The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, well, another difficult review to write… I really did like this book and while writing this very sentence I’m still unsure what my final verdict will be.

Evelyn Hugo, fictional Hollywood icon, is – to me – an immensely likeable person: Starting her career in the 1950s she works her way up to become a legend. That alone would already have made for an interesting read because I grew up on films from the Golden Age of Old Hollywood.

When I first read the title I immediately thought of Elizabeth Taylor (eight marriages, seven husbands…) whose work in the film industry has indeed inspired Reid (as I just found out). Just like fictional Evelyn Taylor has been a staunch ally of the LGBTQ* community and an early HIV/AIDS activist.

More than that, how could I not like a bisexual woman who lives through eight tumultous marriages? In a time, more than 20 years into the 21st century, during which still way too many countries, peoples and people do not accept love between consenting adults regardless of their sexual identity and preferences – how could I not like and endorse a book that succeeds at depicting queer relationships in a loving way?

»That night, Celia and I slept nude, holding each other. We no longer pretended to touch by accident. And when I woke up in the morning with her hair in my face, I inhaled, loudly and proudly. Within those four walls, we were unashamed.«

I really enjoyed how unapologetic Evelyn is about the way she fights for what she wants and takes what she thinks should be hers.

»I’m OK with the fact that sometimes doing the right thing gets ugly. And also, I have compassion for myself. I trust myself.«

Whom I liked less, sadly, is Monique Grant, our current-day journalist who is tasked to write Evelyn’s biography. She never materialises fully in the book: While Evelyn is rightly in the spotlight but Monique remains a bit like an unfinished draft: Yes, her story is told and finished but as a person she remains mostly in the shadows. Unlike Evelyn, she’s denied the opportunity to really become a person.

Also, like some other of my fellow reviewers, I felt this book lacked a bit of depth: It was a truly good read but while showing but not exploring violence inside a marriage, while showing true love but also leaving unexplored the deeper reasons why Evelyn is hesitant to come out, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” sadly fails at making a true “impact”.

At times, I felt like this book has come too late – the social battles that were necessary and instrumental in allowing for public queer relationships have been fought and, thankfully, mostly won.

What remains to be achieved is total, utter, complete equality and this book, sadly, does not truly further that cause. It rehashes what most of us have long known but it doesn’t pose any new questions.
While being very entertaining, it satisfies my need for really good entertainment but unlike some other books, it doesn’t challenge my perceptions.

I guess I have my answer: Four of of five stars.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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