05 November 2015

Review: All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani

Review: All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana TrigianiAh, the romance and glamour of the golden years of Hollywood, when the movies we now consider classics were filmed in sound stages and on location. But what was it really like for the actors and actresses, who were essentially owned by a studio and who had little say about the course of their careers?

In All the Stars in the Heavens, Adriana Trigiani gives us a glimpse of that bygone era. Her newest novel transports us to Hollywood and into the private lives of Loretta Young and her (fictional) personal secretary, Alda Ducci.

The two principal story lines are Young's love life, especially her relationship with Clark Gable, and Alda's induction into the movie business and her marriage to a set painter. Along the way, we meet stars like Spencer Tracy and David Niven and get to know the cast and crew of Call of the Wild, filmed on a snowy mountaintop in 1935.

The characters: I should say right here that I was nervous to read All the Stars in the Heavens because I've met Adiana Trigiani and just love her exuberant personality. She's warm, friendly, and approachable. What if I didn't like her newest book? But I should have known to put my fears aside because she's a pro at making her characters seem alive. Despite all her money and fame, Loretta Young didn't have the easiest life, especially when it came to love, and Trigiani brings out all the mixed emotions of the actress, who struggled with her heart, her Catholicism, and her ethics. I sympathized with how Young tried to resist falling for a married man and how determined she was to see through Gable's weak promises to leave his wife.

In addition, I couldn't help but root for Alda, who found herself on a surprising path--from Italy to a San Fransisco convent to living in the mansion of a famous Hollywood star. Everything was new for Alda, but she found a haven with the Young family and with the Italian American man who fell in love with her at first sight. Still, despite the good fortune that came to her, Alda's faced several sorrows.

Young had a reputation of falling in love with her leading men. First there was Spencer Tracy; then there was Clark Gable. Apparently there were others, but Trigiani focuses on Gable, writing about how the actors met during Call of the Wild and then keying in on the connection they had for the rest of their lives. Tracy is portrayed as a good friend and a good Catholic, who was bound to his wife and had a love of drink. Gable is depicted as a little selfish, a bit of a scoundrel, and a whole lot of ladies' man. In All the Stars in the Heavens, Gable and Young are star-crossed lovers who never got over the possibilities of their affair.

• Women in early Hollywood: Although women still have a long way to go to achieve full equality with men, I'm glad I wasn't starting adulthood in the 1930s. Young faced restrictions from society, the church, and even the studio. She was to be morally pure and any public slip-up could destroy her reputation, which would end her career and put her family's welfare at risk. The pressures on women in Hollywood must have been enormous. The men could get away with much more, but their contracts also contained morality clauses, restricting their behavior and making it difficult for them to follow their own instincts.

• General thoughts: Although Trigiani romanticized the Young-Gable relationship (Google for a variety of opinions) and even painted Tracy's marriage in a positive light, All the Stars in the Heavens was delightful. With its vivid settings, characters, drama, and emotions, the novel kept my attention throughout. I recommend the book to anyone who wants to get lost in another world for a little while and/or who has an interest in the golden years of Hollywood. I also recommend the book for book clubs because there are a number of issues to discuss, particularly some of the choices that Young and Alda made.

• Note on the audiobook: The unabridged audiobook (Harper Audio; 14 hr 35 min) is read by Blair Brown, who does an amazing job. You won't go wrong by listening to the book instead of reading it. My full (positive) review will be available through AudioFile magazine.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper, 2015
ISBN-13: 9780062319197
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Unknown 11/5/15, 6:30 AM  

Reading this now. Thanks so much for the review!

rhapsodyinbooks 11/5/15, 6:52 AM  

I started this and stopped; maybe I should keep going!

JoAnn 11/5/15, 7:26 AM  

My mother just finished this book... she loved it!

Heather 11/5/15, 8:33 AM  

This sounds fantastic! I love old Hollywood. I've been devouring a podcast that looks back at old Hollywood and all the old stories. I think I'd better hit Audible!

Katherine P 11/5/15, 8:44 AM  

Oh this sounds fun and interesting! I love old movies and this sounds like an interesting look behind the scenes. Plus, I know very little about Loretta Young other than who she is.

Unknown 11/5/15, 11:08 AM  

I've got this one in print, just finding the time is a problem...a good problem to have so many books, but still. Great review

Laurel-Rain Snow 11/5/15, 11:54 AM  

I have an ARC of this one and plan to read it soon. So glad that it doesn't disappoint, as I love this author too!

Thanks for sharing.

Debbie 11/5/15, 12:17 PM  

I just downloaded this from Audible.com! I can't wait to listen.

(Diane) bookchickdi 11/5/15, 12:21 PM  

I adored this one too, and of course googled Loretta Young to find out more of the story. My review posts next week. Great review here, Beth F.!

Julie P. 11/5/15, 1:02 PM  

Fantastic review! I really liked this one a lot. I felt as if she captured the look and feel of the Golden Age perfectly!

bermudaonion 11/5/15, 6:39 PM  

This book made me realize the Golden Age wasn't so golden for everyone. I loved it!

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours 11/5/15, 11:33 PM  

It's SO true - when you have met an author in person and think she is fantastic it's hard to think you may not like something she writes in the future. I'm so glad to see that your worries were for naught!

Thanks for being a part of the tour!

Daryl 11/6/15, 4:13 PM  

i read the review of this in the NYTBR last weekend i think and i thought it sounded like a good read .. now that i have read your take on it i think i will get it .. thanks!!!

Vicki 11/7/15, 7:38 AM  

I love the actors and movies from this time and think I would enjoy listening to it.

Margot 11/8/15, 12:26 AM  

I'm late in discovering Adriana Trigiani. The only book I read so far (Stone Gap) was an audio. That book was perfect for audio and suspect this one will be too.

Nise' 11/8/15, 9:48 PM  

I am looking forward to this book!

trish 11/9/15, 3:41 AM  

I love this time period, so I'm especially fascinated by this story!

I know what you mean when you talk about the trepidation of starting an author's latest book, *especially* one by Trigiani. She really is amazing, isn't she?

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