Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
I have to begin with a caveat: historical fiction is not usually a genre I read or enjoy. But, I kept seeing this book all over BookTok and found the title intriguing, so after my wife picked it up from the library I decided to read it. I was pleasantly surprised and plowed through it.
The novel weaves the reader through past and present as it follows two women with similar life trajectories. Monique Grant is a young journalist trying to climb the corporate ladder and struggling with her own divorce. Evelyn Hugo is a world-famous A-list actress who in her later years in life shies away from the public spotlight.
The novel begins with Hugo reaching out to the magazine Grant works for with the promise of a cover feature. The editor is excited, but puzzled by the condition attached to the offer: Grant must do the story. The editor reluctantly agrees.
Once Grant and Hugo begin their interviews, it’s learned that the feature was a guise for Hugo to convince Grant to write her biography that can only be published upon her death. Conflict arises when Grant must juggle this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with potential career suicide if the book doesn’t work out.
Throughout the novel, we learn about Hugo’s life from her humble beginnings in Hell’s Kitchen, seven marriages, and her present-day existence as a socialite in Manhattan. She’s a complicated woman whose beauty, and cunning, is beyond compare and this reader grew to both love and hate her at the same time. Meanwhile, in the present, we see Hugo mentoring Grant through her own divorce and desire for success.
There is plenty of tension and conflict throughout the novel, most of it predictable. Closeted queerness, lovers quarrels, and marriages of convenience for career advancement are expected and delivered in this tale of old Hollywood and the rich-and-powerful. In the end, however, comes a twist so unexpected and shocking it caused my jaw literally to drop – something that’s rare in a novel these days.
Beautifully written and a tale masterfully spun, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a must-read book.