Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I have to admit that I chose to read this novel almost entirely because of how entranced I was by both the title and the cover. The idea that anyone could have seven husbands seemed foreign to me, at least until I encountered the character of Evelyn Hugo.

The story starts not with Evelyn, but with Monique Grant, a writer working at the major publication Viviant. If you’ve never heard of it, that is fine, because said magazine is, as far as I know, entirely made up. Never outside of a fantasy novel have I seen worldbuilding as intense as is shown in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Prepare to wipe all the movies and actors and producers that you remember from the history of Hollywood away for this vivid reimagining of what the world would be like if we had a whole new set of stars. Some things are the same – the Academy Awards exist, but with all new recipients; Time Warner and Paramount are name dropped, but they operate in the background. References are made to the Stonewall Riots and the Civil Rights movement, and while they do inform the story, they are not fully engaged with.

The biggest change is the title character herself, Evelyn Hugo. The novel centers around the idea that Evelyn wants her story told in a biography, and she wants Monique to write it. Monique and Evelyn’s conversations, and Monique’s life outside of the time she spends at Evelyn’s apartment, act as a frame for Evelyn’s story in the sense that most of the chapters are flashbacks to Evelyn’s past, told from her first-person perspective. Interspersed are short articles from whichever era Evelyn is describing, that show events from the perspective of the press. The book is divided into sections by which husband she was with at the time, each accompanied by an adjective that succinctly describes his presence in her life. Every few chapters the narration will cut back to Monique’s first person perspective as she ponders over the information that Evelyn has given her, which is equal with what is described in the chapters from Evelyn’s perspective.

This all contributes to my key takeaway from this novel, which is that the entire book is beautiful crafted. I gradually got more and more entranced by Evelyn and Monique, who both have incredible and ultimately intersecting stories. There is just the right amount of foreshadowing that made me curious and kept me convinced that I knew what was going on right up until the big reveal, upon which my theory was proven wrong but the story still sustained itself, just in a way that I never could have imagined. I can confidently say that I have never been so thoroughly shocked about a reveal, including all the Doctor Who episodes I have watched, which have some pretty intense plot twists. That said, independent of the absolutely stunning  reveal, the novel absolutely holds itself up as a well written and compelling work of fiction.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo also contains a healthy amount of diversity and LGBTQIA+ representation. One of the smaller but no less important themes examined by the text is the fact that Evelyn Hugo was born Evelyn Herrera, a Cuban-American woman who shed her identity in order that she may become famous and be what the public wanted from her. Many of the characters in the book are either gay or bisexual, and one aspect of the text that makes me particularly happy is that the struggle against bi erasure gets a significant amount of page time. This was not something that I expected coming in to the text, so when I realized that there was so much queer representation I was pleasantly surprised.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is not exactly a happy book, but it is not a sad one either. The full shape of a life lived is exactly what I needed when confronting my own personal loss, and so I’d also recommend it to those who are grieving in the same or similar manner that I am. That said, as a consequence of reading this book I have an uneven tan line from my last beach day, so for those of you looking for a summer read, full of intrigue and drama, this is absolutely a book for you as well.

Happy reading!

Cheers,

Talia

Book Review: When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri

I will freely admit that romance novels are not typically to my taste. I don’t like romcoms, and my least favorite part of any book or movie is almost definitely the romantic subplot. That said, the often heteronormative plot of the majority of romances is what least appeals to me, not the concept of romance itself — which is to say, if something is gay enough I will definitely give it a chance. When Katie Met Cassidy was one of the books that popped up in my Book of the Month queue and it was the one I picked to have sent to my apartment this June.

I was slightly less than impressed with the character of Katie when I started the book, as I at first misjudged her as being the stereotypical incredibly sad and betrayed woman whose fiance dumped her for the best friend, who sat alone on the couch with comfort food – right up until she got annoyed with fitting into that stereotype and decided to take control of her night and took herself out to a bar. A series of fortunate events leads her to run in to Cassidy, a fellow lawyer who had sat opposite her in the boardroom as both parties negotiated a merger.

Both Katie and Cassidy are compelling characters, and my favorite feature of the book was that it was written from both of their perspectives, each chapter alternating which woman was the focus of the third person limited writing style. As I usually have little to no patience for romance, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Part of why I love reading so much is that it allows me to really get in to the head of the narrator, and so I tend to consider constant POV changes jarring when I am too involved in a novel. That said, I loved the changes in this book, because most scenes depicted in the book are actually told twice, from the perspective of both Katie and Cassidy. I am a strong proponent of the idea that everyone sees the world differently, and that a single interaction has as many legitimate perspectives as there are people in the room. As such, I deeply enjoyed the ability to see the development of Katie and Cassidy’s romance from both of their perspectives.

After so many years of reading YA novels where the characters are young and unsure, it was a breath of fresh air to read a romance between adults, aged thirty (Cassidy) and twenty-eight (Katie) respectively. There’s nothing wrong with YA novels, I adore them as much as the next millennial or gen Z reader, but reading the unfolding of a romance where the characters don’t live with their parents is something that I definitely need more of in my life. The best part about them being adults (in my opinion) is that all of the shyness that comes with the sexual experiences of younger people is gone. There are no blushing virgins in this book. The closest to that is Katie, who is unfamiliar with her own homerotic desire, and her naïvité is contrasted with the unapologetic nature of Cassidy, who is very much in-tune with her own sexuality and desires.

If you are looking for a quick read that includes a healthy but not intolerable dose of romance with a tad of drama that is very gay and has a happy ending, I can almost guarantee that you will like this book.

Happy reading,

Cheers,

Talia