelling, brave, ambitious woman who got to where she was with teeth and claws and never gave up. She is also, and I’m not even joking, one of the most iconic characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading about. She is a woman with a lot of ambition but also one who loves and wants to be loved. She is such a good character.
This book is also fiercely and unapologetically socio-political and I love that. Evelyn’s story is one of being a woman in a man’s world. It is one of being a Cuban woman in a white woman’s world. It is one of being a bisexual woman in an era where attraction to women was demonized by the whole culture. It is one of hiding yourself for ambition, one of trying to decide which one takes precedent, one of aging, and one of never knowing whether your choices were right.
Annnnnnnd this book also has the most fucking heartbreaking romantic relationship I have had the displeasure to read about in my entire life. I don’t… I don’t know if romantic relationships should be considered spoilers, but… well, I knew going in who the actual love of Evelyn’s life was and it STILL WORKED FOR ME. So here it is: Evelyn Hugo and Celia St. James are one of my favorite fictional relationships, of all time, ever. These two have a complicated, flawed, at times tumultous relationship, and yet they love each other so much, always.
“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.”
And perhaps my favorite part was the messaging around the importance of actual love in relationships, rather than just a willingness to try.
“You didn't come here and tell me how much you miss me. Or how hard it has been to live without me. You said you didn't want to give up. And I don't want to give up, either. I don't want to fail at this. But that's not actually a great reason to stay together. We should have reasons why we don't want to give. It shouldn't just be that we don't want to give up. And I don't... have any.
“You have never felt like my other half.”
I know I’ve talked about a lot of specific things in the book, but I don’t know exactly how to put into words what this book meant to me. You can almost feel how much Taylor Jenkins Reid felt this book. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo left me an emotional mess, but also a happy mess. All I know is I feel ruined for any other book, and I want you to be as well.
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Such a fabulous well crafted story! I'll be talking about it more in my stories I ate this month video going up tomorrow =) (Oct 9)