Kathleen Nolan // Blog Assistant
Whether you’ve spent hours scrolling through BookTok this year or love to browse the popular fiction table at your local bookstore, you’ve probably heard the name Taylor Jenkins Reid. Reid, an Emerson graduate, has been taking the literary world by storm with her book The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which skyrocketed in popularity this year after blowing up on TikTok, despite being published way back in 2017.
The book’s success has also brought Reid’s other books to the forefront of the publishing industry, particularly Daisy Jones and the Six and her newest release, Malibu Rising. While the three books have unique characters and plotlines, they all take place in the same realistic but fictional version of Hollywood between the 1960s and 1980s. There are several characters that show up in more than one book, and a few sly references are made to events that happen in the other books. Reid cleverly connects all three stories through setting and time period, and creates a glamorous American Hollywood scene that bears a striking resemblance to the actual mid to late 20th century entertainment industry.
Although the three stories take place in the same universe, they could not be more different in terms of content and structure. After reading all three books, I wanted to discuss the stories and characters I loved, as well as the parts that I could not get behind.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo deserves every ounce of hype it has gotten on social media. Reid explores love, sexuality, and the complexities of relationships in a raw and honest way. The story is told from the perspective of Monique Grant, a small time magazine writer in the midst of a complicated divorce. Aging movie star Evelyn Hugo asks Monique to write her biography, insisting that it must be written by her, although Monique has no idea why.
Reid weaves between Evelyn’s story of her career and relationships throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and Monique’s reckoning with the choices she has made in her own life. It is especially interesting to see the way that Monique is influenced by Evelyn throughout the story, both in her career and her personal life. The two women learn so much from each other, and Reid really knows how to play with the reader’s emotions when it comes to their connection.
Fun fact: One of Evelyn’s seven husbands, Mick Riva, turns up again as a central character in Malibu Rising.
Daisy Jones and the Six, published in March, 2019, was my personal favorite of the three — I’ve truly never read anything like it. The book follows Daisy Jones, a talented but immature singer-songwriter, and The Six, a rock band with more internal drama than Fleetwood Mac. The entire story is told in a documentary-style series of interviews, with each character telling their own side of the story years after the band’s downfall. I was skeptical about the experimental writing style at first, but once I fell into the rhythm of it, I couldn’t put it down.
Reid covers everything from the characters’ early starts as musicians, to their rise to stardom in the 70s, to the concert in Chicago where the group broke up at the height of their popularity. I appreciated that Reid pushed back against the stereotype of rock stars that can never be faithful or stay clean. There was fighting amongst band members about who the “leader” was and who got the final say over creative decisions — typical band arguments in fiction and reality — but ultimately, each character had an interesting story to tell. It’s not very common to see every character’s perspective on the events of the book, no matter how big or small of a role each one played, and it added so much more depth and emotion to the story.
Malibu Rising, Reid’s most recent project, came out in June 2021. The story is centered around the four children of legendary rock star and former husband of Evelyn Hugo, Mick Riva. The bulk of the story is set in 1983, when the children are grown and dealing with problems beyond their late mother and washed up father. The oldest daughter, Nina, is in the midst of a messy divorce, middle children Jay and Hud are caught in a love triangle that could potentially destroy their relationship, and Kit, the youngest, is struggling to find her place in the world among her famous, talented older siblings. The morning after their annual end of summer party at Nina’s mansion, the house goes up in flames and none of their lives are ever the same. Reid moves between flashbacks of the Riva kids’ childhoods and their parents’ love story, and the events of the party where each Riva must face the secrets they have kept from each other and what family really means to them.
While this book was my least favorite of the three, I still think it is worth the read. The complicated, protective, and loving relationships between the siblings were realistic and well executed. There were a few too many forgettable side characters and the ending felt a little rushed, but the core of the story — the Riva family — made up for it in the end.
It might be a little controversial to fans of Evelyn Hugo, but my official ranking of Reid’s old-Hollywood tales is:
- Daisy Jones and the Six
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
- Malibu Rising
Not all of these books were 5-star reads, but the characters that Reid creates and the connections between their stories are remarkable, and unlike anything I have ever read. If you’re searching for drama that will make today’s celebrity gossip seem inconsequential, give Reid’s books a try. They are exactly what you’re looking for.