The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wow. I just finished The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. In some ways, it reminded me of Isabelle Allende’s The Japanese Lover because of the epic forbidden love story that spanned decades.
I’m usually opposed to spoilers and avoid them, but in this case I’m not sure I can do so. The best I can do is keep them to a minimum.
Despite Evelyn Hugo being married seven times, none of her husbands were the love of her life. The love of her life wasn’t even a man. It was a female co-star by the name of Celia, whom she met on a movie set in the 50s. A friendship blossomed into a tumultuous on and off again love affair that continued as Evelyn married and divorced multiple men, including a man who abused her, a man was infatuated with The Evelyn Hugo, and a producer best friend whose beard she was. It was the only marriage that produced a child.
Almost all of Evelyn’s life and identity is a lie beginning with the ultra determined Cuban girl changing her name from Herrera to Hugo, and dying her hair blonde. Even her housekeeper is surprised to learn that she speaks and understands Spanish. Hugo enters into multiple loveless marriages more as business deals and upward mobility more than for love all so she can continue to be a public darling and remain a draw at the box office. Even her first marriage as a teen to an older man is to escape her abusive father. Evelyn has a marvelous mind when it comes to spinning events and situations for the press.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a story within a story. Evelyn commissions young writer Monique Grant to write her authorized biography. Monique’s editors and she are baffled as to why the reclusive, legendary Oscar-winning actress would pluck her from obscurity and trust her with her life story.
The heartbreaking reason, which ties to the two women is revealed after Monique has spent an extended amount of time interviewing Hugo and even getting indirect life and career lessons from her. I must say that I guessed it and a few other plot twists. However, that doesn’t take away from the incredible storytelling. As a matter of fact, it’s a testament to the wonderful Easter eggs that are hidden in plain sight If the reader pays attention. There are plenty of context clues, and I have a good imagination. A cousin once told me that I’m able to guess plot lines of shows and movies because I, too, am a writer. A nice compliment, so I’ll take it.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan and Robin Miles after being on the Libby waiting list for months. There was something about the cover with a lady in a beautiful emerald gown, a color Evelyn often wore, that captured my eye. Not to mention the title. Seven Husbands. This was not going to be a “woe-is-me-I-can’t-find-love” story. I was intrigued.
While I awaited my hold, I learned that Netflix would adapting the novel. Unfortunately, it’s a movie and not a limited series. Each husband could easily get his own thirty to one hour episode padded by flashes of the present day that cover Monique spending time with Evelyn and Monique’s own family dynamics. The young writer is newly separated from her husband and living in their once shared New York apartment. Other than days with Evelyn and calls from her mother who’s planning a visit, Monique only interacts, more accurately avoids, her boss.
The storyline of the multiple husbands draws the most obvious comparisons to Elizabeth Taylor’s many nuptials. I think Rita Moreno would be excellent in the role of Evelyn Hugo. In recent years, she hasn’t been shy about talking about her unhappiness in her decades long marriage and the leading men she’s bedded, including Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley. Evelyn herself was a bit of a free spirit when it came to sex, especially considering the era in which she came up. Neither Rita nor Evelyn lived up to the expectation of women remaining chaste and modest during the 50s and 60s.
Sure, by nature, all characters are flawed, but it would be a stretch to say that Evelyn is a lovable character. She’s was ruthless in what she wanted who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants and to see the outcome she wants, even when it’s for those that she loves. She may believe her intentions are good, but her actions aren’t always, and everyone from her husbands to her daughter to Celia get steamrolled in the process.
I enjoyed the drama of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Thanks to the lies, secrets, sleeping around, old Hollywood, tabloid stories, publicity stunts to manipulate the press, Eveyln Hugo the movie star led a life that could also be turned into a movie. At the very least, she knew her life story would be a bestselling book that would garner millions for the novice writer.
This pop culture junkie loves it and wonders about the true stories of celebrity couples of past and present that you only learn about via documentaries and tell-all books decades later.
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