“Never let anyone make you feel ordinary.” -Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Seven Husbands of Eveyln Hugo.
By: Macy Newman
True originality has been slowly fading away right before our eyes, getting left behind as time passes by it. Stories are recycled and reimagined over and over again. The search for something original has become a battle, one that only gets more gruesome as the days continue to pass by.
If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo,” you will find that somehow, someway, Taylor Jenkins Reid has managed to produce a story of her own. One of love. One of fame. One of the themes that, yes, we have seen done before, but never quite in the way that Reid inscribes into the pages of this book. “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” is the story of true originality at its very core.
The book focuses on the aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo, who is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous, yet scandalous life. When Hugo chooses an unknown newspaper reporter who is struggling to progress in her professional career, and the book’s narrator, Monique Grant for the job of telling her story, no one is more taken aback than Monique herself.
We follow Evelyn and Monique as they travel back in time together, and revisit Evelyn’s eventful life, one that seemingly revolves around her seven past husbands. As the two women dig deeper into Evelyn’s past, Monique slowly realizes that her and Evelyn’s life may intertwine more than she thought, in the most tragic and irreversible ways one can imagine.
The character of Evenlyn Hugo herself is one that has been broken down and had her identity slowly stripped away by the harsh realities of the society that she lives in. Evelyn is a character that is neither white nor black, but instead a beautiful shade of gray whose moral compass’ complexity draws readers in, and traps them in a cage of unapologetic ambition, unafraid passion, and unwavering stardom.
Reid does an incredible job at making you forget that Evelyn Hugo is a fictional character rather than a real living and breathing human. I couldn’t help but want to rush to see every movie that she starred in, or attend the glamorous parties that she visits so often, only to find myself being snapped back into reality by the turn of a page and remembering that Evelyn is just a character in a novel.
Evelyn is a well written character, yes, but not a good person. She’s a woman who is cold and manipulative and someone who cheated her way to the top, yet I found myself wanting to know every last detail about her and her life. The few moments of light that shine through her darkness are what keep you hopelessly devoted to her, and lead you to root for her success, despite her overall immoral actions.
Many of these moments involve Celia St. James, a fellow actress of Evelyn’s that she meets a few years after the start of her career and becomes unapologetically close with. You’ll find yourself getting whiplash as you navigate your way through the two characters’ lives, and see their innocent friendship blossom into a relationship full of many complications, conflict, and career ending moves, all of which are encased by a beautiful film of deep and true love. Throughout the novel, Celia is the only character that manages to reveal Evelyn’s fragile and bare heart, one that has been guarded by her own fears for a majority of the book.
There is something about love that is so elegantly dangerous, and “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” doesn’t let you forget it. The journey throughout the story is painful and agonzing, but it is also one that leaves you feeling so unbelievably lucky to be able to experience, beautifully mirroring one’s real world experience with love.
This view on love is one that we don’t see very often, if at all, when it comes to stories because of, what I think is, the fear of exploring something so complex. It takes a certain type of person to be able fully explore a love that isn’t sweet and fluffy, but rather plucks and pulls at the reader’s brain until they completely reinvent any previous interpretations of love. Reid takes on this challenge and exceeds expectations.
Love is like having seven different husbands throughout your lifetime. It’s messy. Evelyn Hugo would know all about this.
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