“The epic adventures Evelyn creates over the course of a lifetime will leave every reader mesmerized. This wildly addictive journey of a reclusive Hollywood starlet and her tumultuous Tinseltown journey comes with unexpected twists and the most satisfying of drama.” —PopSugar
In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
“Heartbreaking, yet beautiful” (Jamie Blynn, Us Weekly), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is “Tinseltown drama at its finest” (Redbook): a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it costs—to face the truth.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1 THESPILL.COM
Evelyn Hugo’s Coming Clean
BY JULIA SANTOS
MARCH 4, 2017
Word on the street is siren/LIVING LEGEND/world’s most beautiful blonde Evelyn Hugo is auctioning off gowns and agreeing to an interview, which she has not done in multiple decades.
PLEASE tell me she is finally ready to talk about all those damn husbands. (I can understand four, maybe even five, six if you are really pushing it, but seven? Seven husbands? Not to mention the fact that we all know she was having an affair with Congressman Jack Easton in the early ’80s. Girl. Got. A. Round.)
If she won’t come clean about the husbands, let’s pray she at least goes on the record about how she got those eyebrows. I mean, SHARE THE WEALTH, EVELYN.
When you see pictures of E back in the day with her brassy blond hair, those dark, straight-as-an-arrow eyebrows, that deep-tanned skin, and those golden-brown eyes, you have no choice but to stop what you are doing and stare right at her.
And don’t even get me started on that body.
No ass, no hips—just huge boobs on a slim frame.
I have basically been working my entire adult life for a body like that. (Note: Am very far away. Might be the spaghetti bucatini I’ve been eating for lunch every day this week.)
Here is the only part that has me heated: Evelyn could have chosen anyone for this. (Ahem, me?) But instead she chose some newbie at Vivant? She could have had anyone. (Ahem, me?) Why this Monique Grant chick (and not me)?
Ugh, fine. I’m just bitter it’s not me.
I should really get a job at Vivant. They get all the good stuff.
- Hihello565 says: Even people at Vivant don’t want to work at Vivant anymore. Corporate overlords producing censored advertiser courting bullshit.
- Ppppppppppps reply to Hihello565: Yeah, OK. Something tells me if the most well-respected, sophisticated magazine in the country offered you a job, you’d take it.
- EChristine999 says: Didn’t Evelyn’s daughter die of cancer recently? I feel like I read something recently about that. So heartbreaking. BTW, that picture of Evelyn at Harry Cameron’s grave? Basically ruined me for months. Beautiful family. So sad that she lost them.
- MrsJeanineGrambs says: I do not care about Evelyn Hugo AT ALL. STOP WRITING ABOUT THESE PEOPLE. Her marriages, affairs, and most of her movies just go to prove one thing: Slut. Three A.M. was a disgrace to women. Focus your attention on people that deserve it.
- SexyLexi89 says: Evelyn Hugo is maybe the most beautiful woman of all time. That shot in Boute-en-Train where she’s coming out of the water naked and the camera cuts to black right before you see her nipples? So good.
- PennyDriverKLM says: All hail Evelyn Hugo for making blond hair and dark eyebrows THE LOOK. Evelyn, I salute you.
- YuppiePigs3 says: Too skinny! Not for me.
- EvelynHugoIsASaint says: This is a woman who has donated MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to charities for battered women’s organizations and LGBTQ+ interests, and now she’s auctioning off gowns for cancer research and all you can talk about is her eyebrow game? Seriously?
- JuliaSantos@TheSpill reply to EvelynHugoIsASaint: This is a fair point, I guess. SORRY. In my defense, she started making millions by being a badass business bitch back in the ’60s. And she would never have had the clout to do that without her talent and beauty, and she never would have been as beautiful without DEM BROWS. But OK, fair point.
- EvelynHugoIsASaint reply to JuliaSantos@TheSpill: Ugh. Sorry for being so bitchy. I skipped lunch. Mea culpa. For what it’s worth, Vivant won’t do half as well with this story as you would have. Evelyn should have chosen you.
- JuliaSantos@TheSpill reply to EvelynHugoIsASaint: Right????? Who is Monique Grant anyway? BORING. I’m coming for her...
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jump-start her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late ’80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Each husband’s section opens with an illustrative moniker (for example, “Poor Ernie Diaz,” “Goddamn Don Adler,” “Agreeable Robert Jamison”). Discuss the meaning and significance of some of these descriptions. How do they set the tone for the section that follows? Did you read these characterizations as coming from Evelyn, Monique, an omniscient narrator, or someone else?
2. Of the seven husbands, who was your favorite, and why? Who surprised you the most?
3. Monique notes that hearing Evelyn Hugo’s life story has inspired her to carry herself differently than she would have before. In what ways does Monique grow over the course of the novel? Discuss whether Evelyn also changes by the end of her time with Monique, and if so, what spurs this evolution.
4. On page 147, Monique says, "I have to 'Evelyn Hugo' Evelyn Hugo." What does it mean to "Evelyn Hugo"? Can you think of a time when you might be tempted to "Evelyn Hugo"?
5. Did you trust Evelyn to be a reliable narrator as you were reading? Why, or why not? Did your opinion on this change at all by the conclusion, and if so, why?
6. What role do the news, tabloid, and blog articles interspersed throughout the book serve in the narrative? What, if anything, do we learn about Evelyn’s relationship to the outside world from them?
7. At several points in the novel, such as pages 82–83 and 175–82, Evelyn tells her story through the second person, “you.” How does this kind of narration affect the reading experience? Why do you think she chooses these memories to recount in this way?
8. How do you think Evelyn’s understanding and awareness of sexuality were shaped by her relationship with Billy—the boy who works at the five-and-dime store? How does her sensibility evolve from this initial encounter? As she grows older, to what extent is Evelyn’s attitude toward sex is influenced by those around her?
9. On page 54, Evelyn uses the saying “all’s well that ends well” as part of her explanation for not regretting her actions. Do you think Evelyn truly believes this? Using examples from later in her life, discuss why or why not. How do you think this idea relates to the similar but more negatively associated phrase “the ends justify the means”?
10. Evelyn offers some firm words of wisdom throughout her recounting of her life, such as “Be wary of men with something to prove” (p. 77), “Never let anyone make you feel ordinary” (p. 208), and “It is OK to grovel for something you really want” (p.192). What is your favorite piece of advice from Evelyn? Were there any assertions you strongly disagreed with?
11. Several times, Evelyn mentions having cosmetic surgery. What was your reaction to this? How do these decisions jibe with the value system and ethical code that she seems to live by? Why do you think Evelyn continues to dye her hair at the end of her life?
12. Review the scenes on pages 199 and 348, in which Evelyn relays memories of conversing in Spanish after years without speaking it. Discuss the role language plays in her understanding of who she is. In what ways does her relationship to her Cuban identity parallel her experiences with her sexuality, and in what ways does it differ?
13. If you could meet and interview one celebrity at the end of their life, who would it be? What would you ask them?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. In the book, Evelyn Hugo starred in her first movie in 1956. Consider hosting a classic Hollywood movie night for your group, watching films from that year with similarly iconic stars, such as Grace Kelly in High Society or Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop. For added fun, have everyone dress up in their best Evelyn Hugo–emerald green outfits.
2. Monique Grant impresses both her boss and Evelyn with her article on the right-to-die movement. For an in-depth look at this controversial topic, consider reading Wild and Precious Life by Deborah Ziegler with your book club. This memoir chronicles a mother’s last year with her child, Brittany Maynard, who captured national attention with her vlog about deciding to end her life after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
3. Taylor Jenkins Reid is the author of four other novels: One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, After I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. Pick one to read as a group and compare it with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. What are the messages about love in this other book, and how do they align or contrast with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo?