by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
"Relationships are complex... People are messy, and love can be ugly. I'm inclined to always err on the side of compassion" (254).
I've been wanting to read Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo for quite a while, and I borrowed it ages ago intending to read it right away, but it turns out that this winter was the perfect time for it, and I'm so glad I read it when I did. If you haven't read this one, it's one that's definitely worth putting on your TBR. I will be going back to read the rest of Reid's backlist after this!
There are so many things I love about this book. I was immediately captivated by Evelyn, a reclusive woman in her seventies who had been an extremely famous lifelong actress but who had never revealed much about her personal life until she reached out to contact a relatively unknown journalist, Monique, with an offer to tell her whole life story. I also loved the framing of the novel. We only see Evelyn from Monique's perspective at first, which is a fascinating way to access Evelyn's story.
Although it was a smaller part of the story, I really appreciated the way that we watched Monique come into her own as the novel progressed. As Evelyn tells her life story and it becomes clear that she's going to be working with Monique exclusively (and NOT the magazine Monique works for, although she contacted her through her employer), she mentors Monique and encourages her with powerful advice about how to advocate for herself with statements such as this gem:
"So do yourself a favor and learn how to grab life by the balls, dear. Don't be so tied up trying to do the right thing when the smart thing is so painfully clear" (30).
I could quote so many things Evelyn said in this book. She is able to look back on her unconventional, secretive life with a clear-eyed perspective that is admirable and fascinating. I found her to be courageous, unflinching, and direct in a way we so rarely see in books or in life.
I don't want to say too much! There were things I learned from the summary that felt a little like spoilers to me, so I don't want to spoil any of the events for other readers, but suffice it to say that we learn all about each one of Evelyn's husbands and, more importantly, about Evelyn herself, and it is an amazing journey.
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