“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Reading this book felt like a warm embrace — I knew I would love it when I first began reading. It wasn’t always a happy story, but I trusted it to break my heart.
Our story begins with Monique Grant, a staff writer for a popular magazine. Monique works to become its editor while picking up the pieces of her broken marriage. But, everything changes for Monique when she's given the opportunity to interview Evelyn Hugo, one of the biggest names in Hollywood.
Instead of simply agreeing to an interview, Evelyn asks Monique to record her life story. The Hollywood starlet (who is now much older) is infamous for her seven marriages, and she’s here to spill all of the details to Monique (her interest in Monique remains somewhat of a mystery until the very end).
We follow Evelyn from her debut back in the 1950s to her life in the present day, and eventually, we discover the answer to the question every Hugo fan is dying to know: Who did Evelyn Hugo love the most?
I was expecting a bunch of different love stories with different men when I first started reading this book, but that’s not what I got. There’s a beautiful love story in this book, that’s probably one of the messiest I’ve ever read, but there are also many beautiful love stories within these pages.
We see the deep platonic love that Evelyn had with her best friend, Harry Cameron, the all-consuming lifetime friendship with fellow actress Cecilia St. James, the complicated relationship with her daughter, Connor, and the superficial relationships engineered to please the press.
I can’t tell you more without spoiling the plot, but I will be mildly spoiling some of my favorite parts in this review. I want you to experience the love story completely by surprise — it’s one of the main reasons that this book blew me away.
The book doesn’t end at marriage or at having kids. This is an entire life story that deals with the many complications that adulthood brings. Even though these characters aren’t real, they taught me a lot about all of the different kinds of love that exist in this world.
For example, when Evelyn and her first husband, Don, divorce, she tells Monique about the difference between failing in a relationship and heartbreak. She explains, “If you are heartbroken right now, then I feel for you deeply … But I wasn’t heartbroken when Don left me. I simply felt like my marriage had failed. And those are very different things.”
Monique stops taking notes and wonders how the distinction had never crossed her mind before. I did the same.
This book also taught me about the kinds of sacrifices that you make for love. I’m usually not a fan of the romances where one character says that they can’t be with the other person for their own good, but this book just executes this plot point so well.
Evelyn is facing the person that she loves the most when she says, “You’re an idealist and a romantic, and you have a beautiful soul … (But) I’ve lived that life before … I will do whatever I can do to prevent you from living that way. Do you hear me? I love you too much to let you live only for me.”
This is the kind of writing that allows for a mirror to be held up to one’s own deepest desires. Loving someone enough to be heartbroken and being willing to sacrifice to protect a love worth having are what all love stories try, in one way or another, to achieve. But, this is one of the few that truly does that.
Even after reading the book, I still don’t know if Evelyn is a good person. She ruthlessly protected and loved the people closest to her, but she hurt many others in the process. This is a fact that Monique herself must contend with at the end of the story.
But please, if you have the time, meet Evelyn. Let her break your heart. Whether you think she is worthy of your forgiveness or not, I can assure you that she doesn't care.