Title: All the Stars in the Heavens
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Published: September 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Rating: 3.5 stars
Adriana Trigiani, the New York Times bestselling author of the blockbuster epic The Shoemaker’s Wife, returns with her biggest and boldest novel yet—a hypnotic tale, based on a true story—that dazzles with the signature elements of her previous work—family ties, artistry, romance, adventure—and introduces an unforgettable new heroine: Loretta Young, an ambitious starlet struggling to survive in Hollywood’s dream factory
In this spectacular saga as radiant, thrilling, and beguiling as Hollywood itself, Adriana Trigiani takes us back to Tinsel Town’s golden age—an era as brutal as it was resplendent—and into the complex and glamorous world of a young actress hungry for fame and success. With meticulous, beautiful detail, Trigiani paints a rich, historical landscape of 1930s Los Angeles, where European and American artisans flocked to pursue the ultimate dream: to tell stories on the silver screen.
The movie business is booming in 1935 when twenty-one-year-old Loretta Young meets thirty-four-year-old Clark Gable on the set of The Call of the Wild. Though he’s already married, Gable falls for the stunning and vivacious young actress instantly.
Far from the glittering lights of Hollywood, Sister Alda Ducci has been forced to leave her convent and begin a new journey that leads her to Loretta. Becoming Miss Young’s assistant, the innocent and pious young Alda must navigate the wild terrain of Hollywood with fierce determination and a moral code that derives from her Italian roots. Over the course of decades, she and Loretta encounter scandal and adventure, choose love and passion, and forge an enduring bond of love and loyalty that will be put to the test when they eventually face the greatest obstacle of their lives.
Anchored by Trigiani’s masterful storytelling that takes you on a worldwide ride of adventure from Hollywood to the shores of southern Italy, this mesmerizing epic is, at its heart, a luminous tale of the most cherished ties that bind. Brimming with larger-than-life characters both real and fictional—including stars Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, David Niven, Hattie McDaniel and more—it is it is the unforgettable story of one of cinema’s greatest love affairs during the golden age of American movie making.
Hollywood of the bygone era is the principal subject of Adriana Trigiani’s newest book, a historical crossed with biographical fiction novel, titled All the Stars in the Heavens.
All the Stars in the Heavens focuses heavily on the life of Hollywood glamour girl and renowned actress Gretchen Young, known to many by her stage name, Loretta Young. It examines Loretta’s life in her catholic home, where she was raised with her sisters by her single parent mother. Loretta’s modest home life as an Italian Catholic, is starkly contrasted to the opulence of her Hollywood career. All the Stars in the Heavens begins to tell Loretta’s story at a pivotal part in Loretta’s life, as she makes the transition from a child star, to a headlining movie star. The reader learns Loretta has just embarked on a love affair with Spencer Tracy, a married man and leading star in Hollywood. Much of the novel is focussed on Loretta’s time spent filming the iconic movie Call of the Wild, with Clark Gable. It is on this fateful movie set that a passionate love affair sparks behind the scenes between Gable and Young. It also becomes a love affair that has long lasting implications for Loretta. So much seems to stand in Loretta and Clark’s way, as they are prevented from officially cementing their relationship as a couple. Trigiani highlights the strict moral codes and studio obligations of the time that stood in the way of this golden couple. In addition to Loretta’s star studded life, the book also chooses to focus on the life of Alda Ducci. Alda is a young Italian woman from a convent, sent to work with Loretta as her personal secretary.
I haven’t read a novel written by Adriana Trigiani before this one. I was keen to read this novel, as the golden age of Hollywood completely fascinates me. I surprised myself by knowing very little about Loretta Young, despite having researched this area in depth during high school. It was enlightening to discover what a rich life Loretta lead. I also didn’t know anything about her affair with Gable, an actor who I have always held in high regard. As far as research and content goes, Trigiani does this very well. She presents her reader with a highly interesting narrative, based on a fascinating period and topic in history. The choice to focus on Loretta Young was a good one, as Loretta appeared to be both a likeable person, with a colourful life to match.
The device of using Alda, the sister turned secretary sent to Loretta near the opening of the novel was also a wise move. Alda offers the reader a completely different set of eyes on Hollywood. Alda’s version of the events that take place in Loretta’s life are from someone outside the movie making business, which was refreshing. Alda’s story itself was an interesting one, full of secrets and revelations, as the book progressed. As well as Alda’s memorable friendship and loyalty to Loretta, there is also a gentle love story that develops between Alda and a set designer.
What I enjoyed overwhelmingly about this novel, was how Trigiani was able to resurrect the forgotten and iconic pillars of Hollywood. I have admired many of the stars featured in this novel from the screen and it was a lovely experience watching them come alive through Trigiani’s dialogue. All the Stars in the Heavens also gave me a behind the scenes look at how Hollywood operated in the era of tight moral codes and highlighted the lack of rights experienced by the actor/actresses. It astounded me just how many movies a year were churned out by certain stars.
The central relationship between Young and Gable did not sweep me off my feet as much as I would have liked to. Gable came across as a complete womaniser, who was unable to stand up to the people in his life and make a decision for himself. I did begin to wonder if he truly did want to be with Loretta, or he was happy to play the field. The fallout from their relationship is handled well by Trigiani. I felt devastated by the choices women in this era had to face, as it seemed so unfair compared to the men.
All the Stars in the Heavens provided me with the ultimate journey back into Hollywood’s yesteryear. It was a glamorous age to be a part of, but also a tough one for many stars. It inspired me to do some further reading on this fascinating era and brush up on my knowledge of the talented set of celebrities that paved the way for our stars today. I warn you, it is best to do this after completing the novel, as this may spoil your version of events. Loretta Young’s story, told through Loretta herself and the memorable Alda, made this book a most pleasant way to end a weekend of reading. All the Stars in the Heavens is a book I highly recommended to fans of history, biopics and Hollywood.