Summary of “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo”, a novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Published in 2017, the book tells the story of the fictional old Hollywood actress Evelyn Hugo, who at the end of her life wants to tell her life story to an unknown magazine reporter, Monique Grant. The narrative unfolds through Evelyn’s recollections as she reveals the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life, her career, and her seven marriages. The novel explores themes of celebrity, identity, sexuality, and the cost of fame. It has been praised for its complex characters and exploration of LGBTQ+ themes, as well as its critique of the Hollywood star system.

Short Summary of The Novel

Full Book Summary of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoEvelyn Hugo, a legendary film actress, enlists unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant to pen her biography, with the condition that Monique publish it only after Evelyn’s death. Through her interviews, Evelyn recounts her rise to fame in old Hollywood, her career, and the complexities of her personal life, including her seven marriages.

Evelyn’s husbands serve as stepping stones in her narrative, each revealing a different facet of her life and times in the industry:

  1. Ernie Diaz, married for convenience and to escape her life in Hell’s Kitchen.
  2. Don Adler, a Hollywood leading man whose abuse tarnishes their glamorous facade.
  3. Mick Riva, a brief, passionate love affair, leaving Evelyn heartbroken.
  4. Rex North, a strategic move to bolster both their careers.
  5. Harry Cameron, Evelyn’s best friend and the love of her life; they marry to conceal their true sexual identities while carrying on a private life together.
  6. Max Girard, a marriage of mutual benefit, providing a stable home for her daughter.
  7. Robert Jamison, her last husband, who helps maintain the public illusion of her heterosexuality.

The plot takes a poignant turn when Evelyn reveals that Harry, who fathered her daughter, was killed in a car accident with Celia, also the love of his life. Monique, deeply moved by Evelyn’s story, finds out in a stunning twist that her own life is intertwined with Evelyn’s: Harry Cameron is actually Monique’s biological father, which explains why Evelyn chose her to tell her story.

Evelyn’s tale is one of survival, the cost of ambition, the weight of secrets, and the pursuit of love in an unforgiving spotlight. Her narrative challenges Monique to reassess her own life choices and the legacy she will leave behind.

Comprehensive Plot Summary of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo


In the prologue, readers are introduced to Monique Grant, a relatively unknown magazine reporter working at Vivant. Monique’s life is unremarkable, and she feels stuck both in her career and personal life, especially after her recent separation from her husband.

Out of the blue, Monique receives a surprising request: Evelyn Hugo, the reclusive and aging Hollywood icon, wants her to write an article about a charity auction of her dresses. It’s an unexpected opportunity, and everyone at Vivant is intrigued about why Evelyn chose Monique for the task.

Monique goes to meet Evelyn, and during this encounter, it’s revealed that the job is much more than a simple article—Evelyn wants Monique to write her biography. This revelation sets the stage for the rest of the novel, where Evelyn’s past and Monique’s present become entwined as the story of Evelyn Hugo’s life unfolds.

Husbands Section

Husband One: Ernie Diaz

Full Book Summary of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Evelyn marries her first husband, Ernie Diaz, straight out of high school. This marriage is a means to an end, providing Evelyn with a ticket out of her impoverished upbringing in New York City and a move to Hollywood to chase her dreams of becoming a movie star. Ernie is a kind man but lacks ambition, and Evelyn quickly outgrows the relationship as her career begins to take off.

Husband Two: Don Adler

Full Book Summary of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Don Adler is a prominent and handsome actor, and marrying him elevates Evelyn’s status in the film industry. However, the relationship is marred by physical abuse and public scandal. Evelyn endures the marriage to protect her career until Don’s violence becomes intolerable and public sentiment shifts in her favor, enabling her to leave him.

Husband Three: Mick Riva

Mick Riva, a singer, represents Evelyn’s first true passionate romance, but it’s short-lived. Their intense relationship burns out quickly when Mick leaves her, teaching Evelyn the hard lesson that love and passion can be fleeting, and sometimes, public perception is more important than personal happiness.

Husband Four: Rex North

Rex North is a partnership of convenience. Both he and Evelyn benefit professionally from the marriage, and there is mutual respect but little love. They portray the perfect Hollywood couple to the world, and when it serves its purpose, they part ways amicably.

Husband Five: Harry Cameron

Harry Cameron, a film producer, is Evelyn’s greatest love and confidant. Their marriage is one of deep friendship and understanding, providing cover for Evelyn’s bisexual identity and Harry’s homosexuality. Together they adopt a daughter, and their relationship stands as a testament to the enduring power of love beyond conventional romantic norms.

Husband Six: Max Girard

Evelyn’s marriage to Max Girard, a French director, is a complex one. They respect and care for each other deeply, and together they raise Evelyn’s daughter. Their relationship is marked by genuine affection, and Max remains an important figure in Evelyn’s life even after their marriage ends.

Husband Seven: Robert Jamison

Robert Jamison, a wealthy businessman, is Evelyn’s final husband. This marriage is more about companionship and maintaining appearances for the outside world. By this point in her life, Evelyn is looking for stability and a partner who understands the sacrifices she’s made throughout her career.

Interludes: Present-Day Encounters

In “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo,” the interludes are moments where the focus shifts from Evelyn’s past and her recounting of her life story to the present-day interactions between Evelyn and Monique Grant.

Throughout the novel, the interludes serve to frame Evelyn’s retrospective narrative with her current interactions with Monique. These segments are crucial for developing the relationship between the two women and for revealing Monique’s own character arc.

  • First Meeting: Monique is perplexed as to why Evelyn has chosen her for the task of writing her biography. Evelyn insists that Monique is the right person for the job, without initially revealing why.
  • As the Story Unfolds: With each visit to Evelyn’s apartment, Monique learns more about the legendary actress’s life. These encounters also show the growing bond between the two women, as Evelyn becomes more than just a subject to Monique.
  • Monique’s Personal Growth: Parallel to Evelyn’s story, Monique is dealing with her own issues, such as her divorce and dissatisfaction with her career. Evelyn’s narrative prompts Monique to reflect on her own life choices and her journey toward self-empowerment.
  • The Big Reveal: In a pivotal moment, Evelyn discloses that Monique’s father is actually Harry Cameron, making Monique the product of one of Evelyn’s greatest loves and biggest secrets. This revelation shocks Monique and recontextualizes the significance of her involvement in Evelyn’s life.
  • Monique’s Decision: After the revelation, Monique is left to make a choice about how to handle the biography and the truth about her own heritage. She grapples with feelings of betrayal, resentment, and ultimately understanding as she comes to terms with Evelyn’s story and the impact it has on her own identity.

The interludes are instrumental in tying together the themes of the novel and in highlighting the parallels between Evelyn and Monique’s lives. They reveal how the past informs the present and how the act of storytelling can be a powerful tool for revelation and change. Monique’s evolution as a character is deeply influenced by Evelyn’s revelations, leading to a profound transformation by the end of the novel.

Flashbacks: Evelyn’s Life Story

  • Early Life and First Steps in Hollywood: Evelyn’s flashbacks start with her difficult childhood in Hell’s Kitchen, her complex relationship with her Cuban immigrant father, and her mother’s death. She decides to use her beauty as a ticket out, leading to her first marriage with Ernie Diaz and the beginning of her Hollywood career.
  • Rising Fame and Marital Struggles: As Evelyn climbs the ranks of stardom, she confronts the harsh realities of show business, including the abuse from her second husband, Don Adler. Evelyn’s recounting of this time is raw and honest, highlighting her vulnerability and strength.
  • Love and Loss: Evelyn’s third marriage to Mick Riva is characterized by intense passion but ends in heartbreak. This relationship’s demise has a lasting impact on her, teaching her the painful lesson that not all love stories have happy endings.
  • Career Maneuvering: Through her marriages to Rex North and Max Girard, Evelyn maneuvers within the Hollywood system to maintain her star status, using her relationships to her advantage while also finding companionship.
  • True Love and Sacrifice: Evelyn’s most significant relationship is with Harry Cameron, her best friend, and the true love of her life. Their marriage is one of mutual protection and deep affection. Through Harry, Evelyn also finds love with Celia St. James, though their relationship must remain hidden from the public eye.
  • Family and Motherhood: Evelyn’s relationship with her daughter, Connor, is complex, marred by the secrets she must keep and the facade she has to maintain, even in her personal life.
  • Reflecting on Legacy: As an older woman, Evelyn looks back on her life with a mixture of pride and regret. She acknowledges her mistakes and the people she hurt along the way, especially as she navigates her final marriage with Robert Jamison, which is more about companionship and mutual understanding than romance.
Full Book Summary of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo


The flashbacks reveal the personal costs of Evelyn’s fame and her journey towards self-acceptance. Her relationships with her husbands are intertwined with her identity as a star and a woman of her era, grappling with societal norms, sexuality, and personal desires. Through these stories, Evelyn seeks to set the record straight and leave behind an honest account of her life to be shared by Monique after her death.

Epilogue: Legacy and Truth

The epilogue brings closure to both Evelyn’s and Monique’s stories, wrapping up the novel’s central themes and character arcs with poignant finality.

  • Evelyn’s Final Days: After finishing the story of her life, Evelyn is content that she has entrusted her truth to Monique. She passes away, leaving Monique with the task of deciding how to present Evelyn’s story to the world.
  • Monique’s Choice: Struggling with the revelations about her father and the immense responsibility Evelyn has placed on her, Monique ultimately decides to honor Evelyn’s wishes. She writes and publishes the biography, revealing the complex, multifaceted nature of Evelyn’s life, her identity, and her loves.
  • The Impact of the Biography: The publication of the biography has a profound impact, changing public perception of Evelyn and shedding light on the sacrifices she made. It also serves as a catalyst for Monique, who finds strength and inspiration in Evelyn’s story to pursue her own dreams and ambitions with newfound confidence.
  • Monique’s Reflection: In the end, Monique reflects on the impact that knowing Evelyn and her story has had on her life. She comes to terms with her own identity, her past, and the direction of her future, influenced by the strength and resilience of Evelyn Hugo.

The epilogue ties up the narrative’s loose ends, providing readers with a sense of completion for both the protagonist and the narrator. It emphasizes the themes of reconciliation with one’s past, the courage to face the truth, and the enduring power of storytelling. Monique’s transformation, prompted by her engagement with Evelyn’s life, is a testament to the novel’s exploration of how the stories we tell about ourselves shape our identities and legacies.

Interesting Facts About The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

  • Celebrity Deep Dive: The novel offers a profound look into the glitz and grime of Hollywood’s Golden Age, revealing the sacrifices and moral compromises required to survive and thrive in the spotlight.
  • LGBTQ+ Representation: It features a bisexual protagonist and addresses the complexities of LGBTQ+ relationships during a time when they were socially unacceptable, providing a nuanced portrayal of hidden love.
  • Unique Narrative Technique: The story unfolds through a dual narrative, with flashbacks woven into a present-day interview, creating a rich tapestry of a woman’s life and the impact of her choices.
  • Authenticity in Fiction: Taylor Jenkins Reid conducted extensive research to authentically depict the historical setting of old Hollywood, although the characters and their stories are entirely fictional.
  • Tackling Social Issues: The novel confronts issues such as sexism, racism, and homophobia, reflecting on how these societal challenges affected the lives of movie stars in the mid-20th century.
  • Personal and Relatable: Despite the grandiose setting, the novel touches on universal themes like the search for love, the desire for authenticity, and the struggle with identity, making it deeply personal and relatable.
  • Critical Acclaim: The book received widespread praise for its writing, character development, and ability to capture the reader’s imagination, becoming a bestseller and a book club favorite.
  • Cultural Resonance: Its portrayal of a strong, complex woman navigating the demands of fame and personal desire has resonated with readers, prompting discussions about women’s roles in society and the entertainment industry.
  • Hollywood Adaptation: The popularity of the novel has led to plans for a film adaptation, highlighting its potential to translate to the screen and reach an even wider audience.
  • Author’s Signature Style: The book solidifies Taylor Jenkins Reid’s reputation for creating compelling and emotionally rich narratives about women’s lives, following the success of her previous novels.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Novel

Who is Monique Grant?

Full Book Summary of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Monique Grant illustration

Monique Grant is a young, relatively unknown magazine reporter who is selected by Evelyn Hugo to write her biography. Throughout the novel, Monique’s personal journey of self-discovery and understanding unfolds as she learns about Evelyn’s life story.

Why did Evelyn Hugo choose Monique to write her biography?

Evelyn chose Monique to write her biography because of a deeply personal reason that is central to the novel’s plot: Monique’s father turns out to be Harry Cameron, Evelyn’s great love and one of her husbands. Evelyn sees this as a way to connect with her past and make amends.

Is “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” based on a true story?

No, the novel is not based on a true story. It is a work of fiction, though it does draw on the general atmosphere of old Hollywood and may remind readers of the lives of real Hollywood actresses.

What does the novel say about the nature of fame?

The novel portrays fame as a double-edged sword, offering Evelyn Hugo both everything she ever dreamed of and everything she wished to avoid. It suggests that fame often comes at a great personal cost, including the loss of privacy, freedom, and, at times, one’s sense of self.

How does the novel address LGBTQ+ themes?

“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” addresses LGBTQ+ themes by exploring the hidden love between Evelyn and Celia St. James, as well as the marriage between Evelyn and Harry Cameron, which serves as a cover for both of their true sexual orientations. The novel examines the challenges they face due to the societal norms of their time.

What role do the seven husbands play in the story?

The seven husbands serve as a narrative structure for Evelyn’s life story, with each one representing different stages in her career and personal growth. They are symbolic of the different roles she is forced to play and the evolution of her identity both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

How does the novel end?

The novel ends with Evelyn’s death, after which Monique publishes her biography, telling the truth about Evelyn’s life. Monique is transformed by the experience, gaining a new understanding of her own past and a renewed sense of purpose in her future.

What is the significance of the dresses being auctioned at the beginning of the novel?

The dresses represent different periods in Evelyn’s life and career, each associated with specific memories and stories that she recounts to Monique. They symbolize the public image that Evelyn projected and the personal history that lies beneath the surface.

My Opinion

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” is a cunningly disguised pulp fiction, parading as profound literature. The novel masquerades as a bold exposé of Hollywood’s underbelly, yet succumbs to the very clichés it seeks to critique. Reid wraps tired tropes in a veneer of progressive themes, selling readers a narrative of empowerment while peddling the same old stories of love, loss, and the quest for fame. The writing, while slick, is a Trojan horse for recycled narratives, luring in readers with promises of depth but delivering a soap opera in a book jacket.

Is “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” a trailblazing triumph or just a glorified telenovela in disguise? 🎭 Drop your verdict below and let’s debate the merit of this Hollywood saga! 🗣️👇

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