Who is Evelyn Hugo, you ask?
Why, only the greatest star the world has ever seen!
But seriously, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an unforgettable read with an equally unforgettable bisexual heroine, the likes of whom we haven’t seen much in the contemporary bookish sphere.
What is ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ About?
According to Goodreads:
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ’80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
My Thoughts on This Book
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a book that left an imprint on me. For the longest time, we women have been told to be kind and demure, and polite, even as we try to make our way through the workforce, towards the pinnacle. We have been set some very strict rules as to how we should be, and there are so many ways we can be brought down if we do not restrict ourselves or define ourselves according to the rules the society and the patriarchy sets down for us. And Even Evelyn tell us,
My mother raised me to be polite, to be demure. I have long operated under the idea that civility is subservience. But it hasn’t gotten me very far, that type of kindness. The world respects people who think they should be running it.
But can you imagine what it must be like to be The Man? Evelyn Hugo tells Monique to be enterprising, to “grab life by the balls” and to make them pay her for her work, what they would pay a white man. That’s some true but powerful shit, don’t you think?
You wonder what it must be like to be a man, to be so confident that the final say is yours.
This is where the book breaks all expectations. We get to see a flawed, ruthless, selfish, kind, ambitious, sexual woman who knows what she wants and is willing to work her ass off for it. Evelyn Hugo is a woman who we can admire and at the same time, also dislike or even hate. As the character Monique puts it,
Some days I find myself convinced that I admire her more than anyone I’ve ever met, and other days I think of her as a liar and a cheat.
Even though a fictional character, Evelyn Hugo has become the ideal for so many women. Yes, she had some qualities which I won’t say are worth emulating, but what a firehouse and supporter of the women’s cause. When her story begins, she is young and often makes mistakes. But we see her grow and through her character arc, we also learn.
With some iconic lines, Evelyn Hugo is truly a worthy icon. She is a breathing, fully fleshed-out person by Taylor Jenkins Reid and I am here to tell you to read her story. And my new mantra, as put by Evelyn Hugo, goes as,
Never let anyone make you feel ordinary.
Why You Need to Read it Now
But the reason why I am telling you about it today is that it is the first book I have come across that places a bisexual character on the forefront. For the longest time, sexuality has been considered a binary — you are either a heterosexual or a homosexual. But I ask, what about the Pansexuals? The Asexuals? The Bisexuals? And mind you, there are a number of sexualities across the spectrum today.
Evelyn Hugo has had seven husbands. But none compared to the greatest love of her life — a woman, a co-actress — who is just as flawed and real as Evelyn. With Taylor Jenkins Reid’s striking writing, we get to see their emotional turmoil and dilemmas. We get to see the fear that Evelyn lives with — because, in her times, people were EITHER gay/lesbian or straight. And she was someone who fit neither into those categories.
I’m bisexual. Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box.
I believe this is where the book becomes so important, with its representation of bisexuals — what it feels like to be unsure, and then when you are sure, to not belong into the appointed boxes that you have to tick. It also subtly (or not) shows how this fear can rage and rage on in a person afraid of the implications of coming out as bisexual in a world that only believes in a binary. For instance, Evelyn has practically lived her whole life as a ‘closeted’ person. And it is only in the end that she reveals her greatest and most forbidden love.
Even apart from the representation in this book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has been really well crafted. Although it has a basic plotline, it is a very character-driven book, because we see Evelyn take the decisions she does to start on her journey. Most importantly, she is unapologetic about it. And it is going to make you feel like it is a real person whose life story you are reading — such vivid are the words.
And of course, since this book revolves so much around Evelyn Hugo as a star, we get to read all the gossips and just life in general, in Hollywood. As a person who is definitely not in Hollywood, let me tell you, it is oh-so-juicy!
The representation is actually on point — you have a bisexual icon, there are some amazing secondary characters who are also homosexuals; and there are people of color (biracial, Latinx, black). All of them, even apart from the protagonist, are rounded characters, well-formed and it is such a delight reading about them.
So during this year’s Pride Month, if you are still unsure of which book to pick up, pick up this one. It will remain with you forever.
Did you enjoy this book review? Read more about what books inspired and moved us on our Book Reviews page. And if you want to support independent journalism, please consider doing so through our Donations page. Thank you for reading!