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The Science Survey

A Cinematic Journey Through Love and Stardom: A Review of ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The novel went viral on BookTok for being a literary odyssey of love and fame.
Rida Nuamah
Taylor Jenkins Reid’s ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ is a great portrait of self-discovery.

“‘Doesn’t it bother you? That your husbands have become such a headline story, so often mentioned, that they have nearly eclipsed your work and yourself? That all anyone talks about when they talk about you are the seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo?’ Her answer was quintessential Evelyn. No,’ she told me. ‘Because they are just husbands. I am Evelyn Hugo. And anyway, I think once people know the truth, they will be much more interested in my wife.'”

This quote, a powerful testament to self-identity and the complexity of relationships, has set the internet ablaze. With over 520.7 million views under its name on TikTok, it has catapulted Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo into the forefront of BookTok, solidifying its place as one of the most discussed and revered works of contemporary fiction.

In the realm of contemporary fiction, the novel stands as a mesmerizing exploration of love, fame, and the hidden intricacies of human relationships. Published in 2017, it has garnered widespread acclaim for its compelling narrative, complex characters, and a unique storytelling structure that keeps readers eagerly turning the pages.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Monique Grant, a fledgling journalist who finds herself unexpectedly thrust into the glamorous and enigmatic world of Evelyn Hugo, a legendary Hollywood icon. The novel’s premise centers around Evelyn’s decision to reveal her life’s most intimate secrets and untold stories to Monique, weaving a tale that spans decades and captures the essence of a bygone era in Hollywood.

The book was loosely based on the actresses Elizabeth Taylor, who got married eight times, and Ava Gardner, who revealed the details of her life to journalist Peter Evans so that he could write a biography on her based on their conversations. 

The biggest novel’s standout feature is its exploration of Evelyn Hugo’s seven marriages, each carefully crafted to showcase different facets of the character’s personality and the challenges she faced. Reid writes a part of the book on each of her relationships and tackles issues of identity, sexuality, and societal expectations with sensitivity and nuance, making the characters feel authentic and relatable. 

Reid’s narrative prowess is immediately evident as she skillfully blends elements of romance, drama, and historical fiction, masterfully weaving creating an intricate tapestry of storytelling that transports readers to the golden age of cinema. The backdrop of the entertainment industry serves as an evocative setting, allowing the author to delve into the ideas of fame and the sacrifices one must make to achieve success.

The character of Evelyn Hugo herself is a triumph of character development. As readers navigate the highs and lows of her life, they witness her evolution from a young and ambitious actress to a seasoned Hollywood legend. Evelyn Hugo’s character gradually unfolds to reveal layers of vulnerability, strength, and resilience. One of the most significant aspects of Evelyn’s character development is her evolution from a woman defined by her marriages to one who asserts her agency and takes control of her own narrative. As the novel progresses, readers witness Evelyn’s transformation from a young Cuban girl with dreams of stardom to a seasoned Hollywood legend who grapples with the consequences of her choices. Her seven marriages serve as both a reflection of her desires and a vehicle for self-discovery. Evelyn’s resilience in the face of adversity and her unapologetic pursuit of love and happiness contribute to a memorable and empowering narrative.

The author uses a non-linear narrative, guiding readers through Evelyn’s seven marriages with a suspenseful atmosphere. Instead of telling her life in the order of when they happened, the story jumps from one time period to another, telling the events of each of her marriages. The structure becomes a character itself, as it unveils secrets and revelations at precisely orchestrated times. This choice not only keeps readers on their toes but also adds a layer of depth to the storytelling, inviting them to piece together the puzzle of Evelyn’s life.

As readers delve into the heart of the story, each of the marriages serve as important points in the book. Each union is a brushstroke, painting a vivid portrait of a woman navigating the ideas of love, fame, and self-discovery. The non-linear timeline allows Reid to explore these relationships with depth and precision.

The brilliance of the novel lies not only in the captivating unraveling of Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo’s seven marriages but in the subtle mystery with the seemingly straightforward role of Monique Grant, the narrator. Reid skillfully builds up to the revelation that Monique’s involvement in Evelyn’s life goes far beyond the surface. As the narrative peels back the layers of Evelyn’s past, Monique emerges not merely as a biographer but as a person important in Hugo’s story. 

The mystery surrounding Monique’s true role adds an extra layer of intrigue. Reid masterfully navigates the delicate play between the two characters, revealing a connection that defines the nature of their relationship. This twist elevates the novel beyond the confines of a traditional celebrity biography, transforming it into a nuanced exploration of how two seemingly disparate lives intertwine.

Evelyn’s choice of Monique as her biographer is not arbitrary; it’s a strategic decision tied to their connection. Without diving into specific plot details, it becomes clear that Evelyn selected Monique with a purpose. The novel gradually unveils the reasons behind this selection, highlighting their relationship and the impact it has on both characters’ lives. Taylor Jenkins Reid masterfully crafts a narrative where every detail, including the choice of a biographer, plays a crucial role in unraveling the mysteries of Evelyn Hugo’s life.

The novel also navigates taboo subjects, pushing the boundaries of societal expectations common during Hollywood’s Golden Age. At the forefront is Evelyn Hugo’s bisexuality, a theme addressed with candor as the novel explores her relationships with both men and women. Reid paints a vivid picture of the challenges faced by individuals whose sexual identities defy the norms of the era, shedding light on the hardships of navigating love, desire, and societal acceptance.

The narrative also provides a critical examination of Hollywood’s racial dynamics. As an ambitious woman of Cuban descent, Evelyn faces racial prejudices and systemic barriers in her quest for success. An example of this is when she conceals her Cuban identity by changing what last name she goes by (she changed it from Herrera to Hugo to fit in), and the way she stopped speaking Spanish as well. Although her ethnicity is not mentioned frequently in the book, it is still a great part of her identity. The novel examines the sacrifices she made to challenge and transcend limitations, offering readers a portrayal of the challenges faced by people of color in the entertainment industry.

Moreover, the novel explores the manipulative nature of fame, showing the protagonist’s calculated strategies to navigate in a male-dominated industry. The novel prompts a reflection on power dynamics, choices made for career advancement, and the personal costs associated with achieving success. Through its exploration of these taboo subjects, the novel not only captivates readers with its compelling narrative but also contributes to broader conversations surrounding identity, acceptance, and the societal norms that shape individual lives.

One of Reid’s notable strengths lies in her character development. Each character, especially Evelyn herself, is rendered with a depth that goes beyond stereotypes. Reid weaves the complexities of human emotions, relationships, and identity into the fabric of her storytelling. Readers find themselves not merely observers but emotionally invested participants in the characters’ journeys. Whether it’s navigating the highs and lows of fame or exploring love and loss, Reid’s characters resonate authentically, leaving a lasting impression that extends beyond the pages of the book. Through her skillful prose and well-drawn characters, Reid elevates The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo into a literary triumph that captivates readers and lingers in their minds long after the final chapter.

Another prominent aspect of Reid’s writing is her plot twists, as they are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the narrative, contributing to the novel’s magnetic pull. These plot twists collectively form the novel’s beating heart, ensuring that every revelation leaves an indelible mark on the reader’s experience.

Overall,The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo transcends the boundaries of conventional storytelling, leaving an indelible mark on readers who choose to read it. The novel’s exploration of love, fame, and human connections is complemented by Reid’s masterful narrative structure and well-crafted characters. As the internet buzzes with discussions and recommendations on platforms like TikTok, the novel’s popularity continues to soar, proving that its themes are timeless and universally resonant. Through the enigmatic Evelyn Hugo, Reid invites readers to reflect not only on the glamorous facade of Hollywood but also on the deeper truths of the world. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo stands as a testament to the power of storytelling, affirming that, much like Evelyn herself, the most compelling stories are those that go beyond the surface and touch the heart.

Reid’s narrative prowess is immediately evident as she skillfully blends elements of romance, drama, and historical fiction, masterfully weaving creating an intricate tapestry of storytelling that transports readers to the golden age of cinema.

About the Contributor
Rida Nuamah, Staff Reporter
Rida Nuamah is a Copy Chief for 'The Science Survey' and enjoys writing about arts and entertainment. She finds journalistic writing appealing because it gives her the freedom to write about many different topics. Rida enjoys reading, writing, and going to parks with her family and friends. She would like to study either medicine or meteorology in the future.