Gapping like a fish, mouth wide open is how Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo,” leaves readers. Twists, heartbreak and unexpected relationships fill the 385 pages. It’s hard to ignore the hundreds of avid readers who all consistently recommend this book on #BookTok. Evelyn’s story is one that does deserve the recognition it has acquired. You won’t want to pass it over on the shelves.
Jenkins Reid uses a variety of literary techniques within the novel. It opens with a clipping from a New York Times article (made up only for use in the story) that discusses how the fictionally world-famous “film legend” Evelyn Hugo will be auctioning off her most famous gowns for a charity donation. It overviews Evelyn’s seven marriages and her rise to fame, all the while luring readers in with the many missing details left out from the snippet.
Page three leads to Monique Grant, who is a partial narrator of the novel. She’s been requested by Evelyn herself to conduct an exclusive interview through Monique’s employer, the magazine company, Vivant. This request doesn’t seem unusual until it’s mentioned that Monique is a rising writer who only does small-scale stories, and Evelyn has not participated in an interview in decades.
With a plotline developing that has Monique as the narrator, a writing choice shifts this style. The last lines of chapter five read, “‘OK,’ Evelyn says, nodding. ‘It’s as good a place to start as any.’” It seems only natural that the next page will finally start with Evelyn’s first husband and the beginning of her career.
Turn the page and you’re looking at a majority white layout that reads “Poor Ernie Diaz” in large bold print.
Another fast turn, almost causing the page to rip, leads into a first-person perspective that readers realize is Evelyn reliving her past experiences. Flawlessly done, Jenkins Reid takes readers into Evelyn’s perspective: letting Evelyn share her story from her viewpoint. It offers a play-by-play and insight into the mystery that is Evelyn Hugo.
This back-and-forth narrator perspective continues throughout the entirety of the novel. Weaved throughout without interrupting the flow of the story, Monique and Evelyn develop their interview story for Vivant.
Each husband, of which there are seven, has their own white page with a description and their name. As mentioned, there’s Poor Ernie Diaz, then Goddamn Don Adler, Gullible Mick Riva, Clever Rex North, Brilliant, Kindhearted, Tortured Harry Cameron and Agreeable Robert Jamison. Each title prequels that man’s significance to Evelyn’s life story. Readers can expect that the next few chapters will explain why they married and then, eventually, what lead to their divorce. The descriptive adjectives allude to the relationship dynamics with each man, and as readers see, they’re spot on.
While the focus is on each individual marriage, Evelyn mentions the highs and lows of her movie career starting in the 1950s. She shares the joys of her life and the moments where she felt most discouraged. Among all the details, the main theme running the course of the novel is the big question: Who is Evelyn truly in love with?
The answer is one that is both admirable and shocking.
While readers do learn about Evelyn’s real love, Jenkins Reid also throws in a variety of cruel plot twists within the last 100 pages. It’s a whirlwind.
Who is Evelyn’s true love? How does each lover die, and how do they all decease before Evelyn? What’s the significance of Monique being the interviewer? What’s Evelyn’s end goal by telling her story in her own words? What are the true costs of living in the limelight? Is it better to have fame or love?
With all these questions whirling around, the ending is a page-turning, white-knuckled conclusion that you won’t see coming but you’ll love, nonetheless. Jenkins Reid has left readers walking away smirking, as the real Evelyn Hugo finally gets her moment.
Oh, and don’t forget to keep your eyes open for Evelyn’s eighth marriage.