The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an absolutely breathtaking novel and it deserves every ounce of hype it has received.
“It strikes me as a unique form of power to say your own name when you know that everyone in the room, everyone in the world, already knows it.”
What can I say about this poignant, powerful, unexpected novel without spoiling it? Barely anything. If I were to even enter into a synopsis of the plot, or comment on the title, or discuss the characters in too much detail, the poignancy, power and unexpectedness of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo would disappear, and the experience of reading it, of getting to know Evelyn and living her life with her, would utterly fade away. And that wouldn’t be fair to you, sweet and innocent reader of this review…so I won’t do that to you. I won’t enter into a long-winded review of this novel like I have so often done for others. I will keep it simple and to the point…but you will have to trust me that you have to pick this book up for yourself to see what’s so special about it.
At its heart, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about being brave enough to be exactly who you are, without apology. Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? And yet we all know just how hard it is. True, Evelyn Hugo is a ridiculously famous movie star, so it is particularly hard for her to be exactly who she is while she is constantly under public scrutiny…but don’t we all have a hard time, at one point in our life or another, being truly confident in who we are? Don’t we all, sometimes, worry what other people think, about our appearance, our personality, our life choices, our lover, our job, our sense of style, how we wear our hair or paint our nails or how much we eat or don’t? Don’t we all, as humans, sometimes feel this all-encompassing urge to hide? I think we do, and I think that is the basis for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: this notion that it is a fundamental part of human life to be afraid to expose yourself, who you really are, deep down inside, to the world…and yet, it is the single most rewarding and important thing that any human being can do in life.
“And that you have to be willing to deny your heritage, to commodify your body, to lie to good people, to sacrifice who you love in the name of what people will think, and to choose the false version of yourself time and time again, until you forget who you started out as or why you started doing it to begin with.”
Much kudos is owed to Taylor Jenkins Reid for writing this novel, for a number of reasons. Again, without giving too much away or spoiling anything, in Evelyn Hugo, and in many ways in Monique Grant, the journalist who Evelyn enlists to write her biography, Reid has created incredibly complex, realistic, flawed, complicated and stunningly beautiful (inside AND out) female characters. Evelyn in particular is a character who will stick with me for the rest of my life…but more on that in a second. I really can’t say too much, but suffice it to say that Reid, through Evelyn and Monique, tackles some intense and important topics that society is currently interested in, and she does so with tact, grace and compassion. I was truly impressed by Reid’s writing and her ability to create this character in Evelyn who quite honestly jumps off the page and right into the reader’s heart. I found myself forgetting as I was reading that Evelyn wasn’t a real person because her voice just sounded so genuine. Reid’s use of Evelyn to discuss some really serious topics was touching and so well done that I couldn’t help but feel like a more informed and empathetic woman when I finished reading…and when a work of fiction can achieve something as immense as that, it is truly a masterpiece.
“You wonder what it must be like to be a man, to be so confident that the final say is yours.”
While Celia St. James, Evelyn’s fellow actress and best friend, was probably my favourite character in that she reminded me of myself in many ways, Evelyn was a character who blew me away and who I will carry with me. I found myself thinking multiple times while reading that I wish I had an Evelyn in my life: she is fearless, strong, driven and willing to do whatever is necessary first to advance her career, and later to protect her family. In her initial interactions with Monique, when she is pushing her to be braver professionally and go after the career goals she has always hoped to achieve, I found myself realizing that I could use a mentor like Evelyn, from a professional standpoint. This isn’t to say that I lack direction when it comes to my career – quite the contrary, I feel like I know exactly where I want to go, but I am sometimes too meek and shy to go after this future I’ve envisioned for myself. Evelyn would say this is wrong…she would urge me to value myself highly enough that I have no choice but to demand what I know I deserve. She would tell me to speak up, to make myself heard, and she would remind me that I have no greater ally or stronger advocate in life than myself. I needed a role model and example like Evelyn at this moment in my life, and although I wouldn’t make all of the same choices as her, I do believe I will take pieces of her ferocious and feisty personality with me in my own daily interactions.
“Why, until this moment, did I not realize that the issue is my own confidence? That the root of most of my problems is that I need to be secure enough in who I am to tell anyone who doesn’t like it to go fuck themselves? Why have I spent so long settling for less when I know damn well the world expects more?”
This novel is a good one…it is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Again, I have to congratulate Taylor Jenkins Reid on writing a novel that is so profound and hard-hitting, because, I am sorry to say didn’t think she had it in her. I’ve read several of Reid’s novels, and although I liked every one, they were fluffy and light romances and not much more. They were unique in many ways, but they weren’t anything groundbreaking in that they didn’t teach me any lasting lessons. I have to say, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo did teach me a great deal about what it means to be confident, about what it means to be free to love and live your life to the fullest. I am really very glad I read it, and I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone and everyone!
❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)
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