In light of new year’s resolutions that may or may not include reading more books, this is where I will share candid reviews on literature written by women so you can expand your fem-lit list. Before we proceed to this month’s chosen book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, here’s a gentle reminder that what I like may not be your cup of tea, but I hope you’ll take a sip.
I am a millennial who spends most of my time on TikTok. To no surprise, that is how The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid ended up on my radar. Scandalous and addictive, it’s a tale of Old Hollywood glamour that makes a good read while on holiday or at home. Don’t be deceived by the mouthful title though, it’s a lot more than just glamour and romantic affairs.
So what’s the tea?
Published in 2017, the historical fiction book offers a unique twist on love that stands the test of time and fame. As the name suggests, the book opens with Evelyn Hugo, a star of the golden cinema era. She employs the help of unknown journalist Monique Grant, to write a biography filled with never-been-told stories of her life and deeper insight into her infamous marriages.
Tension rises as the plot thickens, with Monique discovering more about her past through Evelyn’s secrets that connect the two lonely women in tragic yet remarkable ways. Set in current times with a combination of flashbacks, the story unfolds seamlessly throughout the different periods to help the readers immerse themselves in every single chapter—from the tale of the first husband to the last.
Every new discovery comes with questions, like why did Evelyn choose Monique to write her book? Why did Evelyn marry so many times? The answers to all these questions slowly unravel in captivating detail, but with just enough mystery to keep you curious. It’s a deep chick lit read that explores the topic of sexuality, what it means to be a woman and the trials and tribulations that come with fame.
Is it worth the hype?
I started the book with zero expectations, as one should when something is so widely talked about on the Internet. Only a few pages in, I quickly fell in love with Evelyn Hugo and pretty much every other character in the book thanks to Taylor Jenkins Reid’s brilliant storytelling. I was taken aback at how pleasantly easy the reading experience was, given my low attention span and how heavy the book can get at times.
Did I buy into the hype? One hundred percent. Aside from the writing, it’s Reid’s ability to create nuanced characters that kept me hooked. There’s so much to like and dislike about every person in the story. The play between human vulnerability and ego is so intrinsic that I can’t help but feel for each character, even the ones I can’t relate to. Evelyn is ambitious, as she is manipulative, cunning and bold. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book about a woman who is so multifaceted, complex and unnerving in her pursuits.
The motivations and inspiration behind the book is clear. Reid herself has mentioned that Evelyn Hugo is loosely based on Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner, two women famous for their marriages and ethereal beauty. Fans of old Hollywood will delight in all the references, paired with painful life lessons and surprising turns that make this book a hard one to put down.
Who will love this? Anyone with a knack for good ‘ol drama. It’s an easy read, but by no means is it lighthearted—you will definitely be left with the feels at the end of the book.
Total rating: 9/10
Want more recommended reads? Check out our list of books by female Asian authors