March is Women’s History Month and, to properly honor it, I decided to read one book each week related to women’s history. However, to keep it exciting, I wanted to read a wide variety of women’s history — not just biographies. This week, I began with the highly-recommended historical fiction novel “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
The story is told in the form of an interview. Monique Grant, a journalist, is called to interview renowned actress Evelyn Hugo regarding her upcoming dress auction. Evelyn Hugo, though now old and retired, is well-known for her various films, scandals, and especially for her seven husbands. No one has been able to interview Evelyn previously, so Monique is both confused and intrigued when she meets this mysterious woman.
But this interview isn’t as it seems. It is actually a guise, for Evelyn has no interest in a dress auction or the magazine Monique works for. Instead, she intends for Monique to interview her for her biography which is to be released after her death. Monique reluctantly agrees, having many questions about Evelyn and especially about her husbands. Which was her favorite? Who was her true love? And why does she want Monique specifically to write her biography?
Evelyn Hugo, as a character, is somewhat similar to Marilyn Monroe — she’s a star who rose to fame in the 1950s with a signature blonde bob and large bust. However, beneath all that resides many secrets — such as her racial identity as a Cuban-American woman, the true purpose of several of her husbands and, most notably, her sexual orientation.
This story is incredibly raw and heavy, from the beginning of Evelyn’s tale to the end of her true love’s life. It is unafraid to discuss the place and image of women, especially minority women, of the time. It also details Evelyn’s lust for power and fame and just how much she is willing to do to gain it, even if it means hiding herself and losing the one she loves the most.
I found myself stunned and almost on the verge of tears when I finished it. Though I do want to put some content warnings on this book (underage sex and marriage, racism, physically abusive relationships, homophobia, biphobia, and death), I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to fans of old Hollywood as well as bisexual women. Evelyn is an incredibly strong and intriguing bisexual woman, though she spent much of her life hiding and suppressing her orientation due to the eras she lived through. However, she eventually finds peace and strength in who she is, and because of that, I feel that this story may ring as an anthem to the bisexual women out there. Though I refuse to spoil the finer details of this book, as it was exciting for me to uncover as I read, I recommend it with all my heart.