Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
By Natalya Sharp
Although this novel was published in 2017, over 4 years ago, and should have had its chance in the spotlight, due to an increase in support and recognition across TikTok, specifically BookTok, this book has once again returned to the shelves to win over even more readers!
Taylor Jenkins Reid has created a literary masterpiece that will span the decades and continue to become more and more relevant, as we, as a society, progress. The novel addresses so many aspects of life that many books fail to discuss, from gender and gay rights to domestic abuse, and ultimately to the devasting secrets behind a celebrity’s rise to fame. Upon reading this book, I understood why it was once again flying off to shelves into eager buyers’ bags, as it feels ahead of its time and an extremely progressive novel.
Evelyn Hugo across her lifetime married seven men and we learn how she embraces her sexual power at only 14 to escape her life in Hell’s Kitchen and reach her Hollywood dream. She admits to sacrificing her first husband to achieve her career dreams and goals, which lands her in the arms of popular and beloved actor, Don Adler. However, Reid does not allow the reader to believe the fairy-tale of these two actors, rather she exposes the horrifying and demeaning abuse Evelyn must undergo to ensure she continues her lifestyle in Hollywood. Evelyn is used as an example of how difficult it is to leave an abusive relationship, as well as recognising the life behind the cameras and make-up, as Reid demonstrates the hidden bruises and the beaten down woman. The reader never truly receives a moment of happiness and comfort within this novel, just like real women suffering from abuse, either from men or society, never do.
Although the title shows Evelyn’s sexual attraction and connection with men, the novel goes further than initially believed and provides the reader with a welcomed surprise- Evelyn is bisexual and the great love of her life was not one of her husbands, but rather Celia, a woman she could never truly be with. This relationship is the main love interest within the story that leaves the reader fighting for their happiness together and although they struggle, they eventually find their way back to each other, but only to discover another tragedy awaits them with Celia’s impending death. Reid does not fail to show just how difficult it was for these two lovers to be together, as Celia is forced to suggest Evelyn marry her brother so she could gain access to her estate in her death- something she couldn’t do as her lesbian partner.
Throughout this book the reader is took on a journey of continuing surprises full of real life and genuine experiences of people and they are never provided with a generic ending to any section, and the ending of the novel is no different. Reid has already covered domestic abuse, gay rights, sexual freedom, and much more, and she has one final progressive idea to include with an interesting spin on it- suicide. Evelyn Hugo is a character that could seduce any man she desires, achieve Hollywood fame, find true love, and have the family she wanted, yet she was dying and Reid, instead of taking away her power, (something Evelyn had fought against throughout the novel) allows her to die in her own way, in control.
The novel fails to shame Evelyn and never forces her character to apologise and for that it is a success! So, delve into this Hollywood exposé of sex, heartbreak, and betrayal and follow Evelyn Hugo’s unapologetic retelling of her life…