TikTok made me read it: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
At the end of 2021 Taylor Jenkins Reid’s book The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was lauded on TikTok, and eventually I felt compelled to pick up a copy. Based loosely on the life of Elizabeth Taylor, the book explores how being an actress in Hollywood can make or break your dreams.
As a lover of historical fiction, I thought I would enjoy this book before even reading the blurb. However, it exceeded my expectations by miles. The novel starts with Monique Grant, an unknown journalist, being selected by the infamous star Evelyn Hugo to write about her extraordinary life as an actress from the 1950s. Evelyn retells the events that define her career and progression as a woman in the industry, spanning from her teen years through to the present day.
Her story unfolds through the events taking place in each of her marriages, with Evelyn at times struggling to reveal intimate details about her life which she had suppressed for so long. I was gripped from the beginning, desperate to know what each of her husbands had to offer her and, the most important question of all, who was the greatest love of her life?
This tale of lust and love underlines the struggles faced by a Cuban woman in the late twentieth century. It is clear from the start that there’s much more depth to the novel than I had expected, with issues of race, sexuality, societal norms, and misogyny raised by Jenkins Reid. Although the story focuses on a Hollywood star – nothing like the life I lead – I still found myself relating to many of the struggles Evelyn faces.
The vulnerability all the characters possess encapsulates what it means to be a woman striving to be the best in an industry you’ve dreamed of conquering. Between Monique’s domestic and ‘normal’ life and the wonders of Evelyn’s glamorous life, Jenkins Reid perfectly illustrates how anyone can face problems no matter the privileges you may be seen to have.
The fast-paced and shocking nature of Evelyn’s life completely enticed me from the first mention of her, but it was understanding her complexity and her vulnerability as her life became more ‘ordinary’ that made me keep reading. I felt like the only person in the world to whom these exclusive and exciting secrets were being unveiled, almost like being the only person at a premiere of a movie you’ve been dying to watch.
Although this was published in 2017, its subsequent and continued success proves that so many of us are fascinated by Hollywood and wish to be a fly on the wall for so many intoxicating celebrities. Jenkins Reid is sensational in creating the perfect fantasy for readers to become engrossed in whilst trying to figure out who this powerful woman really is, just as Monique is doing.
I definitely think this book deserved all the hype it accumulated on TikTok, and I now can’t wait to read Jenkins Reid’s other recent books Daisy Jones & The Six and Malibu Rising. I only wish I could read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo for the first time again to relive the overwhelming excitement of Evelyn Hugo’s life.