If you are under 40, you weren’t around during Evelyn Hugo’s fictional heydey. But closeted Hollywood was a very real thing. Some argue that it’s still a thing even today. But despite the social intolerance, Evelyn had quite a life! The book’s themes include unapologetic ambition, elusive love, damaging secrets and the illusion that we could ever truly know a big celebrity.
Taylor Jenkins Reid has given your book club a lot of fodder for discussion. Use our The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo book club questions to get the conversation started.
Start with the synopsis– does it accurately reflect your experience of the book? Then move on to the discussion questions and some selected reviews.
If you liked the book, keep scrolling because we are also recommending three books like Evelyn Hugo to add to your book pile.
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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
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.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book Club Questions
If you are interested in having a multimedia book club discussion about Evelyn Hugo, you may want to consider a group watch of Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood. Scotty Bowers was 95 when the documentary was created. He was a confidant, pimp and fixer for closeted Old Hollywood stars like Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
Here are your Evelyn Hugo discussion questions:
- Author Reid says of Evelyn, “She’s a person who loved a woman and had to hide it in order to ascend to Hollywood power and keep hiding it to maintain that power.” Evelyn pulled some pretty shrewd and cynical moves to keep her power. Which did you find the most admirable? Which did you find the most distasteful?
- Late in the book, Monique observes that “I hate Evelyn, but I think I like her very much”. What about you? Did you like her? Did you hate her? Both?
- You know right from the beginning that Monique has been summoned by Evelyn for a very specific reason. While reading the book, were you making guesses as to why? If so, what were some of your ideas?
- Celia and Evelyn had an on again, off again relationship. Some of that had to do with external social pressures but it was also driven by choices that each of them made regarding the other– the typical pain of misunderstandings and unintended consequences that can harm any relationship. Which of those latter moments did you find the most painful or touching?
- “Men were almost never with me for my personality…it’s not so great being loved for something you didn’t do.” Evelyn understood very clearly that being pretty wasn’t a skill. But it was something that men wanted and valued. Is that still true today? How have things changed?
- The chapter headings for the husbands read like mini-indictments– “Poor Ernie Diaz”, “Gullible Mick Riva”, “clever Rex North”, etc. Were those descriptors an accurate representation of each husband? How did they set the tone for your reading experience?
- Did you have a favorite husband? Which one and why?
- Evelyn was once told that “Heartbreak is a loss, divorce is a piece of paper.” Do you agree?
- When the book ends, it’s obvious that Monique will write the memoir. What’s unclear is whether or not Monique will include the episode regarding her father, and the true reason why Evelyn chose her. Will she or won’t she?
- During the timeframe of the book, many actors were closeted in Hollywood. In fact, sometimes the studios would force LGBTQ actors into what were called lavender marriages of convenience. Were you aware of this practice? Do you think that that Hollywood power brokers, and the customers like us who consume their entertainment, still feed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy even today?
Selected Reviews for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
“On top of this being a powerful book about race, sexuality, misogyny, and having to conform to societies norms, the true meaning I took from this book is that life is short, so damn short, and we shouldn’t spend it pretending to be something we aren’t. And we shouldn’t spend it doing anything less than loving the people who are worthy and deserving of our love.”
“The more I got to know Evelyn, the more I fell in love with her. She has made a lot of controversial decisions during her career, but she knows it and she also knows she’d probably do it all again. She’s played the Hollywood game, dated famous men to further her career, and used her body to get what she wants. She has experienced the full force of the industry’s sexism and, in some ways, capitalized on it. She is deeply flawed and aware of it.”
“The novel is framed as a biography written by a talented up-and-coming jornalist, but reads as if thrown together by an employee of a gossip rag, who included all of the salacious parts of a famous person’s life, but none of that person’s interiority.”
(Upon a reread)–“I have grown enough since I first read this to realize that, as engaging as the story is, it also isn’t that deep. A lot of the discussions about race and sexuality felt awkward, forced, or blatantly done for the sake of appearing woke.”
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3 Books Like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
If you like the idea of exploring the corruption that fame can have on beautiful women, you may want to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which is also by Taylor Jenkins Reid. We have a book club guide for Evelyn Hugo and also for her book, Malibu Rising.
by Tab Hunter and Eddie Miller
If you are interested in learning more about an actual closeted Hollywood star, then Tab Hunter Confidential will make for interesting reading. Hunter was the kind of hunky All-American guy that the Hollywood machine loved in the 1950’s. He went from stable boy to star, and he had to learn how to navigate the shark infested waters along the way. He was also absolutely gay, and his memoir tackles the subject head on.
by Elizabeth Gilbert
If you are looking for more female empowerment, then read City of Girls. It’s set in NYC’s theater district of the 1940’s. Protagonist Vivian Morris has been sent to live with her Aunt Peg, who runs a theater. Over the course of the book, Vivvie learns to exercise her own economic and sexual agency with guidance from the other strong female characters in the story.
We also have a book club guide for City of Girls (with spoilers).
By Jess Walter
How about more of that elusive Hollywood glamour? A beautiful American actress is supposed to be filming Cleopatra with Richard Burton, but instead, she washes up at a remote Italian inn. What’s her story?
Fast forward to today’s time and her Italian innkeeper has shown up in Hollywood, searching for the mysterious woman from decades ago.
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