Book review: Sex, scandal, secrets


Alexis Bondch

“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo”, historical fiction novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Alexis Bondch, Staff Writer

“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid is about strong, beautiful women who pursue their goals unapologetically and are empowered by their femininity and sexuality. 

A New York Times best seller, this historical fiction book tells the story of gorgeous movie star, Evelyn Hugo, who rose to fame in Old Hollywood and now, at the age of 79, wants to tell her scandalous life story to an unknown journalist, Monique. 

Getting an exclusive scoop on Evelyn’s life would make any journalist’s career, and Monique struggles to understand why Evelyn plucked her from mediocrity for such an important task. The answer becomes clear soon enough. 

It’s a delicious read that’ll turn a four hour flight in the middle seat into an enchanting adventure through Old Hollywood. The scenes are glamorous. The characters are complex and relatable in their imperfect humanity. Everything is connected. Everyone has secrets. 

Reid portrays events of domestic abuse, sexual violence, bigotry, and suicide, with equal parts gravity and grace.

While the book reads like a movie star memoir, Evelyn’s rich depth of character elevates the drama to another level, as she strategically weaves her way through racism and sexism, taking hits and bouncing back, more cunning and emboldened by her determination to attain the stardom that she knows is meant for her. 

With Evelyn, Reid presents a heroine that is as easy to love as she is to condemn.

“I’m not a good person, Monique. Make sure, in the book, that that’s clear. That I’m not claiming to be good. That I did a lot of things that hurt a lot of people, and I would do them over again if I had to,” Evelyn reveals ominously on page 272. 

Evelyn found a way to capitalize on the currency that is her unique beauty and effortless sensuality. She saw these traits as her ticket to where she wanted to go, and they got her everything that she believed she wanted: fame, money, influence, and adoration. As Evelyn recounts the sacrifices she made, Monique comes to understand that the cost was very steep. 

The big question for a woman who married seven times is, of course: who did she love the most? Who was her true love? One guarantee is the answer will be surprising. 

Reid sums it up well on page 380: “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.” 

Each of the seven husband’s stories unfold, weaving together the intricate tapestry of Evelyn’s life story. Her bond with Monique flourishes, and the two women learn profound things about themselves through their connection with one another. 

As their time together comes to an end, Monique is faced with an impossible decision. Thanks to Evelyn, she knows her own compass better than ever, and finds the courage to stand her ground. 

Heartbreaking, beautiful, and tragic in turns, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo”  is a story about friendship, love, betrayal, and acceptance.