The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

A Novel

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About The Book

“Riveting, heart-wrenching, and full of Old Hollywood glamour, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is one of the most captivating reads of 2017.” –Buzzfeed

“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.

Excerpt

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
NEW YORK TRIBUNE
Evelyn Hugo to Auction Off Gowns
BY PRIYA AMRIT

MARCH 2, 2017

Film legend and ’60s It Girl Evelyn Hugo has just announced that she will auction off 12 of her most memorable gowns through Christie’s to raise money for breast cancer research.

At the age of 79, Hugo has long been an icon of glamour and elegance. She is known for a personal style both sensual and restrained, and many of Hugo’s most famous looks are considered touchstones of the fashion and Hollywood archives.

Those looking to own a piece of Hugo history will be intrigued not only by the gowns themselves but also by the context in which they were worn. Included in the sale will be the emerald-green Miranda La Conda that Hugo wore to the 1959 Academy Awards, the violet soufflé and organdy scoop-neck she donned at the premiere of Anna Karenina in 1962, and the navy-blue silk Michael Maddax that she was wearing in 1982 when she won her Oscar for All for Us.

Hugo has weathered her share of Hollywood scandals, not the least of which being her seven marriages, including her decades-long relationship with film producer Harry Cameron. The two Hollywood insiders shared a daughter, Connor Cameron, who is no doubt the influence for the auction. Ms. Cameron passed away last year from breast cancer soon after turning 41.

Born Evelyn Elena Herrera in 1938, the daughter of Cuban immigrants, Hugo grew up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. By 1955, she had made her way to Hollywood, gone blond, and been rechristened Evelyn Hugo. Almost overnight, Hugo became a member of the Hollywood elite. She remained in the spotlight for more than three decades before retiring in the late ’80s and marrying financier Robert Jamison, older brother of three-time Oscar-winning actress Celia St. James. Now widowed from her seventh husband, Hugo resides in Manhattan.

Preternaturally beautiful and a paragon of glamour and daring sexuality, Hugo has long been a source of fascination for moviegoers the world over. This auction is expected to raise upward of $2 million.

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.

Introduction

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?

About The Author

Photograph by Scott Witter

Taylor Jenkins Reid lives in Los Angeles and is the acclaimed author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, After I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. To learn more, visit TaylorJenkinsReid.com.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Washington Square Press (May 2018)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501161933

Raves and Reviews

Praise for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo:

“Riveting, heart-wrenching, and full of Old Hollywood glamour, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is one of the most captivating reads of 2017.” 

– Buzzfeed

"A novel of Old Hollywood that's simultaneously gossipy and poignant. Look no further for the glamour, ambition and shocking secrets your beach-blanket sessions demand."

– People

“Come for the glam old Hollywood vibes; stay for a touching tale of a young reporter and a silver-screen legend.”

– Cosmopolitan

"In her mesmerizing tale, Taylor Jenkins Reid explores Hollywood’s heyday with a heroine akin to Elizabeth Taylor. Movie icon Evelyn Hugo, now a recluse at 79, unfurls the story of her glamorous life and her scandalous seven marriages."

– Us Weekly

“The epic adventures Evelyn creates over the course of a lifetime will leave every female 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

“If you're looking for a book to take on holiday this summer, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has got all the glitz and glamour to make it a perfect beach read — as long as you're prepared to cry off all your sunscreen, because this book gets *emotional*. Each of Evelyn's marriages comes with its own hurt and heartbreak, from infidelity and betrayal to domestic abuse. But running throughout Evelyn's tumultuous life is one great love that will leave you sobbing into the pages.” 

– Bustle

“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is more than escapism fiction sweeping its audience back to an era when show biz glamour danced with real-life intrigue, romantic entanglements and perceived impropriety. With memorable characters rivaling any Hollywood blockbuster, Taylor Jenkins Reid marries themes of loyalty, betrayal, friendship and love into a soaring, fast-paced and gripping performance. It leaves readers asking if they are merely role-playing with those they love or being true to an authentic self.”

– Shelf Awareness, starred review

"[The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo] is fascinating, emotional and will be hard to put down. For fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid, this is her best work yet."

– Associated Press

"A spellbinding novel about love, glamour and the price of fame."

– Emily Giffin, New York Times bestselling author of First Comes Love

"In her latest mesmerizing tale, Reid transports readers back to Hollywood’s heyday with a heroine in the likes of — but more intriguing than — Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Katherine Hepburn. Yes, Evelyn Hugo is the glamorous idol you admire, but she’s also the relentless fighter you aspire to be. Her life’s story is heartbreaking, yet beautiful and will keep readers captivated until the very last page."

– Jamie Blynn, Us Weekly

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is the total package: the very best of Classic Hollywood intrigue, a delicious twist, and incisive commentary on the wages of stardom, especially for women.” 

– Anne Helen Petersen, BuzzFeed culture writer and author of Scandals of Classic Hollywood

"Reid’s characters will enchant readers as they travel through the glitz and glamour of Old Hollywood and the truths they both must confront."

– Real Simple

Taylor Jenkins Reid is the queen of queens when it comes to beach reads, and this breathtaking treat proves once again the throne is hers alone.” 

– Redbook

"Addictive, dazzling and bound to leave you in tears (classic Taylor Jenkins Reid), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo should be your No. 1 reading priority this summer."

– SheKnows

“Leave it to Taylor Jenkins Reid to keep readers captivated, from the first page to the last. With a parade of lovable characters and unputdownable plot, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo should top every reading list this summer.”

– Working Mother

“A cinematic tale with hardscrabble roots, staggering highs and sickening lows. The novel reads like a celebrity tell-all, and this makes it delicious. But it's also got heft, because Hugo's story is one of overcoming adversity, racism and sexism to get to the top. She fails, falls, triumphs and learns difficult lessons about the things that really matter. With this riveting novel,  Reid has created an exceptional character with the wherewithal to take on the patriarchy.” 

– Globe and Mail

"A big, juicy read…Reid expertly captures the hothouse nature of Hollywood…the story is fresh, and the end reveal is worth the wait”

– Historical Novel Society

"This sweeping tale is about an aging Hollywood starlet and the rookie magazine reporter she hires to pen her breathtaking (and scandalous) life story. Trust us: You’ll be swooning over the twist for months."

– Brit & Co.

“Jenkins has crafted another tale sure to appeal to fans of women’s fiction, Susan Meissner, and Beatriz Williams.”

– Library Journal

"Evelyn Hugo is a character who can demand top billing...Reid's heroine reveals her darkest secrets as if she were wiping off makeup at the end of the night—a celebration of human frailty that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all."

– Kirkus Reviews

"Reid knows how to tug at heart strings with unusual tales of finding real and lasting love...the reader [will be] captivated by old Hollywood glamour, intriguing and complex characters, and Reid’s unsurpassed ability to leave her audience reaching for a hankie. An utterly unique take on what truly makes a family.”

– Booklist

"The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has big, juicy secrets at its heart-- not just about the surprising identity of movie star Evelyn Hugo's true love, but of the lengths she has gone to protect that mysterious lover. Brimming with heartache, betrayal, and a lifetime of Hollywood gossip, this raucous novel will seduce you even as it leaves you wanting more."

– Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet and June

"A glamorous romp through Hollywood in its heyday, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest offers up several unexpected twists and a dazzling, ambitious movie star who will break your heart."

– Fiona Davis, author of The Dollhouse

"Evelyn Hugo makes Liz Taylor seem pedestrian. Taylor Jenkins Reid has drawn a rich, emotionally complex heroine who is so real that you'll forget she only lives in the pages of a book. This is an utterly compelling dance with love and tragedy, sometimes both at once; you'll laugh with Evelyn, cry with her, ache with her, and then go back to page one and do it all over again."

– Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, authors of The Royal We

“Anyone who appreciates old Hollywood glamour will want to check this one out.”

– Today.com

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