I’d seen this book brought up on Twitter and on ‘Booktok’, the side of TickTok that deep dives into every and all books. It came highly recommended, with an attention-grabbing title and intriguing cover art I was sold!
While in line at Barns and Noble holding a brand new copy of ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid, I wondered what type of story could sell over 2 million copies. The book alone had its own display on two different tables in the front area of the bookstore. While the clerk was ringing me up he judged my order saying “This one is a good choice” referring to The Seven Husbands. The girl checking out next to me looked over and chimed in “That’s my favorite book!” Reassured with my purchase I headed home to start reading.
A week later, with tears in my eyes, I finished ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid and now knew why it was so popular. The story spans a lifetime told through a frame narrative with the point of view following 80-something-year-old Evelyn Hugo dictating her life story to a rookie writer with seemingly no connection to her. Evelyn’s story begins with her marrying a friend of a friend to escape New York and an abusive father to become famous in Hollywood. She winds up discovered while working as a waitress and using her incredible beauty and wit she quickly climbs the ladder of fame.
The first twist of the novel comes early on, Evelyn is in an abusive second marriage working on a groundbreaking film with a talented actress, Celia St. James. They are competing for the best actress but wind up falling in love; the love of Evelyn Hugo’s life is a woman. This autobiography is Evelyn Hugo’s way of coming out as bisexual. Husbands three through six all serve the purpose of either hiding her sexuality or promoting her career. Although sometimes at odds, Evelyn often places her career over her relationships and winds up losing Celia for years before reconnecting toward the final arc of the book.
All the characters Reid has constructed are complex and multifaceted, they are flawed and human. Ultimately Celia and Evelyn marry in private while publicly Evelyn marries Celia’s brother so when Celia dies of cancer all her assets will be left to her wife; Evelyn. The conclusion then takes us to the second big twist of the book. Evelyn admits to the novice writer, Monique why she chose her. She owes her a debt for setting up her father as a drunker driver to save her own friend. Monique had lived her entire life thinking her father had died drunk driving, not being a passenger of a drunk driver. The highs and lows of Evely’s life and the tough decisions that take her there are what make this book so interesting.
The largest takeaway from ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ was how you really don’t know the private lives of celebrities. Their relationships are for show, movie promotions, gossip, and distraction, all a fabrication. The price of fame is having your lively hood depend on people's opinion of you. Instead of declaring her love for Celia, Evelyn chose to hide her true self and stay in her career. Ambition pushed her to make decisions she later regretted when time with the people she loved most ran out. A lesson in balancing what it takes to achieve your dreams with what will be compromised.