The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017) – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Date published: 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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This novel is as glamorous as old Hollywood once was. Reid perfectly captured the elegance and allure of the most beloved era in film, and she did this with a character that evokes the spirit of all the great actresses from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Known as the Golden Era, the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s are synonymous with film and stars that have stood the test of time (and technology). Hollywood and the entire film industry were ruled by stars like Lauren Bacall, Jane Russell, Judy Garland, Betty Davis, Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr and Elizabeth Taylor, and it was the gossip and legend surrounding them that made them appear so unattainable to the masses. Unlike in today’s world where ‘celebrity’ is more a verb than a status, Evelyn Hugo (our fictional heroine) is the epitome of that glorious time in the entertainment industry when ‘stars’ still remained deliciously mysterious.

The story begins with the announcement that Evelyn Hugo, famous Hollywood actress will be auctioning off all of her most famous gowns for charity. In the meantime a young journalist at Vivant magazine has been given the once in a lifetime opportunity to interview the actress for a possible cover story. In fact Monique Grant is specifically handpicked and requested to do the interview by the actress herself. As time goes by and Evelyn’s story progresses the reason for Monique’s involvement becomes less and less clear. They appear on the outside to be completely different in so many ways, and yet as Evelyn speaks of her seven husbands and her time in the industry, Monique’s own struggles and her own past begin to parallel Evelyn’s in the strangest ways.

Each major chapter deals with an individual marriage, and scattered among Evelyn’s reminiscences are newspaper stories chronicling her many marriages and divorces in the way only gossip writers can – with more opinion and assumption than actual fact. Evelyn’s honest portrayal of a life most people had spent obsessing over allows her status as an enigma to be pulled apart and she becomes more and more human than goddess. She is also determined to prove herself to be a very flawed character, but to also lay to rest some of the assumptions that the public have had about her over the years.

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In the meantime Monique’s own personal life is crumbling, including an impending divorce. Not unlike Evelyn herself Monique also struggles with issues of race, and even though they are decades apart it is clear how intolerance and acceptance are still as prevalent now as they were then. In different ways of course, but still issues nonetheless. It is this beautiful parallel that allows these women’s lives to appear both compelling and mundane all at the same time.

As a lover of all film from this particular era I was impressed with Reid’s ability to create fictional actors and actresses and films that might sound like that real actor or actress or film, but are purely made up perfectly allowing this novel an authenticity I truly appreciate. Reid’s knowledge of the Studio system, and the major film companies that once ruled Hollywood add to the ‘scandalous’ story of Evelyn Hugo’s life.

It is almost impossible not to be completely invested in Evelyn’s story and in the life of the young writer desperately trying to find her own star in the world.

I read this novel in two days and I loved EVERY SINGLE PAGE of it. I am now determined to make everyone I know read this book, and will be breathlessly awaiting everything Taylor Jenkins Reid writes.

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