How Fictional Evelyn Hugo Broke My Heart and My Reading Slump
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*No Spoilers Book Review*
After reading academically for nearly four years, it was a delight to indulge in a work of fiction for the fun of it. This post focuses on my thoughts surrounding the novel “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins-Reid.
This novel follows the life story of the glamorous and complicated Evelyn Hugo. As well as the woman she seems to pick at random to write it, Monique Grant. Under the guise of giving an interview for the magazine Monique works for, Vivant, Evelyn is able to tell her story in her own words. Evelyn’s story is one filled with love and loss, with a tiny, yet powerful string, connecting her life to Monique’s in a tragic way. We go through the story between Evelyn and Monique’s points of view.
As soon as I began reading this book, I was immediately pulled into Evelyn’s world. I found myself entirely seduced by Evelyn and her life in Hollywood. I also found myself pulled back down to earth in Monique’s seemingly average life. It was a much-needed balance between glamorous Evelyn Hugo and modest Monique Grant.
While I am not really into Hollywood glamour, I had to remind myself to look past the setting and focus on Evelyn. That wasn’t too hard in the grand scheme of things. Evelyn can effortlessly pull you in and push you aside as she sees fit.
Evelyn Hugo is one of the most complex characters I have read about in a long time. She is charming, seductive, sensual, and inspiring. At times, I wanted to jump into the pages of the novel and shake some sense into her.
Taylor Jenkins-Reid does a fantastic job of creating Evelyn Hugo into the character she is. She is complex and on the surface not very relatable. Most people can’t relate to being a famous movie star but instead can relate to Monique and her seemingly “everyday” problems surrounding work, family, and personal relationships. Both characters hold their own and are interesting to learn about as the story progresses.
When we aren’t reading about Evelyn’s life, we are snapped back to the present with Monique Grant. We don’t get nearly enough of her story. But how could we?
The whole point is to learn about Evelyn’s life. Monique’s life seems to be falling apart. She is an entry-level writer at the magazine Vivant, her husband has moved across the country for work, and her life just comes off as very dull and unfulfilling. That is until she learns that Evelyn wants her to write her life story, and then promptly sell it for millions of dollars.
Something very poignant about Evelyn’s story is the way she talks about people. Her husbands, her lovers, and the family she creates for herself. I felt as struck by Evelyn’s words as Monique did throughout the story. Especially when Evelyn discusses one of her early divorces.
“Heartbreak is a loss. Divorce is a piece of paper.”
When reading Evelyn’s story, it is so easy to get wrapped up in the fact that she has been through so many divorces. Yet at the heart of it, the heartbreak is what takes center stage. We are able to see Evelyn in a new light and that is something that Taylor Jenkins-Reid does perfectly.
To me, it is Evelyn’s heartbreak and loss that makes her seem more relatable. Good and bad times don’t last. It seems when Evelyn is riding a high, she also suffers lows just as intensely. Within both of these times, we can imagine parts of ourselves within Evelyn.
Also during these times with Monique, as her own story progresses, we as readers can begin to understand the events taking place in her own life. We begin to understand Monique as clearly as we do Evelyn.
The beginning of the story with Evelyn and Monique is shrouded in a cloud of envious mystery, but by the end, the cloud has lifted. We are as jilted as Monique by Evelyn’s revelation. Something I can appreciate even more about Evelyn’s story and Monique’s role in it. The twist didn’t feel forced or out of place. Rather it felt honest, raw, and painful.
Sometimes a story will leave you jilted by its twists and turns for all of the wrong reasons. Evelyn Hugo delivers big time and without disappointment. While Monique spends most of the story feeling average, it isn’t until Evelyn Hugo uncovers the truth that we finally begin to understand Monique’s true pain and the burden Evelyn has just placed on her shoulders.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. I enjoyed reading about Evelyn’s life and I enjoyed discovering the connection between Evelyn and Monique. Both stories felt as though they had come full circle by the time the story ended which is something I am personally a big fan of. I despise very loose ends without a sequel in sight.
Would I recommend this book? I would absolutely recommend this book. Marketed as historical fiction set in the time of Old Hollywood, there is so much more to this story that makes it worth reading.
I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.
If you enjoy aspects of romance, Hollywood glamour, the complications that come with being human, sexuality, and the inner workings of different types of relationships, then this is just the book to get you out of a reading slump, or perhaps even put you in a reading slump. (Though hopefully not the latter because I truly believe this is an enjoyable book and still think about Evelyn Hugo’s story all of the time.)
If you read this book, I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts on it!
If you haven’t yet read this book but want to, grab a copy here!