Taylor Jenkins Reid
June 13, 2017 | Atria Books
Literary fiction | Women’s fiction | Contemporary women
As I’ve told you all, life went of the rails for me in the first two thirds of 2016. I didn’t read as much as I wanted, and I didn’t write enough.
What I did read were mostly thrillers. I guess I figured that if these people could get through life threatening situations, I could get through my pain.
In June I decided to read something lighter. I had read a couple of Taylor Jenkin’s Reid’s books, and, while on the chick lit side of the aisle, they had substance (as opposed to others, which are more ‘fluffy’). Jenkins Reid seemed like the perfect choice.
Little did I know that, while The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo hits all the fluffy requirements for good chick lit, it has more than just a little bit of meat and grit.
When an aging recluse decides to tell her secrets to unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant, no one is more astonished than Monique herself.
But it couldn’t have come at a better time. Monique’s husband has left her and she’s stalled as a writer. She needs something. Something more than her lonely, one room apartment.
So, when Evelyn Hugo, legendary actress and famed recluse (think Marilyn if she lived) chooses Monique to write her biography, it’s just the jolt her career needs.
Once ensconced in Evelyn’s beautiful Manhattan apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn recounts her life. An opportunistic, brave woman, Evelyn tells her tale of escape from a sleazy father in the tenements of New York, the revival of her flailing career by taking a huge risk, the decision to leave show business in the 80’s, and her seven husbands — giving Monique the story behind each step Evelyn took in her rise to Hollywood elite.
Listening to Evelyn’s story emboldens Monique, making her realize that sometimes you have to take chances to get to the top. As she hears Evelyn’s narrative of ambition, loyalty, friendship, and forbidden love, Monique decides to quit playing it safe in her career and her life, instead going for broke in both her professional and personal life.
But, as Evelyn’s story nears the end, it becomes clear that Evelyn picked Monique for a reason – and that their lives converge in ways Monique could never imagine.
Like I said, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is much more substantive than I imagined.
That statement can go to the two women protagonists as well. Evelyn is a fighter from the word go, but Jenkins Reid takes her deeper, making her fight fights that women in the 50’s didn’t even realize they could fight. She’s a multifaceted character with so much ‘moxie,’ taking chances in her career, giving it all up at the right moment for the right reasons. I cannot (well, I guess I could, but I won’t) say more — I don’t want to spoil Evelyn’s secrets for you. But I can say that Evelyn Hugo is one of the bravest fictional women I’ve read in a long time.
That bravery is passed on through osmosis and storytelling to Monique, who takes Evelyn’s life and uses it as a how-to manual when it comes to her own life and career.
Although Monique’s whole understanding of life takes a hit at the end (I think I can say that without giving it away — because, whatever you take from that statement, I can tell you you’re wrong. The connection between the two women will surprise you), she perseveres and goes on, deciding that taking chances to get what you want is better than settling and playing it safe.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was so much more than I expected. I loved it, and it made me think a bit about women who came before. I’m proud of the crop of today’s Hollywood elite ladies and their ability to speak out and show my girls that they don’t have to take it (whatever it is at the time) just because they’re female. But The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo made me think of all the women who came before, who had to take abuse, adultery, and plain old misogyny because of their gender — and to really consider the women who just wouldn’t take it.
But please don’t get the wrong idea. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a fun read. Lots of glamour and sexiness. But it’s also filled with feminism and strong women working hard to make it in a very male world.
I loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. It’s a wonderful mix of fun and substance — chick lit with balls.