literary fiction novel

A fantastic literary fiction novel on audiobook

Review of ‘The seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid, audiobook narrated by Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan & Robin Miles.

I’ve heard a lot of great things about this book which was published in 2017 but I postponed reading it until now. Why?! This question is equal parts wondering what exactly put me off and self-recrimination about why I waited for so long. Based on the title, blurb, and cover I assumed this book had nothing to say to me, a lesbian who loves reading about women loving women. I couldn’t be more wrong. So here goes again the futile question of why did I judge a book by its cover? Considering that I’m an avid reader and reviewer, I should have known better.

Evelyn Hugo is an aging Hollywood film star who led a scandalous and glamorous life which included seven husbands and one true love. At 79, she decides to enlist obscure journalist Monique Grant to write her biography. Monique is at one of the lowest times of her life after a recent divorce but she’s intrigued by Evelyn Hugo’s larger than life personality and decides to accept the challenge to write such a rich life story. What she doesn’t know is that both women’s lives are tragically intertwined.

So, by reading this summary it’s easy to guess that this book cannot be considered lesfic, it’s more historical fiction or literary fiction novel. But before ruling it out, let me say this. Despite the fact that this book is about seven husbands, a lesbian romance is in the spotlight and it’s what makes this novel shine. The story ranges from the late 50s to the present time and throws in the reader’s face how a ruthless world it was (and still is) for an independent and unconventional woman. Such a merciless world needs to be confronted with desperate measures and at great expense in order to conquer it. As the reader gets to know Evelyn through her own accounts of the facts to Monique, we get to see not only that ambitious, sometimes cutthroat star but also a woman who fought as much as she could for her true love, for her family, and for her best friend. And, like Monique, the readers’ feelings towards this character are ambivalent, recognising the woman, the human being, behind the superstar persona.

This novel goes beyond a self-indulgent account of a star’s life. It’s a critical observation of society’s prejudices against women, homosexuality, and race along that period in history. The unexpected twist at the end, along with its moral dilemma, is just the icing on top of this gorgeous cake. ‘The seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ is emotional, heartbreaking, dramatic, crude and even sometimes funny read, and the reader will experience them all. The definition of an emotional roller-coaster should be taken from this book, so get ready to be thrown into a well of different emotions and to cherish this novel in your memory for a very long time.

Both the ebook version and the audiobook are included with the Scribd subscription. I’ve listened to the audiobook performed by three narrators. Despite a previous bad experience with more than one narrator, in this case, the result is flawless. The narrators take a different point of view each, Monique, Evelyn and different snippets of gossip magazines. They all bring their unique voices to the audiobook seamlessly, specially both characters’ voices. Their performances of the range of very different emotions that the characters experience are superb and enrich the story even more.

Overall, a fantastic novel with a flawless narration. 5+ for both the story and audiobook. Highly recommended.

     

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