The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
REVIEW BY MEREDITH MCKINNIE
“Movie stars are movie stars are movie stars. Sure, we all fade after a while. We are human, full of flaws like everyone else. But we are the chosen ones because we are extraordinary.”
Taylor Jenkins Reid captures a lifestyle like no other. I read Daisy Jones & The Six last year and was joyfully immersed in the world of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. In this novel, Evelyn Hugo’s world is Hollywood, the shameless, fascinating, and intoxicating give-and-take between actors and audiences. Evelyn, a stunningly beautiful girl from Hell’s Kitchen is determined to fulfill her mother’s dream of fame and stardom at any cost. Before legal age, she hitches a ride to Los Angeles, intent on becoming one of the angels of Hollywood. She knows her body is her superpower and relies on its currency to seize opportunity. The title alone lets readers know Evelyn will break many hearts, including her own, but her honest account of her faults and willingness to indulge them sets her apart from the other fame-seekers.
Now 80 years old and a recluse from public life, Evelyn contacts the editors of Vivant, and is offering a tell-all story as long as the writer is Monique Grant, a low-level employee awaiting her own shot at critical acclaim in the journalism world. Monique is recently separated, living alone, and unsure of herself. Her editor Frankie and Monique are both stunned by Evelyn’s insistence on Monique, as the coveted exposé is suited for more seasoned writers. When Monique shows up to interview Evelyn, she finds the woman just as stunning as decades prior with a sharp intuition and a hidden agenda. Evelyn acknowledges she chose Monique for a particular reason, but refuses to say why until Monique agrees to write her full life story and risk her job at Vivant in the process.
As Monique learns more about Evelyn’s life, she finds herself inspired by a woman who conforms to please the public, yet refuses to apologize for hurting others. The salacious tales of each husband and divorce and the truth behind the real love of Evelyn’s life is made for tabloid headlines. “It’s a hard business reconciling with what the truth used to be and what it is now.” The distinction between public and private life is often hidden in the shadows, and Evelyn’s tragic story explores the choices we make and irrevocable consequences. The women form a genuine bond, Monique gravitating to Evelyn’s ruthlessness, and Evelyn to Monique’s humanity. When Evelyn’s life finally intersects with Monique’s, the results will change the course of both their lives. “Accepting that something is true isn’t the same as thinking that it is just.”
This novel is one of Reid’s first books, and it is written for a broad audience. Whenever I see book recommendations online, this title always makes the list. Readers seem to love the intrigue and honesty while drawn into the glitzy world few of us ever experience. While it is fiction, the story has the appeal of an Elizabeth Taylor documentary, a life beautiful in riches but somewhat tragic in reality.