When I heard about this book from a friend, I was surprisingly intrigued. I’d never previously been one for historical fiction but the title ‘The seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo’, admittedly piqued my interest. My logic was that no boring book could have such a title.
While it was the title that drew me in, what got me hooked was the characters of the book. One character in particular, the infamous Evelyn Hugo.
This book is told through interviews of Evelyn by Monique, a novice journalist, for her biography. Evelyn immediately has this enigmatic air of mysticism and authority around her that just lures you in. You begin to wonder why a Hollywood legend would want some amateur journalist to write her life story but this mystery soon becomes one of many as you get swept up by the glamorous yet extremely complicated life of Evelyn Hugo.
Evelyn was relentlessly committed to her career and personal success. She was very goal oriented which would’ve been a great thing to role model for young girls in the 50’s, but unfortunately the media twisted her strategies and sharp determination into sexualisation. Caring more about what she wore and how many husbands she had over her talents and achievements.
Instead of letting the media take advantage of her, Evelyn took the power back and bent Hollywood to her will. She would influence the public and news outlets to control her reputation in the public eye, though not with the end goal of having a polished reputation, but an enticing and somewhat controversial one. She’d toe the line between controversy and cancellation and that’s what made her so popular.
Even with her uncanny ability to manipulate the news and public, the press still managed to lord its control over her life. She had to always be several steps ahead In order to stay afloat in that society. The media doesn’t rest and rumors run rampant so it was demanding maintenance.
Especially with people back then being so set in their ways. Evelyn couldn’t ever safely and truly be herself in the public eye, for fear of the scrutiny and ostracization she’d undoubtedly suffer as a result. This meant Evelyn could trust very few and had to live and love behind closed doors in order to achieve her dreams.
This whirlwind of a fictional biography left me feeling frustrated, conflicted but ultimately satisfied with its ending. What I loved about reading about such a complex character was that everything in this book had such depth, there was nothing two-dimensional about it. That being said, even though there are an array of twists and turns in this book and not all of which you may agree with, by the end of the book you're left understanding why these events played out the way they did. That’s what I love about Reid’s writing, it’s omnipresent. She covers every side of her stories and ties her narratives up efficiently.