The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid ~ a review ~ *no spoilers*

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When Hollywood Golden-Age’s most beautiful actress and film legend, Evelyn Hugo, at the age of 79 years old decided to tell all her truths and darkest secrets to no-name journalist Monique Grant, hell breaks loose.

Why Monique Grant?

Who’s Evelyn Hugo’s greatest love?

Why seven husbands?

Why telling the truth now?

This is the most intriguing, fascinating, darkest and juiciest story I have ever read in 2020. And I had plenty of time to read.

Taylor Jenkins Read had the imagination and skill to portrait such a twisted Hollywood tale that no movie can enthrall, but a reality.

The story is loosely inspired by the life of Hollywood legends Elizabeth Taylor (she was married eight times to seven different men, twice with Richard Burton) and Ava Gardner(she was so beautiful) and Rita Hayworth (because of her Spanish heritage and her early years are similar to Evelyn Hugo’s).

Monique Grant is a thirty years old writer for Vivant Magazine. She is not famous, she hasn’t written anything great yet, besides this smart article on suicide.

When famous legendary Hollywood actress from the ’60’s, Evelyn Hugo asks Vivant magazine for unknown writer Monique Grant to write about her dresses being sold at an action, she had a hidden reason for doing this : she wants Monique to write her autobiography.

At first, Evelyn’s story seems a all Hollywood glamour and intrigues story, but as the story deepens, there can be noticed many leitmotifs and central themes touched : sacrifices in the name of fame, homophobia,  being a beautiful woman in Hollywood’s Golden Era ment you were only seen for your beauty and you were paid less because you were a woman, even though you were a better actress than most men, some of the men were seeing beautiful actresses as trophies, actresses were owned by the studios under contract signed especially at the beginning of their careers when they were most vulnerable, were poor and in search of fame and glory.

Evelyn Hugo hid her true self from the public eyes, because the weight of the public perception ment her weight in gold, as her wealth and the life she has built could vanish forever if she ever slipped away and do something unthinkable in the eye of the society.

Evelyn Hugo was born Evelyn Herrera and was of Cuban heritage, her mother died when she was very young and Evelyn wanted to follow her mother’s dream: to be famous. She was left with her abusive father in Hell’s Kitchen. At 14, she was ready to escape Hell’s Kitchen and go to Hollywood. She was very intelligent and clever, when she convinced Ernie Diaz she was 16 and begged him to take her to the Hollywood studios were he worked as an electrician.

In time, Evelyn will lear that fame has many prices.  

The first price Evelyn paid for fame was her virginity.

Ernie Diaz became her first husband and through him she finally ended up in this coffee shop popular among all movie stars, working as a waitress, she was finally noticed by her future best friend, producer and husband, Henry Cameron.

Evelyn died her hair blonde, her skin was a tone darker and she seemed exotic like that and she became a sex symbol, also thanks to her breasts.

Evelyn noticed from a young age that beauty, breasts and physical appearance were weapons a woman like her had in front of men and she used those weapons to get and keep what she has always wanted : fame, but instead she has given up pieces of herself. 

Evelyn noticed from a young age that beauty, breasts and physical appearance were weapons a woman like her had in front of men and she used those weapons to get and keep what she has always wanted : fame, but instead she has given up pieces of herself. 

Some of Evelyn Hugo’s movies are :

Father and daughter

Next Door

Little Women

Anna Karenina

Boute-en-train

All for us

The seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo are :

1.Ernie Diaz (studio electrician)

2. Don Adler (fellow actor)

3.Mick Riva (singer)

4.Rex North (fellow actor)

5.Harry Cameron (best friend and producer)

6.Max Girard (“Boute-en-train” director)

7.Robert Jamison (financier and Celia St. James’s brother)

The book is cleverly divided in Evelyn’s husbands sections like : Poor Ernie Diaz, Goddamn Don Adler, Clever Rex North, Brilliant, kindhearted, tortured Harry Cameron, Disappointing Max Girard, Agreeable Robert Jamison.

From each husband Evelyn learned something :

  • she learned using her beauty to get what she wanted from Ernie Diaz, mainly an approach to getting famous, but there was a price to pay : her virginity.
  • she learned the fame and beauty could get you close to beasts like Don Adler, who ruled the Hollywood movie world through his family’s money (he was Captain Hollywood, to quote Celia St. James) 
  • she learned she can influence/manipulate the public eye and get a real success in her professional life, if she perfectly painted an unreal life marriage and that suited Rex North, too.
  • she learned that not passion, but friendship, trust and respect can get you a family together with Harry Cameron whom with she has a daughter and also what it ment to be gay and hide in those times, like Harry Did. Still, around Harry, she didn’t have to hide; she didn’t have to pretend. She was able to be free and true, and for Evelyn, in a world that demanded so much from her, this was the most liberating relationship. 
  • she learned that her beauty takes away her real image and men like Max Girard see her only as the sex symbol actress she is, but not the real woman behind the breasts of Evelyn Herrera.

Although it might not seem so, but Evelyn Hugo’s greatest ideal were love and partnership. Evelyn valued true love, and this book was a lesson in the various ways that people can show up in your life.

Along seven decades, Evelyn had many types of relationships. Some were transactional, some with obligatory, and some were sensationalized. But, each one of these relationships was pivotal to Evelyn’s growth and development as a character. 

Of course, Evelyn had a secret forbidden relationship which was so passionate and romantic, yet it was flawed as it was influenced by the patriarchy, the public eye and that Evelyn would have lost her fame if this relationship would have been revealed, the weight of the public perception becomes the reason Evelyn’s has done mistake after mistake to protect this relationship.

For this relationship, Evelyn would have given all away, including fame, yet she didn’t.

Evelyn Hugo is a beautiful woman who knows her worth and doesn’t regret anything about her life. 

Evelyn wanted to smash the patriarchy. Her biography was her last attempt at pointing out the inequalities of men in Hollywood, bringing to account the men who remained unscathed for their unscrupulous behavior. If Evelyn wanted to be truly seen, she wanted even more for these men, who were rewarded for being cruel and unkind, to be remembered for who they were. 

“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” also highlights the important issue of gay rights and those in the LGBTQ community.

Why Monique Grant?

Who’s Evelyn Hugo’s greatest love?

Why seven husbands?

Why telling the truth now?

I partially answered these questions, still two remain : 

  • who’s Evelyn Hugo’s greatest love?  
  • What’s Evelyn’s connection to Monique Grant?

You will have to read the book to find out. It is so much worth it.

“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” is the best book I have read in 2020, which I highly recommend, because of the awesome plot and the complexity of the characters and the richness of the language and the forbidden secret and the Monique Grant twist.

Quotes from the book :

“You wonder what it must be like to be a man, to be so confident that the final say is yours.”

“People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘you’re safe with me’- that’s intimacy.”

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