The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017) by Taylor Jenkins Reid is our most recent choice for book club. I have to admit, I wasn’t super excited by the title, cover, or blurb. I’m only a little bit interested in goings-on of Hollywood, and the novel looked a little soap opera-y to me. Fortunately, it was better than I expected! I found Evelyn to be an interesting character who had no qualms in going after whatever she wanted. The story kept me reading, and her husbands were all understandable relationships and different enough to be memorable.
Monique Grant is a new writer at a fancy magazine, but she’s been frustrated with her assignments. All of a sudden her boss calls her into her office to say that the great movie icon, Evelyn Hugo, is interested in Monique writing a story about her. This is a big coup that would normally go to a more senior writer, but Evelyn insists that it be Monique. When Monique arrives at Evelyn’s posh apartment, Evelyn informs her that she wants Monique to write a biography of her life. And with that Evelyn is finally ready to tell her full story.
Evelyn is an interesting character, fully devoted to fame and fortune in the film industry. She married her first husband at sixteen to use him to get to Hollywood and get away from her abusive father. And she continued on from there. One aspect of this book that I really enjoyed were the clippings of newspaper articles about Evelyn Hugo, and how different they were from what was actually going on in her life. It made me wonder about celebrities today. It’s so easy to have a simple narrative about them based on a couple of stories we’ve heard, but none of us know what they’re really like.
I did have a question about Evelyn’s second husband, though. It turns out he’s abusive. One of their issues is that he wants kids and Evelyn does not. I wish Reid had delved into this issue a little more. Later on in the book, she mentions that Evelyn could maybe obtain birth control, but she didn’t know the right people. So, how does Evelyn stop herself from having children with an abusive husband (who I can’t imagine would have any problem raping her) and no birth control?
It’s obvious from the set up that Monique is somehow related to Evelyn’s story–especially when we learn that her father worked in Hollywood. But we don’t find that out until the end. I found this book better than expected, and it was an interesting, enjoyable read.
***SPOILERS*** It turns out that Evelyn Hugo falls in love with another film star, Celia St. James. But back in the 1950’s, any hint of a lesbian relationship would have ruined both their careers. So they take great pains to hide it. Although Evelyn had married a man for love before, she goes on to marry a couple more men to cover her bisexual tracks.
Near the end of the book, we discover that Monique’s father had been having a homosexual relationship with Evelyn’s best friend and the father of her child–Harry. Monique’s father was killed when a car driven by a drunk Harry crashed with both of them in it. Evelyn is first on scene, and she moves Monique’s father to the driver’s seat and takes Harry to the hospital herself. I found this scene quite annoying, and maybe it’s because I’ve spent a lot of time at car accidents. Hauling dead bodies around and wiping away blood with a “scarf” is something of a ridiculous endeavor–especially when done with a relative stranger. It wholly took me out of the story.
1 – Ernie Diaz – used to get to L.A. and later annulled with help from the film studio
2 – Don Adler – raging asshole; Hollywood royalty, abusive, screwed her over after divorce; but how could she not have kids with him.
3 – Mick Riva – singer; drunk night in Vegas, used each other. Got pregnant and had an abortion
4 – Rex North (Count Vrosky) in Anna Karenina; fake marriage to get the movie more popular; he was free to have affairs and eventually fell in love with another woman
5 – Harry Cameron – fake marriage; they were each with each other’s partners. Celia St. James and her football player; had a daughter, Connor
6 – Max Girard – French director, was a disappointment because he only wanted the star and not the person
7 – Robert Jamison – Celia’s brother; another fake marriage while Celia died of COPD/emphysema
You can find all my reviews on my blog.