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Goodreads⎮Reviewed Apr. 2018
Narrators: Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan, Robin Miles
Length: 12 hours 10 minutes
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2017
Synopsis: Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
4.75★ Audiobook⎮The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was the only good thing in an otherwise horrible week for me. Typically, when I’m having a bad day/week/month, my listening experiences are significantly affected. But my throrough enjoyment of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, in spite of my sour mood, is a testament to Taylor Jenkins Reid’s ability to provide escapism in the form of her writing.
I honestly can’t fathom a scenario in which I wouldn’t have enjoyed The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. It mostly reads like a memoir, with salacious Old Hollywood gossip keeping the listener’s undivided attention. I daresay it was more satisfying than a real Hollywood memoir could ever be. Most real life memoirs tend to hold back the really good stuff, for the sake of someone or other, but Evelyn’s does not. To be clear, Evelyn Hugo is a fictional character. But the way she’s written makes her seem oh so real and that makes her story even more intriguing.
As a main character, Evelyn was developed to perfection. She was multidimensional, realistically flawed, and extraordinarily complex. The present day Evelyn showed significant growth from her younger self (as one would expect) and was able to provide insight gleamed from decades past.
Although Evelyn was a fictional character, the setting she inhabited was not. One could easily imagine a well known Hollywood starlet filling her shoes. Monique’s character, on the other hand, was indicative of a modern 21st-century woman. Her relative normality balanced Evelyn’s larger-than-life persona nicely. The semi-frequent shifts of perspective provided refreshing breaks from dramatic scenes. Near the end, the two women’s lives converge at an unexpected point, giving the story its final plot twist.
The final twist took me by surprise, but didn’t knock me off my feet. By that point, I was more engrossed in Evelyn’s tale than Monique’s. In my mind, Monique had firmly taken on the status of a supporting character, so the twist didn’t feel as “weighty” as it probably should have.
What I appreciated most about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was its intersectionality. Monique is biracial and Evelyn is Cuban-American. Bisexuality also heavily factors into the plot and is explored in an open and unapologetic manner. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo offered the unique experience of being able to view sexuality in both historical and modern context. In many ways, Evelyn Hugo was beyond her time.
Narration review: The narration of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was spot on. It increased the ease of listening tenfold. The POV shifts were accompanied by the narrator shifts, making them more pronounced. In addition to Monique and Evelyn, there were commentary insertions from gossip magazines, giving a more public viewpoint on the events of Evelyn’s life. A different narrator performed each of these shifts: Evelyn, Monique, and the commentary. It was absolutely the right call. Alternating timelines are tricky to pull off, so if you’re going to do it, you have to do it right. This was a phenomenal listen! ♣︎