59 pages 1 hour read

Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2017

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Summary and Study Guide


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a work of historical fiction by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The 2017 novel follows Monique, a journalist struggling to make a name for herself, after receiving an offer to interview the mysterious and reclusive 1960s Hollywood starlet Evelyn Hugo about fame, scandal, and love. The novel was nominated for the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Historical Fiction.


Plot Summary


Monique Grant is a struggling junior reporter at Vivant magazine when iconic star Evelyn Hugo requests her to conduct her first interview in decades. Monique arrives only to learn that Evelyn has something else in mind: a tell-all in which she will speak on her seven high profile marriages. Realizing that this is a career-defining opportunity, Monique accepts her role as biographer, despite her suspicions about Evelyn’s motivations.


Evelyn describes her humble beginnings in Hell’s Kitchen, her desperation to escape a life of poverty and abuse, and her willingness to use her sexuality to do so: At only 14, Evelyn marries a man who will take her to Hollywood, only to divorce him when she is discovered by Harry Cameron. Then Evelyn Herrera, she must dye her hair blonde, lose her Spanish accent, and change her name to succeed. Evelyn rises to fame with the support of Harry, and the world becomes enamored by her beauty. She soon marries Don Adler, the most popular actor in Hollywood.


Monique’s life is a stark contrast to Evelyn’s; having recently separated from her husband, David, she is struggling professionally and personally. Her editor and boss, Frankie, doubts her ability to pull off a successful story, and Monique fears that Frankie is right. However, Evelyn becomes more confident as she works with Evelyn, eventually demanding a promotion from her boss. As Evelyn continues her tale, Monique uses it as a welcome distraction from David, who is desperately trying to reach her.


Don abuses Evelyn soon after they wed. While filming Little Women, Evelyn befriends rising star Celia St James. During the premiere of their movie, Evelyn learns that Celia is a lesbian and acknowledges her feelings for her. That night, Evelyn leaves Don for Celia.


Evelyn overcomes Don’s attempts to ruin her career, but if she wants to remain in Hollywood, she must conceal her relationship with Celia. Evelyn and Celia are happy together, but Celia grows to resent Evelyn’s unwillingness to embrace her publicly. When Evelyn orchestrates a sham marriage with Mick Rivera to hide her relationship with Celia, Celia leaves and eventually marries professional football quarterback John Braverman. Over the next few years, Evelyn has a few fake marriages. The second one is to Harry, her longtime friend and producer. Harry is gay and in love with Celia’s husband, John. The four of them live together in New York blissfully for decades and raise Harry and Evelyn’s daughter, Connor.


When Evelyn betrays Celia’s trust once again, Celia leaves for the second time. Heartbroken, Evelyn marries her director Max Girard to forget Celia, but fails: She eventually leaves Max to return to Celia. Before they can start their life together, Harry kills himself and his lover while driving drunk. Evelyn is the first to find them and places the lover in the driver’s seat to protect Harry’s reputation. At the end of the interview, Evelyn reveals that this man was Monique’s father, embittering Monique against her forever.


Evelyn spends the rest of Celia’s life with her in Spain. After Celia dies, Evelyn returns to New York to be with Connor, but she dies of breast cancer soon after. Realizing that everyone she has ever loved is gone, Evelyn dedicates her life to truth, no matter how damaging it might be. When Monique leaves, Evelyn takes her own life rather than suffering through treatment for her advanced cancer.


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an intricate study of human nature which explores the true cost of fame, the commodification of women in Hollywood, and the difficulty of reconciling with one’s true identity.