03 | The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Transcript for the episode 03 | The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Hi, it’s Gwen, and this is “Hey, You Should Read This!”, the podcast where I take recommendations from my friends and the internet on the books I really should be reading already. Today, on another solo episode, we’re going to be talking about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which is a historical fiction novel that is formatted as a memoir of a 60s Hollywood superstar named Evelyn Hugo, and her seven husbands. It’s Evelyn Hugo’s memoir, and I’ve never read a Taylor Jenkins Reid before, so this was fun for me. I’m not usually a historical fiction girlie, I heard it was popular on Tik Tok? Or the internet in general? It’s, you know, everywhere is talking about it, I just haven’t read it. That’s the situation. So I’d thought I’d give it a try.
So I wasn’t really sure what to think of this. I don’t tend to read historical fiction, as I said, but I do like the memoir, so in we went. All of the characters felt very real, which helped sort of with–like if you’re going to be reading a fiction memoir of fictional people, it helps a lot (it does a lot of heavy lifting) to have your characters feel very grounded. I, at points, wanted to go like on Wikipedia and scroll these people’s pages, that unfortunately don’t exist because they’re not real, but all of the characters were flawed and interesting and complicated. And went through a lot of intense, real world stuff. If you’re going to read this, I recommend checking your warnings.
I really enjoyed it though. I do say check your warnings and figure out whether there are topics in there you need to avoid. Because I like when I have big emotional reactions to books. I actually–this book made me cry, and I love that fact for me, because it made me feel something. I almost cried on public transit, which I don’t recommend doing–take a breath, pause, do something else–but just go in being prepared knowing that some very intense, heavy stuff happens a lot to these characters.
There were queer story lines (plural), which I was excited to see and not expecting, but also I knew that, since this was about a 60s Hollywood superstar, there was going to be some stuff going on with like, shall we say, period accurate reactions to certain identities? It spans her career through the 80s, but that meant, you know, you were again going to be dealing with some heavy stuff related to that. But I thought all of those topics were handled very thoughtfully. I can’t speak to every difficult circumstance that was discussed in the book, but I thought they were handled very thoughtfully and with care. And it never felt like it was there just to hurt, which is something I appreciate in a book.
I wasn’t expecting a queer storyline, really, until Evelyn was asked about which of her seven husbands was the love of her life, and Monique (who I’ll talk a little bit more, who is our biographer) was sort of offering conjecture of who it might be of the seven men in the title. And Evelyn sort of shuts her down and goes, “No, that was someone else.” And that was when I started to get, sort of the inkling that, “Oh, this might be queer. I’m interested to see how that goes.” And it was! And I was so excited to see that, even though it does get a little difficult at times.
And one of the things that was really interesting about the book is that it was told in sections labeled basically for each of the husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and sort of the period in her life where they were, I guess for lack of a better word, relevant? When they were her husband? And each of those sections, and also sometimes throughout, were sprinkled these little mass-media articles of the time period where that section of the story takes place, that touches on something relevant that either Evelyn has talked about happening in that section or setting up sort of the reaction to something she’s going to talk about in the next section. Which is really interesting, just because it offers a secondary perspective.
The story overall is told in a way like Evelyn is sitting down with Monique, her biographer, and chatting at her, basically, and telling her in a sort of sit-down, coffee shop kind of way, about her life. And then these media articles offer sort of a mass perspective, like an outside perspective on the persona of Evelyn Hugo as it was being presented at the time that Evelyn is talking about. So, you’ve got sort of three perspectives going on in this book: You’ve got Evelyn, telling it to you straight as she lived it; you’ve got the mass-media response to the events that she’s talking about; and then you have Monique, who as I’ve said, is Evelyn’s biographer and occasionally it will kind of cut away from Evelyn telling the story to offer the perspective of Monique as she’s sort of, wrapped up for the day and is heading home and sort of absorbing all of this information, and shifting her thoughts and interpretation of Evelyn Hugo the person. Which is interesting, because you have sort of an inside perspective, a way outside perspective, and then Monique in the middle. And it really drew me in! I like sort of stories that have, you know, article clipping-type segments in them, and I didn’t know those were there either, so that made me happy. And it really offered sort of a dynamic look at this person and the life they’d created for themselves.
But yeah, I really really liked this book, which I wasn’t always expecting. You know, it’s one of those moments of like, it’s popular on the internet so it must be popular for a reason. But it’s not really my jam, usually, to pick up a historical fiction novel completely without magic. I do like a historical setting, but usually it requires dragons to get me interested. So the historical element isn’t always my thing, and celebrity drama isn’t something I usually go for–I don’t even go for it in real life. So you know, this was way out of my wheelhouse, but I really liked it, and thought that things were handled with care when they needed to be, and it offered some sort of life wisdom from a Hollywood star kind of thing, looking back on her life. Even though she’s fictional, I think she has some good thoughts. She also has some very complicated ones that, it really does make you think.
I had rated it 5 stars because I’m the sort of person who tracks my reading and rates things, and usually I label things as 5 stars when I immediately want to reread them or I’m thinking about them for a while. And I finished it a couple of days ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Which means I guess I’m into Taylor Jenkins Reid books now? But I’ve only read the one, but my hold on Daisy Jones and the Six just came in at the library, so I’m excited to see where that one goes. In more of a musical direction, I know that about it. And it was recommended that I go for the audiobook, so I’m excited about that. And I will be talking about it on the podcast. However, I’m going to, I think, have an episode of a completely different book in between those (at least one). Just as sort of a palette cleanser, so I don’t get all of my fictional Taylor Jenkins Reid celebrity drama mushed together.
But I’m excited, as I’ve said about ten billion times, to see where this goes. And maybe I like historical fiction more than I thought I did! Maybe I just need an engaging story. That is all from me, but yes. That is the end of this episode. I will see you next time, or rather, you will be hearing me next time. Remember that transcripts are available at thegirlinthechair.com/podcast, and you can email the show at firstname.lastname@example.org to offer your thoughts, or opinions, or recommendations on what you think I should be reading. And I’ll be seeing you! Thanks for listening!