Pub. Date: June 13, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Atria!)
Summary: 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 in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Old School Hollywood
For years I have been hearing nothing but praise for Taylor Jenkins Reid. Back in 2013 I had the opportunity to review Forever, Interrupted, but passed on it, and have been regretting it ever since! So many bloggers and friends I trust absolutely adore this woman and anytime she releases a new book it’s a Big Deal and cause for celebration. Vowing not to repeat my mistakes, I immediately jumped at the chance when I saw this one was available for review.
Now in her 70s, Evelyn Hugo is considered a living legend. She rose to fame in the 50s and dealt with highs and lows (an Oscar nomination here, being blacklisted there) over the next few decades. These days she’s living a relatively secluded life in her lush New York apartment and is finally ready to tell her story – but only if a virtually unknown journalist is the one to write it.
Monique’s one claim-to-fame is a piece she wrote on assisted suicide. Several years and several magazines later, she’s fallen into a rut of fluff pieces, filler articles. Her personal life isn’t doing much better as she’s currently in the middle of filing for divorce – less than a year into her marriage. Her life seems to be spiraling out of control until she receives a coveted assignment: interviewing one of the most famous actresses to ever grace the screen. But why her? Why not one of the far more notable journalists? Why has Evelyn made it adamantly clear she will only agree to the interview if she gets Monique?
When I first heard about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I immediately thought of Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s June, one of my Top Reads of 2016 and a novel that also features a screen legend. I fell hard for Miranda’s novel (coincidentally my first of hers as well) and hoped to repeat that success with my introduction to Taylor’s work. I have to admit, while it certainly kept me hooked (it was a classic case of telling myself I’d only read one more chapter and before I knew it I had reached the end), once it was over, I realized Evelyn’s selfishness served as the novel’s downfall and made it extremely hard to love.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo isn’t the first novel I’ve read about a woman who is so ambitious and determined to get what she wants that she does whatever it takes to reach her goal. Nor will it be the last. I was fine with Evelyn’s initial plan to sleep her way into Hollywood. It was what came after that completely ruined her character for me. Those seven husbands? Only one marriage was for love. The other six were essentially games, strategic moves to either get what she wanted or to avoid rumors circulating. Sometimes the men were aware, sometimes they weren’t. At one point Monique asks Evelyn who her great love was – it’s revealed over the course of the book, but I was SO incensed at the way this poor character was treated by Evelyn. Selfish doesn’t even begin to describe her actions. Evelyn was so thoroughly and completely loved but she ultimately cared more about her fame and image – until it was too late, of course.
Normally I live for the past/present storytelling, but here, I just wanted to stay in the past. I never became invested in Monique’s character or her problems – though I will say my initial guess for why she was chosen by Evelyn was totally wrong and for that I’m glad. It would have been such an easy cop-out.
At 400 pages, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a decently-sized read, perfect for a rainy weekend or lounging at the beach. Although my introduction to Taylor Jenkins Reid (finally!) wasn’t as phenomenal as I had expected, I have to admit I wasn’t able to pull myself away from this one. Quick chapters and old Hollywood glamour completely sucked me in – though I didn’t care at all for Evelyn’s character. Her actions were simply too selfish and cruel and she received no sympathy from me. Early readers have said this novel is completely different from Reid’s other work (TJR even mentioned it herself in the author’s note) so I won’t swear off her other novels, but I’m left feeling disappointed.