Book review: ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo worth the read?
‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ is, perhaps, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s masterpiece. A captivating reimagination of Hollywood glamour and the secrets it hides, it formed the basis of Reid’s authorial success. It’s no surprise that this book sits alongside Reid’s other thriving novels on the Sunday Times Bestseller list.
Although this book was published in 2018, Book Tok (a hashtag on social media platform TikTok) has seen Reid’s novels soar in popularity. ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ has sold over 1 million copies, reflecting the nation’s adoration of Reid’s fantastic prose.
Reid’s books delve into the complex lives of women forged with dilemmas and romance, featuring women challenging societal expectations.
Following the life, from beginning to end, of Evelyn Hugo, the book navigates the contradictory traits of Evelyn’s character and the decisions she makes, which impact those she loves the most. There is so much to love about this lead character yet also so much to be frustrated by.
The book begins with a driven journalist, Monique. She works for a well-known writing company called Vivant which is out to improve its following. They don’t trust Monique to deliver highly-sought news to the public, but that changes when Evelyn Hugo, a glamorous 1950s Hollywood actress, refuses to talk to any other journalist but Monique. It is obvious to the reader that there is a plot twist brewing: the biggest question of all is, what makes Monique so special to Evelyn Hugo? Why will she speak only to Monique? Their lives are inevitably intertwined in some remarkable way yet this is only revealed in the plot twist at the very end.
What is the message of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo?
Through Evelyn’s character, Reid intensely explores the relationship between the female body and success in the 20th century. Evelyn uses her body to get what she wants: Not only on screen and in theatre, but also to seduce and manipulate men into getting what she wants. Evelyn is also very aware that as a female actress, the length of her career depends on the length of her beauty. There is something very raw and saddening in Evelyn’s acceptance of this inescapable truth.
The biggest twist of the book, and the one that clashes so immensely with Evelyn’s use of her body, is her romance with Celia St James: the one woman that threatened Evelyn’s Hollywood crown with her youth and beauty. Evelyn’s drive for success and the dangerous commitment that she has to her career is only weakened by one individual: Celia St James. They become friends one night after Evelyn agrees to go for a milkshake. Evelyn acknowledges that Celia wants to be seen with the most desired actress of the moment yet agrees despite this. The reader may see this as the moment that something is underway. Evelyn gives in to no one, particularly women, who she only sees as competitors. The only friends these women are familiar with are ‘’back-stabbing, talking-about-each-other-behind-our-backs’ friends.” However, their love languages get extensively misconstrued.
The biggest irony is that although Evelyn Hugo’s desire is derived from another woman, she goes on to have seven husbands. The book is sectioned into husbands, demonstrating the varying dynamics of each marriage.
There is so much to unpack in this endearing yet agonising novel.
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