Ah, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo surprised me, a lot. This book was nothing at all like what expected.
I have a feeling this is going to be a hard review to write without giving away spoilers.
I promise, I won’t give away the big twists, I didn’t expect them and I don’t want to ruin this fabulous book for anyone else, so here goes….
Evelyn Hugo is an aging and reclusive Hollywood star, rising to fame in the 50s she is the epitome of glamour.
She’s also got a reputation, you see, Evelyn has been married a whopping seven times.
Now in her 80s, Evelyn is ready to lift the lid on her scandalous life and chooses unknown journalist Monique Grant to spill all her secrets to.
Puzzled by this turn of events, Monique grabs the opportunity to write Evelyn’s biography, her own life isn’t exactly a bed of roses; Monique’s husband has left her, and her career isn’t exactly flying.
Hand on heart, I expected this to be all about a Hollywood star who’s unlucky in love. I thought Evelyn would be based on Elizabeth Taylor or something. I imagined Evelyn was just going to be someone who stumbled from marriage to marriage, happy for a while before inevitably imploded around her…..she was much, much more complicated than that. I expected this to be a book I read quickly, thought was alright but ultimately forgot about; I won’t be forgetting this book, I was addicted.
I have to talk more about Evelyn. I still, four days on from finishing cannot make my mind up about her. In fact my feelings towards Evelyn mirrored Monique’s; a mass of contradictions.
She comes across as ruthless; she’s calculating, she knows exactly what she needs to do to get to where she needs to be. She will do anything and use anyone to get to where she needs to be and yet, she isn’t out and out awful, she’s far more rounded than that.
Evelyn understands that if you want something you have to take it, no one is going to hand it to her on plate. It is why she acts the way she does, even though at times I thought, “Jesus Christ this woman is next level determined”.
She was always well aware of how she was being perceived; how Hollywood and society was geared up to make it harder for women. She knew exactly how to the play the game; she’d go to extremes (like off the chart extremes) and nothing was going to get in her way.
It meant that at times she was difficult to like and easy to judge; I’d then be skewered in the next sentence by Evelyn’s insight into the world:
“People don’t find it very sympathetic or endearing, a woman who puts herself first”. Taylor Jenkins Reid
The irony of that quote, considering what I’ve written about this character, is not lost on me.
That’s what made this book great, here is a main character who behaves questionably, is open about the fact she’d do everything again, who can come across as being self-obsessed, but who as a reader you can’t help but respect.
You see, her motivations are entirely understandable. Evelyn’s behaviour isn’t just about protecting herself and ensuring she stays at the top for as long as possible, it’s also about protecting the real love of her life, the one she keeps going back to, the one who is there throughout her life.
Because this is a love story, it wasn’t the love story I expected, it was far better than that. It was filled with complex characters who felt real. Complex characters navigating their relationships and not always getting it right.
“When you dig just the tiniest bit beneath the surface, everyone’s love life is original and interesting and nuanced and defies any easy definition.” Taylor Jenkins Reid
It’s ultimately a reminder that no one really knows what is going behind closed doors, the whole world thinks they know exactly who serial bride Evelyn Hugo is when really, they know nothing about her at all.
I loved this book, it surprised me, it challenged my perceptions of the characters and I ultimately ended up respecting and kind of liking Evelyn.
Read it, within the first few pages you will want to know the story behind the seven husbands and just who is her greatest love….
And there we have a spoiler free review – phew
P.S It made me really want to buy an emerald, green ball gown
Have you read it? I’d love to know what you thought in the comments 🙂
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm