‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’: Expect the Unexpected

“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, published in 2017, transports readers to the world of 1950s Hollywood, revealing the glitz, glamor and secrets of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Like with all of her other books, Jenkins Reid creates a world that is so enthralling it leaves readers questioning what is real.

In the novel, Evelyn Hugo was the biggest movie star in Hollywood in the 1950s, known not only for her many successful films, but also for the seven husbands that she left in her wake. Reporter Monique Grant is chosen as the first – and only – person to be given the privilege of discovering what truly went on in each of Evelyn’s relationships. The novel works chronologically, exploring how Hugo went from being a teen in Hell’s Kitchen to the biggest movie star in Hollywood while detailing each relationship that the star had during her life. Meanwhile, in the present day, Grant tries to discover why Evelyn Hugo chose her to write this story. However, the life of Evelyn Hugo is not what it seems, and neither are her relationships, despite what the public – and a constant stream of tabloids – might think. As the plot unfolds, the reader discovers that Hugo is so much more than just a lovesick actress.

Jenkins Reid creates a world that mirrors what we know of classic Hollywood. One of her best world-building tactics is the way that she connects all of her books to one another. Characters from “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” can also be found in her other works, “Daisy Jones and the Six, “Malibu Rising, and “Carrie Soto Is Back.” She is so successful in creating this fictional world that, after reading my first Taylor Jenkins Reid novel, I found myself frantically searching Google to find out if these seemingly iconic celebrities – whom I had never heard of – actually existed.

What I loved most about this book is how different it was from my original expectations. Admittedly, I first learned about this book on TikTok and believed that the title was relatively self-explanatory. I mean, as it suggests, it is a book about the seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo, but somehow Jenkins Reid makes these husbands into background characters in the life of Evelyn herself, focusing on the complicated life and emotions of a woman who lived in the spotlight, but hid her true self from the whole world.

This effect is probably so successful due to the grounding that it has in the reality of Hollywood today. We know so much about celebrities, but we know nothing about what they are actually like behind closed doors. Jenkins Reid builds not only on this truth but on the curiosity that society has with the private lives of public figures.

Ultimately, I can not fully review this book without including a few spoilers, so beware if you have yet to read “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.”

The most shocking part of this book is that, rather than focusing on the relationships between Evelyn Hugo and her husbands, the true romance is between Evelyn and her one true love: Celia St. James. In the end, a book that is seemingly about seven men is actually the love story of two women.

I find Jenkins Reid’s writing in this novel brilliant. One enters into this experience assuming that they are reading a nice piece of historical fiction literature exploring a series of heteronormative relationships. While interesting, it is something that everyone has seen before. What they find is a story of love, heartbreak, deception and secrets that explores queer relationships at a time when they were not publicly accepted as well as the life-long implications of that reality.

The topics explored in this novel are refreshing, as I was understandably wary to read a novel that seemingly focused on how a woman with a successful career was only defined by the men to whom she was connected. “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” broke the barriers that its own title suggests, proving that women are so much more than their husbands.

If you like this novel, I highly recommend reading Taylor Jenkins Reid’s other works, “Daisy Jones and the Six,” “Malibu Rising,” and “Carrie Soto is Back,” which all exist within the same universe. I also suggest watching the new “Daisy Jones and the Six” series on Amazon Prime.

Rating: 5/5