Book review and synopsis for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, a breezy novel about a reclusive Hollywood legend and her past loves.
In The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, a reclusive Hollywood Legend offers a virtually unknown writer, Monique, the opportunity to write her life story, filled with all the details about her storied romances with her many husbands.
As Evelyn recounts her many tales, she takes Monique through a narrative about old Hollywood splendor and the glamour and price of fame. Filled with personality, vivaciousness and charm, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a fun and surprisingly satisfying tale.
(The Detailed Plot Summary is also available, below)
Detailed Plot SummarySection-by-Section SummarySee the Section-by-Section Summary of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoQuick Plot Summary
In the Prologue, Monique Grant, a relatively unknown writer, is selected by Evelyn Hugo, a reclusive Hollywood legend, to write a biography of her life story which divulges all the secrets about Evelyn's many husbands. Monique does not know why she was chosen. The book is to be published after Evelyn dies, but Monique can keep the entirety of the proceeds.
In Part I, Evelyn talks about being young, beautiful and Cuban, but growing up with an abusive father. She wanted to get away, so she married her first husband Ernie because he was headed to Hollywood to work as a lighting grip. 16-year-old Evelyn is soon noticed by a young Hollywood producer, Harry Cameron. Evelyn then seduces a 48-year-old executive, Ari Sullivan, so she can get bigger roles. It works. They turn her blond and tell her how to dress. They want her to seem naive, but erotic. They also tell her to divorce Ernie so she can be seen dating Hollywood stars.
In Part II, Evelyn meets Hollywood royalty, Don Adler, and falls in love with him. His parents were both 1930's celebrities. She marries him, but he becomes abusive as his career gets a little rocky. Evelyn also becomes good friends with Harry, who reveals that he's gay, and with one of her co-stars, Celia St. James, who is a lesbian. Evelyn kisses Celia the same night she catches Don cheating on her. Don leaves her before she can leave him, but he also has the studio blackball her professionally. Evelyn moves in with Celia, and they begin a relationship.
In Part III, Evelyn goes to Paris to find work since she's blackballed in Hollywood. She becomes an international star. When rumors circulate about her and Celia, Evelyn decides to trick Mick Riva, a singer, into marrying her (and getting a quick annulment) to quell the talk. However, Evelyn gets pregnant in the process. She gets an abortion, but it causes Celia to break up with her out of jealousy.
In Part IV, Evelyn is in a movie that Harry is producing, Anna Karenina, that they desperately need to succeed. She hatches a plan to marry her co-star Rex North. Rex is well aware of the situation and agrees to the sexless marriage. The plan works and it results in a lucrative 3-movie deal for all three of them. However, two years later, Rex falls in love and the woman is pregnant. Evelyn comes up with a plan to be caught "cheating" with Harry the same time Rex announces his relationship. It works out and brings a lot of publicity to their last movie together.
In Part V, Evelyn finally makes up with Celia, who is now in a faux marriage with a gay man, John Braverman, that Harry is seeing. Harry and Evelyn decide to marry. That way, Evelyn and Celia can be together and Harry and John can be together. Things work out for years. When Evelyn is 36, she and Harry have a child together (with Celia's blessing), Connor. However, things fall apart when Evelyn does an explicit sex scene (opposite Don), against Celia's wishes. They break up. John dies of a heart attack soon after. Harry falls apart and starts drinking more.
In Part VI, one of Evelyn's directors, Max Girard, proposes to her. Harry agree to a divorce so Evelyn can re-marry. However, Evelyn soon realizes Max simply likes the idea of being married to Evelyn. It's been ten years since she's seen Celia, but she ends up reaching out. When Max finds their love notes, he's furious. Evelyn leaves him to be with Celia. Meanwhile, Harry has met a man and is in love. As the three of them are sorting out what to do and where to live, Harry drunkenly gets into an accident. Both he and his partner die. To protect Harry, Evelyn makes it look like the other man was driving.
In Part VII, Evelyn and Celia move to Spain to live a quiet life, but Celia now has a respiratory illness from smoking. Evelyn marries Celia's brother, a financier and womanizer, so that Celia can leave Evelyn her estate when she dies. Six years later, Celia passes away, at the age of 61. Robert passes away at 81. When Connor is 39, she is diagnosed with breast cancer and dies at 41.
In the Epilogue, Evelyn notes that everyone she loves is now dead. Evelyn admits to Monique that she was chosen for this because Harry's partner was James Grant, Monique's father. Monique is angry, but also realizes that Evelyn has taught her a lot and in time she will forgive her. Evelyn also tells Monique that she has breast cancer. After Monique leaves, Evelyn passes away (likely at her own hand).
For more detail, see the full Section-by-Section Summary.