“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” Is Uncannily Accurate in How it Portrays Bisexuality

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

I don’t know if Taylor Jenkins Reid is bisexual. I’m not sure if I want to know. All I know is that her way of conveying the sort of love you never forget in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is simply uncanny.

The 2017 novel brought this old-fashioned lesbian to my knees, reminiscing of a love – and a broken heart – I thought I was over with. If that’s not worth tearing one’s hair out in a review, I don’t know what is. Ergo, I’m about to tell you why, no matter your sexual or gender identity, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a jewel of contemporary literature that you MUST have on your bookshelves. Whether you’re late to the trend or not, this story is timeless.

The Best Books are the Unexpected Ones

Amid the success of Daisy Jones & The Six, a colleague asked me if I had read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I had no idea what she was talking about but I got the book anyway.

As is my habit, I didn’t read reviews or further details of the novel before I started reading it, with skepticism, because the story of a woman with many husbands in the golden age of Hollywood is not really what one would call my cup of tea. Also, the fact that Jenkins Reid was writing a story about a Latina woman without being a Latina herself made me uncomfortable.

But what a beautiful thing it is to find oneself masterfully wrong despite all odds.

Jenkins Reed’s Talent is Absolutely Enviable

My first encounter with the story was from the writer’s point of view (I’m three years into writing my own novel), so I was surprised to realize that I had forgotten the tea boiling on the stove after barely five pages.

That’s how powerful this story is. From the first scene, I find myself in reporter Monique Grant’s semi-empty apartment, sitting next to her despair over a failed marriage, and identifying with that impasse in the middle of a professional life.

As a writer who has worked in publishing for more than seven years, my vision spun when I identified with the belittling and job instability of a newsroom.

But when Monique learns that the Academy Award-winning actress and former Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo has specifically asked for her to conduct an interview after years of silence, I had to sit up in my seat, as this story was hitting way too close to home.

Not because I had such an opportunity. I wish. But because I know what that means for a writer, more so for a writer of color.

This Is Not a Story About Husbands

Monique’s encounter with Evelyn Hugo gave me goosebumps. Evelyn’s stoicism, steely calmness, and unequivocal peace with her past are traits one can only dream of someday attaining, especially if you’ve lived a story worthy of the silver screen.

“I’m under absolutely no obligation to make sense to you” is undoubtedly one of the most defining phrases of the character who bares herself before our eyes.

Evelyn Hugo tells how her beauty was a weapon of defense and her direct passage to Hollywood. In a world where political correctness makes us think twice about discussing beauty as a strategy, Evelyn Hugo breaks the script in our faces.

And the fact is that, perhaps unintentionally, Hugo’s story tells all the stages of love. From the husband that simply gives her what she needs to the one who appears her equal to the convenient one to the life-saving one, all the husbands in Evelyn Hugo are personifications of different types of love.

What no one expects is that the real one, the earthshattering one who draws a narrative line for the rest of her years, is a woman.

Not Another Love Story

Amidst many catastrophes and storms, Evelyn Hugo’s heart found a safe harbor in her colleague Celia St. James. After meeting on the set of the adaptation of Little Women in 1959, their complicity became a love worthy of their age. Evelyn was 21, and Celia was 19.

I was also 19 when I met the love of my life. I also fell in love with a bisexual woman who, in Hugo’s words, “Spent half her time loving me and the other half hiding how much she loved me.”

I, too, anchored myself to someone’s door and asked her to love me without fear or qualms, just as Evelyn Hugo did. And my love too chose to stick to el qué dirán picking her security over me.

“I loved you so much that I thought you were the meaning of my life,” Celia tells Evelyn. “I thought that people were put on earth to find other people, and I was put here to find you. To find you and touch your skin and smell your breath and hear all your thoughts. But I don’t think that it’s true anymore. Because I don’t want to be meant for someone like you.”

At 36 years old, a book made me cry ugly tears for I couldn’t hold back the pain I thought I had overcome. I, too, judged a bisexual woman for her inability to “choose sides.”

As Evelyn Hugo tells her biographer, my ex told me not to “Ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box.” Yet, I did.

The Power of Love at 20

Although 16 years have passed, when I finished reading this novel, I could not stop wondering: Can any of us ever forget that first love that marked us for life?

Whatever life has in store for me, Taylor Jenkins Reid gave me the ending I wanted.

Evelyn Hugo and Celia St. James are together for three years until 1962. They spend five years apart until 1967 when they reunite in a bathroom at the Academy Awards. They are together again for nine more years and separate for twelve.

Finally, they reunite and rekindle their love thanks to an epistolary relationship. Evelyn at 50 and Celia at 48. They spend the rest of their lives together, prioritizing love, understanding that it is not an intermittent feeling but an on-going decision.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” ia a beautifully painful novel. It is a story that offers a halo of hope to those of us who believe that love disappears when we cross the threshold of 30, especially us homosexual women who forgive but never forget. For those of us, all of us who have the ability to love for life.

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