Published in the summers of 2017, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo made a lot of noise. Several reviewers added the book in their list of epic reads for the past year 2017 and it seems that lots of people are still waiting to get their hands on the book. As a book nerd, it is possible to understand the varied reasons why one can unintentionally put off a book for later. It’s either the undesirable, ‘book slump’ or it the never-ending list of to-be-read books.
To cut to the chase, this book is an excellent page turner and it has you in its grip until you turn the final page. On the surface, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about an aging Hollywood actress who is ready to spill the beans in her autobiography. In her times, Hugo was known as a scandalous star who left no stone unturned in stirring gossip and controversy. Moreover, she was highly applauded for her beauty and a woman who ended up being with 7 different men in her life.
For some time, after the actor starts climbing the age ladder, Hugo goes off the radar. But, all of a sudden, the legendary actor is ready to give a sneak peek into her life to a reporter from a renowned magazine, Monique Grant.
This marks the setting stone of the novel and the plot picks up from here. As Hugo unveils her life from her perspective, her struggles, determination, and optimism come to the fore. There’s more to her character that emerges in this autobiographical confessions to Grant and sheds light to a side of her that the glitz and glamor of Hollywood failed to see.
Simultaneously, we’re also given details of Grant’s life. But, in her meet-ups that explain her about Hugo’s life and choices, peppered with her flaws, Grants learns a lot. And it is here that Reid’s novel stands out, as it definitely teaches us a thing or two or, in the least, inspires us. Here is a look at pointers about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo that account for its uniqueness:
In the present day world where social media reigns, it is easy to misinterpret pictures. There is every bit a chance that the person who smiles in the picture and exhibits a free-spirited aura is actually frowning outside the frame.
This is exactly what we notice in this novel. It also gives us an idea that the film industry is festered with countless lies. It only takes a few clicks for celebrities to get a lie rolling or a controversy bubbling.
The main character of this novel, Evelyn Hugo, does this herself a number of times. She deliberately puts together the ingredients of a controversy and then stands aside to watch the lies unfold and work their magic. Since Hugo’s era was a time of tabloids and newspapers, a few clicks served her well in this regard.
We are all flawed
As part of her confessions, Hugo comes out in her pure form to Grant. She requests a no-judgement reaction from her and goes on to tell about all her sins and mistakes. However, the writer very aptly tells us that Hugo views these mistakes as what needed to be done in the hour. In doing so, Hugo doesn’t harbor any regrets.
The entire book tells us about Hugo’s flaws and what she did as per the need of the hour. By the time, you will turn the last page, you’d probably end up knowing Hugo better than any other person on the planet.
Therefore, Reid brings forth human flaws and workings of the human mind in a unique light, which is highly commendable.
Living in the face of social expectations
Most people, regardless of their gender, are suppressed under the invisible weight of social pressure. As this book features a woman and her struggles, we can clearly see the effects of social expectations on a person.
A dominant pressure that is evident in this book is the pressure to look beautiful and the lengths to which women go to keep their skin young and glowing. In an interview with Popsugar, the author opens up about how social pressure turns us into becoming people pleasers.
She says, “I think when we talk about characters needing to be likable, we’re almost only talking about women needing to be likable. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say that they put down a book or turned off the TV show or walked out of a movie because the man was so unlikable. It just doesn’t happen. Look, I’ve curated my entire personality to make sure that I’m likable. We do that. All women are given this message that we have to be palatable, that even the uglier sides of us — our anger, our sadness — they all need to be packaged in a way that feels nonthreatening and cute in some way.”
Reid goes on to tell about herself, “Writing books has taught me that you cannot please everybody, and I struggled with that for a while, and I finally just decided that that is freedom. I can’t please everybody, so why try?”
With the help of Hugo’s character, we learn that it is wise to place the expectations of people on the backburner and just be yourself without any guilt.
We’re all shades of gray
Announcing someone as black or white is often an easy compartmentalization of someone’s personality. And this is how we, typically, tend to judge people. However, this is not all. All people have personality traits that lie between black and white, good or bad in a spectrum of grays.
This is can be seen in all the characters of the novel, chiefly in Evelyn Hugo. She opens up about her flaws. At the same time, however, she justifies several of her moves but there is one thing that is prominent in this character, and it is that she is gray, as her habits, flaws, and everything else.
Looking at Hugo from such a careful perspective crafted by the author indicates that if we end up seeing people through such a lens, we’d actually be more forgiving in our judgments of others. It’s safe to say that you can expect someone to be a saint or devil alone but a blend of both, with each side showing as per the needs of a person’s circumstances.
- Family is the ultimate peace
There’s no denying that we often end up making friends like family or come across people that become an integral part of our lives. But, there are also swollen odds of relationships taking nasty turns or having underlying motives. There’s also a thick chance that people who you trust as sincere to you end up being the ones who put a dagger into your heart behind your back.
This is also very carefully explained in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Throughout her life, Hugo forges several relations and comes across several people. Despite her honest intentions in certain cases, however, we find out that she only finds peace in her family.
Hugo makes a lot of fortune, a place in her audience’s hearts, and a memorable name for herself but she finds peace in only her family, which rings true in the case of most people today as well. Thus, the novel and its brilliant character reveal that family (and some close friends that turn into family) are, indeed, the ultimate peace in one’s life.
Although this novel unveils a Hollywood actress’s struggles, there is a lot that can be employed in the contemporary world too. There are countless things that can be learned as well. Firstly, Hugo’s character tells us that pleasing people is a trap that prevents us from getting what we want in our life. Secondly, the character highlights the need for creating sincere relationships that can stand even the test of time.
Thirdly, Hugo teaches us that pictures can lie. These are tools that can spin lies within a matter of seconds and shouldn’t be trusted at all. Fourthly, the novel highlights that we are all made up of flaws and our personalities can neither be pious or devious. In fact, we are all mixed palettes of colors where one color bleeds into another to form a new shade.
This piece does not aim to justify the wrongs of the character into the rights. However, it acknowledges that we are all very flawed and, in times of desperation, lots of people can end up doing what they never wanted to. Consequently, some may nourish regret. Others might, however, never realize their wrongdoing. All in all, the main message is that, as human beings, we are not perfect.
Additionally, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo also discusses a few important themes, which is another reason to pick this novel if you haven’t already read it.