We adored it.
The formatting of the novel only added to its delectability for me: short chapters are my kryptonite and the division of the novel into a new heading for each husband built up momentum. The interspersed snippets from the papers helped to bring a sense of immersion into the historical period of the novel and the attitudes towards women and sexuality at the time. Reid also experimented with second person narration to immerse us, again adding to our understanding of the cultural setting. This was particularly moving for me when Evelyn details the reasons women had for standing by abusive men: ‘you tell yourself it’s understandable, what he did.’ This at once creates a surge of pathos with our narrator.
Not only does she tackle the culture for women at the time, but Reid also delves into The Biggest Life Questions, like What Does It Mean To Be A Soulmate? Does Sexuality Factor Into It? What Counts As A Genuine Connection Between Two People? According to Evelyn, ‘People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth.’ In a novel about fame, rumour and the sensationalism of celebrity lives, it becomes more and more apparent that this is the case, with the most intimate relationships being secret from society. Here, I am obviously talking about the sapphic romance between Evelyn and Celia, but also the connection shared between her gay friend and husband Harry. Beautiful and wholesome moments are shared between these characters, as well as very human doubts and insecurities we all feel in relationships, and those felt uniquely in queer romances, too.
I highly recommend this beautiful story about a woman’s right and courage to go out there and claw her way into stardom and fight her way to be respected, and how she learned to love herself and be loved in turn. You must read it and follow Evelyn’s advice: notice and protect those who love and care for you even when nobody’s watching, and ‘never let anyone make you feel ordinary.’
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is published by Atra Books