Early on in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I was getting frustrated. I wanted to know why Taylor Jenkins Reid was using the journalist framing device to extract such detail around the curiosity of a multiple married woman. Don’t get me wrong; I know celebrity relationships are a constant source of fascination with folks. But I just didn’t feel like it made for an interesting story. I wanted to read about this fictional Evelyn Hugo staring in fictional movies, getting into fictional Hollywood feuds, etc.
And then, as Taylor Jenkins Reid slowly pulls back the narrative curtain, you see what she is doing and once more doing it quite effectively as she did in Daisy Jones and the Six: romance and relationship are complicated. They’re often understood sans context, particularly if you’re a celebrity. And it can be hard to find or define who you are or what you are when your label/studio is trying to make you what your audience wants you to be.
To that end, Jenkins is a master and I read about 75% of this in one night because I couldn’t stop absorbing the story or how she was telling it. She fleshes out these dynamics (figuratively and sometimes literally) so well that it leaves me thinking about them still, even a day after I finished them.
I didn’t like this as much as Daisy Jones. I’m not sure the journalist works as a narrative device; I just wasn’t invested in what was going on with her, even with the big reveal is revealed. And I think the final 30 pages are too larded with tragedy to really hit their emotional marks.
Still, Jones writes romances without writing what is conventionally considered “romance” in such a fine tuned and effective way. This is another good one.