Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Historical fiction
Book 22 of 2021
Reading Time: 5hrs 54mins
Date Finished: August 31, 2021
Content Warnings: Homophobia, racism, sexism, homophobic comments, death,
What Worked For Me: Journalism rep, dual timelines, Old Hollywood vibes
What Didn’t Work For Me: Romance
This is probably one of the most hyped books on Bookstagram and BookTube since it came out. I’ve heard nothing but praise for it from so many different people with largely varying reading tastes. If anything, I think that’s what made me hesitant to pick it up for years because I was afraid I’d be in the minority of disliking the book. But then my friend Victoria (@852reads) posted about having it on her TBR and we decided to do a buddy read.
What started as an overly ambitious goal (we’re Asian and therefore over-ambitious is the only mode we have) turned into laughing about forgetting that we had lives and deciding to chill and go at a slower pace. I started with the audiobook as I waited for my library hold to come through, then switched between the two depending on where I was and what I was doing.
The first thing I noticed that stood out as a major plus was Monique, one of our main characters, and her work as a journalist. I’ve complained a lot offline about how journalists in fiction are portrayed in the worst possible way, making each and every one of us look like unethical, sleazy people. It’s rare to find a book that features a journalist who is good at their job, ethical, moral, and genuinely interested in the truth. So I was very happy when Monique talked about how her passion was in meeting people and finding their stories. It’s what I loved about journalism too.
This isn’t one of those books that is particularly profound. It’s more the kind you would read if you’re looking for something easy to pick up and get into. I had little trouble getting back into the story no matter where I was. Listening to the audiobook felt like I was there as Evelyn told her story to Monique. In that sense, it felt like I was part of the interview and that made me enjoy it more. Back when I did this regularly for work, listening to people tell their stories was my favorite part. This reminded me of that.
I liked how Evelyn narrated her life with such an unapologetic attitude. She never let herself be undermined because of her gender, rather using it to get what she wanted. I loved how much she would force men to work for her, how she proved that everything she planned for her career was far beyond what the men in her life could dream of. Normally, I dislike characters who manipulate others or use their appearance to get what they want, but Evelyn did it with such class and self-awareness. She wasn’t just gorgeous, she was brilliant too.
As I closed the book, I found myself wanting to be more like her - more confident in my self worth, braver to go for what I want, and less ashamed to flirt a bit to get what I want. Not that I walk around flirting with men, that’s just unsafe. But I like that Evelyn reminded me that there’s nothing wrong with occasionally using my femininity to my advantage.
Like most other people who picked this up, I wanted to know who Evelyn’s seven husbands were and why there were so many. Not in the sense that I thought it was bad to be married that many times, but anyone who has gone through marriage and divorce so many times definitely has interesting stories to tell. But of course, there’s always a twist, a big secret that she’s hiding because she’s Evelyn.
I already knew about the secondary love story that is a major part of the story, aside from all the weddings and divorces. As much as I wanted to root for it, the romance didn’t work for me. I found myself more annoyed by it than anything else. Sure, Evelyn was selfish, but she was also incredibly calculating with her decisions. The way her lover villainized that constantly bothered me. In fact, I saw little that was appealing about Evelyn’s great love and their relationship. If anything, I felt that it was often unfairly forcing her to give up everything she had carefully built for herself, just to appease someone who had it all handed to them. That was the main reason I dropped half a star from my overall rating.
In the end, I know I enjoyed this a lot more than Victoria did. I think that mostly came down to expectations and reading taste, but it was still fun to read the book with someone else and talk about it. Buddy reads aren’t something I have a lot of experience with, but I always find myself enjoying them more than I initially expect.
This is a book I’d like to add to my physical collection for sure. I can see myself rereading this for fun or when I need something to pull myself out of a reading slump. Plus, the cover is really pretty. It makes me want to find an emerald green dress, put on red lipstick, and channel my inner Evelyn Hugo. Characters like her remind me that I have more power than I realize as a woman, that I can harness the confidence of an average white man and confidently go for what I want in life.