P - T, Reviews, T

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

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Rating:  5 Pfoten

Book 5 on My Book List 2019

”Evelyn always leaves you hoping you’ll get just a little bit more. And she always denies you.”

This book was so, so, so GOOD!! I swear I was barely two pages in and already knew that I’d love it with all my heart! ❤ There’s just something about that golden Hollywood era that captivated me right from the beginning and once Evelyn entered the scene I was a goner. I just loved the way her story was told!

We didn’t only get the interviews with Monique but also were able to read news articles about her life and this made everything so much more intriguing. I mean “Hollywood Digest”, “Sub Rosa” or the “New York Tribune”, they all wrote about Evelyn’s life and those articles give an authenticity that makes this book feel real. It could have happened, Evelyn could have been a real Hollywood Star and people could have been as fascinated by her as by Marilyn Monroe or Marlene Dietrich.

I think to some degree Taylor Jenkins Reid might have even had Marilyn Monroe in her mind when she wrote Evelyn’s character and knowing how awesome Marilyn was this really doesn’t come as a surprise. XD Another thing I appreciated was that every husband got a part of this book and even though there were seven of them, who all influenced Evelyn and left a mark on her character, none of them actually was her one true love. It’s a very particular approach to a great story and I loved the way it was carried out.

Still, after I read the ending my mind was reeling and my feelings were so mixed that I had a tough time coming to terms with everything that was revealed. There were so many things I felt conflicted about and even now, after more than a week has passed, I still didn’t manage to sort out my feelings and I still don’t know what to do with them. Maybe I’ll have to get used to the idea that to think about Evelyn Hugo and her seven husbands will always make me feel conflicted and that there’s no such thing as making peace with an ending like that.

And maybe, just maybe, that was Taylor Jenkins Reid’s plan all along. 😉

2

Welcome to my characters section, aka “The spoilery spoiler zone”! If you didn’t read the book yet and still want to be surprised by its revelations you better don’t continue to read my review. I’m worse than any tabloid mentioned in this book and I’ll spoil you relentlessly! If you still want to read my gossip, go ahead, but don’t say I didn’t warn you! ;-P

Evelyn Hugo:

”And I didn’t say I was confessing any sins. To say that what I have to tell is a sin is misleading and hurtful. I don’t feel regret for the things I’ve done – at least, not the things you might expect – despite how hard they may have been or how repugnant they may seem in the cold light of day.”

Oh, Evelyn! Where do I even begin? I loved that woman so damn much, I can’t even! <333 It’s so rare to meet such a complex character in a book but damn Evelyn just had it all! She was neither white nor black, and if anything she was all different shades of grey. I loved that she was so ruthless, that she did what she had to do in order to get what she wanted, that she was unapologetic about her decisions and behaviour and that she never held back and just wanted it all! Celia was right, at times Evelyn could be really awful and egoistic, but damn did her good qualities make up for it.  Compassionate, caring and protective of the ones she loved she would have done everything possible to keep them safe and happy. Gosh, WHAT. A. WOMAN!  I think I might be in love with her! <333

”Did I want to make as much money as Don? Of course I did. I wanted to get the paycheck and mail a copy of it to him with a photo of my middle finger. But mostly I wanted the freedom to do whatever I wanted.”

”I told her every single day that her life had been the world’s greatest gift to me, that I believed I was put on earth not to make movies or wear emerald-green gowns and wave at crowds but to be her mother.”

”I regret every second I didn’t spend with her. I regret every stupid thing I did that caused her an ounce of pain. I should have chased her down the street the day she left me. I should have begged her to stay. I should have apologized and sent roses and stood on top of the Hollywood sign and shouted, ‘I’m in love with Celia St. James!’ and let them crucify me for it.”

Celia St. James:

”I really like you. I like watching you on-screen. I like how the moment you show up in a scene, I can’t look at anything else. I like the way your skin is too dark for your blond hair, the way the two shouldn’t go together and yet seem so natural on you. And to be honest, I like how calculating and awful you kind of are.”

Now here’s the thing, I know that Celia was the love of Evelyn’s life and I could see that they loved each other deeply, but – and here comes the huge BUT – I had the feeling that I could never truly connect to her. I don’t know what it was that kept me from adoring her the way I adore Evelyn but I think it might have been the sum of thousands of little things that ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth. For instance I hated that Evelyn always seemed to feel like she had done something wrong and that it was her responsibility to set things right again. I mean Celia threw a lot of awful things at her too, but in the end it always seemed to be Evelyn that blamed herself for it. Also I didn’t like that Celia wasn’t only self-righteous but also more than just a little judgemental. You’d think a person who represents the “L” in LGBTQ+ would be more accepting and open-minded when her partner is bi, but nope Celia was almost as bi-phobic as the men in Evelyn’s life and that made me really sad. =(

”That was how it was with Celia. When you denied her what she wanted, when you hurt her, she made sure you hurt, too.”

”So I told myself that the spark between Celia and me was just a quirk we had. Which was convincing as long as it remained quirky. Sometimes reality comes crashing down on you. Other times reality simply waits, patiently, for you to run out of the energy it takes to deny it.”

Harry Cameron:

”I want to be with someone I love. I want to have a companion. I’d like to bring someone home to my family. I don’t want to live alone anymore. And I want a son or a daughter. We could have that together. I can’t give you everything. I know that. But I want to raise a family, and I’d love to raise one with you.”

Aside from Evelyn, Harry Cameron was truly the best thing about this entire book! <33 I loved this man so much and I think he’s an angel! He was always respectful and supportive and even more important he accepted Evelyn exactly the way she was. I loved that he and Evelyn always tried to solve every problem together and I hated to see him so sad after the death of John. T_T Harry’s grief broke my heart and even though he was drinking way too much he never did anything stupid. I mean he never hurt Evelyn or got frustrated with her, he only tried to compensate his grief without hurting anyone else in the process. Even when it came to this he was considerate and kind. =(( Poor Harry, though. It made me so damn sad that he had to go and I admit it, I actually shed some tears when he died. T_T

Monique Grant:

”Why, until this moment, did I not realize that the issue is my own confidence? That the root of most of my problems is that I need to be secure enough in who I am to tell anyone who doesn’t like it to go fuck themselves? Why have I spent so long settling for less when I know damn well the world expects more?”

To say their relationship was complicated would be putting it more than just mildly! It was really interesting to see Monique’s character arc though. I mean at the beginning she was a shy mouse that didn’t dare to say anything to her boss and by the end of the book she was a young successful woman who stood up for herself and finally had the guts to make decisions she never even dared to consider. I think that to get to know Evelyn and to find out the truth behind her father’s death was necessary to find her happiness and I’m convinced that both of those things were able to give her some closure. I could understand her anger towards Evelyn, her hurt when she found out what she had done and the inability to truly hate her for it. Because she got to know the person behind the movie star and she knew how broken Evelyn was on the inside, how much pain she had suffered, how much loss she had endured. =( Still, that scene when she pondered whether to get on the train or not, the thoughts that crossed her mind, her inner struggle how to deal with the situation at hand. Damn, this was one of the best book moments I ever had the pleasure to read. Well done, Taylor Jenkins Reid, well done! I had goose bumps following that inner conflict. *shudders*

”I’m Evelyn.” She reaches out and takes my hand, shaking it. It strikes me as a unique form of power to say your own name when you know that everyone in the room, everyone in the world, already knows it.”

”I insist that you be ruthless in your negotiating, Monique. Make them pay you what they would pay a white man. And then, once you’ve done that, every penny from it will be yours.”

3

Evelyn & Celia:

”I wanted to give her a lot of things. I wanted what I had to be hers. I wondered if this was what it felt like to love someone.”

Those two were the death of me, I swear! Their ups and downs, their struggles and fights, their love and dreams, their hopes and shattered realities. ARGH! It was so obvious they loved each other, yet they could never be together. Because the world didn’t let them and wouldn’t have understood, because they didn’t want the same thing, because they weren’t ready to be in a relationship and unable to make arrangements. Because…  just BECAUSE! There was always another reason why they couldn’t be happy, another misunderstanding that tore at their foundations, another bump on the road that caused them to drift apart. They loved and lost and loved and lost again. It was so heart-breaking to watch! And Celia, she killed me. With everything she said to Evelyn! I knew she loved her, yet she hurt her so much! >_<  I just wished she would have had more sympathy for Evelyn’s outlook and I really wish she would have tried to understand Evelyn’s sexuality. So many of their problems could have been solved, they could have gained so many years if they just would have allowed themselves to be who they are. Their love was so tragic… more tragic than any of the movies they produced over the years. And it really made me sad. T_T

”Evelyn, who was your great love? You can tell me.”
Evelyn looks out the window, breathes in deeply, and then says, “Celia St. James.”
The room is quiet as Evelyn lets herself hear her own words. And then she smiles, a bright, wide, deeply sincere smile. She starts laughing to herself and then refocuses on me. “I feel like I spent my entire life loving her.”

”It’s not wrong,” Celia said. “It shouldn’t be wrong, to love you. How can it be wrong?”
“It’s not wrong, sweetheart. It’s not,” I said. “They’re wrong.”

”If you love someone enough, you should be able to overcome anything,” she said. “And we have always loved each other so much, more than I ever thought I could be loved, more than I ever thought I could love. So why … why couldn’t we overcome it?”
“We did,” I said, turning towards her. “We’re here.”
She shook her head. “But the years,” she said.“

”There’s a difference between sexuality and sex. I used sex to get what I wanted. Sex is just an act. Sexuality is a sincere expression of desire and pleasure. That I always kept for Celia.”

Evelyn & Harry:

”You do not know how fast you have been running, how hard you have been working, how truly exhausted you are, until someone stands behind you and says, “It’s OK, you can fall down now. I’ll catch you.”
So I fell down.
And Harry caught me.“

Their friendship was everything, absolutely E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.!!!  Gosh, I loved their relationship so much, I can’t even!!! They were so perfect together and understood each other better than anyone else. They were so close it sometimes felt like they could read each other’s mind and I think of all the husbands Evelyn married over the years, Harry definitely was the best! <333 (Of course her last hubby was awesome too but if you ask me no one was able to hold a candle to Harry!) I know Harry was gay and had no sexual desire for women and I know that Evelyn loved Celia but damn those two made so much sense! They shared a love that is sometimes even harder to find than the once in a lifetime love we all crave for and they were so much more than just friends. They were business partners, equals, best friends, partners in crime, confidants, soul mates and kindred spirits. And most importantly, they loved each other deeply! <333 It’s so rare to find a friend like that, so rare to have a connection like that, to be loved liked that… ARGH! I just LOVED them!!! This was such a wholesome representation of a deep friendship and I’m incapable to put it into words. *breaks down and sobs*

”I promise I’ll do whatever I can. I promise you we will figure this out.”
“OK,” Harry said, and then he squeezed my hand back and walked out the door. “We will figure this out.”

”I want you to stay, Harry. We need you. Me and Connor.” I grabbed his hand tighter. “But if you have to go, then go. Go if it hurts. Go if it’s time. Just go knowing you were loved, that I will never forget you, that you will live in everything Connor and I do. Go knowing I love you purely, Harry, that you were an amazing father. Go knowing I told you all my secrets. Because you were my best friend.”

The bi rep:

”It really makes you think, doesn’t it? That people were so eager to believe we were swapping spouses but would have been scandalized to know we were monogamous and queer?”

And now we finally come to one of the most important subjects of this book: The bi rep! And let me tell you, it was spot-on! Evelyn is a bi icon and for the rest of my life I’ll never get tired of emphasizing how important this kind of representation is! Throughout the entire book Evelyn is confronted with bi-phobia but she always took it in stride! She accepted herself the way she was and she did an amazing job at trying to explain her sexuality. I know some of you might say that it shouldn’t even be necessary to explain your sexuality to others and I’m inclined to agree, but the bitter truth is that we have to explain it no matter if we want to or not. I can only speak from personal experience here but usually straight people have a hard time understanding how you can love both sexes equally and make no difference, while lesbian or gay people might just try to label you as one of their own. What Celia did?! It happens! It happens way too often and even though her actions and behaviour left a bitter taste in my mouth it still represented one of the many facets of reality. I loved the way Taylor Jenkins Reid gave Evelyn a voice though. Evelyn Hugo didn’t accept those prejudices, nope, she gave us her honest opinion, her point of view and made the other characters acknowledge her for who she was! And this was wholesome and healthy and might help a lot of people to accept themselves! So thank you Taylor Jenkins Reid! Thank you very much! <333

”Being bisexual didn’t make me disloyal,” Evelyn says. “One has nothing to do with the other. Nor did it mean that Celia could only fulfil half my needs.”

”I hated being called a lesbian. Not because I thought there was anything wrong with loving a woman, mind you. No, I’d come to terms with that a long time ago. But Celia only saw things in black and white. She liked women and only women. And I liked her. And so she often denied the rest of me.”

”Wow,” he said. “Incredible. I married a dyke.”
“Stop saying that,” I said.
“Evelyn, if you have sex with women, you are a lesbian. Don’t be a self-hating lesbian. That’s not… that’s not becoming.”

4

The more I think about this book, the more I love it! This is such an important read! I know Reid tackled a lot of problematic topics in this book, but she did it in such a positive and sensible way that I’m convinced everyone who reads “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” will learn something good from it! I’m usually not the kind of person who throws a book at you and says you should read it but in all seriousness: Read this one! Live and suffer with Evelyn, enjoy her good moments and cry with her when the world throws her for a loop! Hate her, love her, accept her the way she is. And most importantly, learn from her mistakes and don’t hesitate to show the world your true self. 😉

I know this review has been already way too long but I still want to thank the ever charming Ashley for this wonderful buddy read! We both didn’t have it easy while reading this book together, but we always managed to find a compromise and were able to continue once our lives started to become a little less hectic. *lol* I’m glad we could read this together and I hope sooner or later we’ll find another book to buddy read again! =)

5 Gedanken zu „Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Taylor Jenkins Reid)“

  1. It makes my heart soooo happy to see when people fall in love with this book. This is one of those books that truly deserves all the book hype it gets. It’s such a treasure. I loved your review and completely agree that she had Monroe in mind – she also def had Elizabeth Taylor and probably another actress in mind. It was a cool mesh – I just loved it. Harry is everything and that friendship makes me teary eyed just to think about. One of the realest friendships in literature for me. Flawed and beautiful.

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