BFF Book Club, June Edition: Secrets, Showbiz, and “Seven Husbands”
Welcome to the June meeting of the BFF Book Club, presented by Bumble BFF and Indigo!
This month, we’re devouring The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid — the can’t-put-it-down novel about a now-reclusive actress and the highs and lows of her life in Tinseltown.
Want to join the club? Get 50% off when you grab your copy at Indigo, now through July 1. Match with our BFF Book Club profile on Bumble BFF to get the code.
The novel centres on Evelyn Hugo, an icon of the golden age of Hollywood whose personal life was as juicy as her big-screen roles. The pilgrimage to Los Angeles in the ‘50s. The complexity of being a woman of colour in a white man’s world. The seven husbands. The exodus from Tinseltown in the ‘80s.
But now Evelyn is an aging recluse. Which is why it’s surprising when she decides it’s time to pull the curtain back on her glamorous, often scandalous life. What’s more surprising is who she chooses to tell her story to: unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant. But as the two women talk and listen, it becomes clear that their lives intersect in more ways than one.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is more than just a beach read about old Hollywood drama. It’s the story of one woman’s dogged ambition, her fight for respect, and a forbidden, life-changing love.
Intrigued? Open Bumble BFF now and get your exclusive discount code to use in-store or online.
And if you want to start a book club of your own, use the Seven Husbands discussion questions below to get the conversation rolling.
- 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?
- Of the seven husbands, who was your favorite, and why? Who surprised you the most?
- 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?
- 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"?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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 influenced by those around her?
- 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 less overtly optimistic phrase “the ends justify the means”?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- If you could meet and interview one celebrity at the end of their life, who would it be? What would you ask them?