The story is centered on a young journalist named Monique who is given the career-changing opportunity to write a biography for the legendary and enigmatic actress, Evelyn Hugo. Known for her seven marriages, Evelyn decides to finally reveal the truth behind her life filled with fame, scandal, and love.
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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Summary
Evelyn’s story unfolds from her humble beginnings to her meteoric rise in Hollywood, revealing her bold ambition, resilience, and the sacrifices she made along the way.
Throughout the novel, Evelyn recounts her marriages, some real and others for show, and how they affected her personal and professional life. In parallel, Monique grapples with her own personal and professional struggles, and as she delves deeper into Evelyn’s life, she learns lessons about ambition, identity, and love that change her own life.
This narrative explores the underbelly of Hollywood’s glamour, the objectification and commodification of women in the industry, and the challenges of maintaining one’s identity amidst public scrutiny.
Throughout the novel, readers witness a powerful tale of self-discovery, ambition, resilience, and the constant tension between personal desires and public image.
Compelling and engrossing, I was immediately drawn in by the vibrant, larger-than-life character of Evelyn Hugo, a Hollywood starlet from the 1960s who rose from poverty to the pinnacle of fame.
The narrative is well-crafted, moving fluidly from the past to the present as Evelyn shares her life story with Monique, a young and aspiring journalist.
The contrast between Monique’s and Evelyn’s lives serves as a fascinating juxtaposition.
While Evelyn navigates a glamorous yet grueling life in Hollywood, Monique struggles with her own personal and professional crises. The theme of identity and personal struggle in both their lives forms a captivating undercurrent throughout the novel.
Reid’s portrayal of Evelyn Hugo is a masterstroke.
The author constructs a complex character, whose manipulation, ambition, and survival instinct are balanced by vulnerability, genuine love, and a strive for authenticity.
Evelyn’s journey through seven high-profile marriages, each serving as a stepping stone in her career and life, is an intriguing exploration of the cost of fame, particularly for women in a male-dominated industry.
The queer representation in this book is also worth highlighting.
Evelyn’s relationship with Celia St James, and their struggle to maintain it in an era of rampant homophobia, is heartrending.
This clandestine love story, along with the unconventional family they form with Harry and John, adds depth to the narrative and presents an earnest depiction of the diverse facets of human love and relationships.
Reid’s writing is intimate and vivid, making the characters and their emotions leap off the pages. The narrative arc is well-executed, with each revelation about Evelyn’s life serving to peel back another layer of her complex persona. The book does a remarkable job of drawing you into the glamour and scandal of old Hollywood, only to expose its harsh realities and the personal sacrifices made by those who lived it.
The final reveal, concerning the relationship between Evelyn and Monique, is a gut-punch that alters the dynamics of their relationship.
It underscores the recurring theme of the novel – that truth, however painful, is integral to one’s liberation.
In conclusion, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a compelling exploration of fame, identity, and love. It is a beautifully written tale that leaves a lasting impression on you.
Reid has successfully woven a narrative that is as much a critique of Hollywood’s golden era as it is that perfect tale of love and self-realization.
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1. Success and Fame has a price
The life of Evelyn Hugo illuminates the sacrifices often required for success and fame.
From her humble beginnings, Evelyn makes her way to the top in Hollywood, but not without paying a significant price. Her marriages, mostly shams, become a means to an end. To maintain her stardom and livelihood, she suppresses her true identity, hides her true love, and even enables the mistreatment of her dearest friends.
The novel underscores the danger of ambition untempered by moral constraints. Readers might reflect upon their own ambitions, considering what compromises may be too costly.
Evelyn’s relationship with Celia St. James highlights the struggles of living authentically, especially within a judgmental society.
Despite their love for each other, Evelyn and Celia have to hide their relationship due to societal norms of their time. This strain eventually leads to their separation, illustrating the cost of living a lie.
Furthermore, when Evelyn orchestrates a sham marriage to protect her relationship with Celia, it results in a breach of trust and ultimately, their breakup.
The lesson here is about the value of authenticity and the potential harm that can result from suppressing one’s identity.
It teaches us to recognize the importance of being true to oneself and the ones we love.
3. Truth has its Consequences
A running theme in the book is the power of truth, and the lengths people will go to hide it or reveal it. For much of her life, Evelyn conceals the truth of her relationships and identity. She even manipulates a crime scene to protect the reputation of her deceased friend Harry. But these lies and half-truths have repercussions.
The truth about Monique’s father forever alters the way Monique perceives Evelyn.
Later in life, a lonely and grieving Evelyn comes to value truth above all else, even if it might be damaging.
This transformation underscores the novel’s lesson on the necessity of facing and accepting the truth, despite the potential fallout.
It invites us to contemplate how honesty and integrity influence their relationships and self-perceptions.
If you enjoy character-driven stories, historical settings, a deep dive into the Hollywood Golden Age, and themes of love and identity, you might find this book worthwhile.
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