“‘I think being yourself—your true, entire self—is always going to feel like you’re swimming upstream.’”
This review contains spoilers.
Evelyn Hugo is a massive movie star who has been out of the spotlight for years but has recently requested journalist, Monique Grant, to write a biography for her. Hugo wants Grant to write about her climb to the top and the seven husbands she had on the way. Grant does not understand why the movie mogul chose her to write the story but eventually finds out that Hugo sought her out because Grant is involved in Hugo’s past.
I have read other Taylor Jenkins Reid books, such as “Daisy Jones and the Six,” and have loved them, so reading “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” was a no-brainer for me. I have put off reading this book for so long because I did not think it would live up to my expectations, but it exceeded them.
The format of this book was engaging because it has two universes: one of Hugo navigating the golden age of Hollywood while being married to her seven husbands and the other in the present, with Grant's interviews about Hugo’s life. The book also had clippings of newspaper articles and gossip columns about Hugo that made the novel feel like it was written about an actual person. It felt like Hugo could have existed in this era, almost like Marilyn Monroe.
Hugo’s character was complex, and I had a love/hate relationship with her. She broke many hearts, sometimes not meaning to, but other times she was vicious to the people she loved, like Celia St. James, her primary love interest in the story. Hugo wanted to be known by everyone, and she did awful things to make herself famous, like manipulating men to marry her, so they could divorce days later. She divorced Mick Riva (one husband in a string of seven) in a matter of days because she did not want the public to think she was gay after she was seen at a concert reaching for St. James’s hand. She was also a good friend to Harry Cameron (a movie producer who helped her career along) when she saved his life after he was in a car crash. These elements made her character somewhat redeemable.
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St. James (Hugo’s main love interest) was a nice contrast to Hugo. She came into the acting scene already rich; she was the girl next door and had a steady career that helped push her to the top. Throughout the story, St. James and Hugo were more than friends, but St. James was awful towards Hugo because she was bisexual. St. James made Hugo feel horrible about loving men and women when she was a lesbian. When she was mad, she was ruthless, especially toward Hugo. She frequently commented that people only liked Hugo for her body and not her talent. While she did have some redeeming qualities, like being a gifted actress and a good friend, she was a hard character for me to love.
This book is popular for a reason: it is written beautifully, and the story's premise is unique because it goes through the past and present with different narrators. This book made me forget I was reading because I was invested in the characters and the scenes flowed together beautifully. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes romance and historical fiction.
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Kelly Marry (she/her) is a freshman studying journalism and public relations. She loves to read and travel in her free time.