Reviewed by Emma Crowley
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.
All the Stars in the Heavens has got to have one of the most stunning covers that along with its beautiful title screams read me now. Admittedly I haven't read the last two books from Adriana Trigiani but I have read all of her previous books. I adored her Big Stone Gap series (if you haven't read it yet I suggest you pick up a copy it's excellent and the books are very special) and it has since been turned into a film. This new book is based on a true story and is classic Trigiani. All the elements her fans have come to know and love are here – family bonds, romance and adventure.
Set in the glamorous world of the film industry in Hollywood when it was at the beginning of a period of momentous change for the movie scene and following right through until the later stages of our main characters lives this was an in depth book which focused on a love affair that could never have possibly come to full fruition under the glare of the spotlight and pressures from the studio bosses. Twenty one year old Loretta Young has had a mildly successful career so far and is on the brink of big things when she meets debonair, handsome and charming leading man Clark Gable on the set of 'The Call of the Wild'. Even though he is married and known in Hollywood circles to be a ladies man Loretta falls in love and her feelings are reciprocated. What follows is the story of a young woman faced with the pressures from studio bosses, the ties of family bonds and her heart ruling her head and makes for the most part a passionate love story. Though some characters intentions may not always be sincere.
With the aid of former nun Alda Ducci , Loretta navigates the ups and downs of a movie stars career whilst trying to follow her heart despite outside pressures and constraints. The friendship between Alda and Loretta is instantaneous and will see them form a bond lasting through scandal, love, passion and adventure right up until Loretta's death long after her glory days have passed. Kathryn Stockett author of the world wide bestseller 'The Help' has a quote on the front cover of this book and says Adriana Triginai is 'utterly splendid' and I would for the most part agree. This book did have me hooked initially but then it tapered off and then had me engrossed again. This book is not all perfect but it provided me with an interesting look into a world I had not previously given much thought to. Adriana has taken her writing to a whole new level and for the majority of these pages there is a story packed with lust, love and romance in all its forms. Even though at times I felt there were parts of the story that could have been shortened – the time spend filming 'The Call of the Wild' dragged on a bit even though I realise it was essential to establishing the spark between Loretta and Clark. On the other hand I really wished for more of Alda's story and for scenes set in Italy. They were all to brief but what was written was excellent. New readers will soak up this read, long term fans may take while to get used to the new direction but will ultimately be satisfied.
The story spans several decades beginning with Loretta Young's early career and her rise to fame. Right from the outset (and this is what Adriana Trigiani does so well) the family bonds were evident. Loretta, her sisters and her mother Gladys Belzer all worked hard for what they wanted in life. Gladys may have been trampled on by men but ultimately she wanted success and happiness for all her daughters. She was an interior designer and quite a savy business woman investing in real estate throughout Los Angles. She was a woman who knew that times wouldn't always be rosy and that Loretta's glory days could only last so long. In fact she reminded me of an old school Kris Jenner obviously without some of the ruthlessness she is known for but yet a matriarch who will always protect their family and support them through the good times and bad. Alda was the same for Loretta - coming from a convent having spent six years training to be a nun only to be told at the last minute maybe this is not for you she finds herself in the crazy world of film yet is a constant rock for Loretta. I loved that about Alda and I realise this book isn't about her but I think I preferred her character more so than Loretta. The author does a fantastic job of taking us behind the scenes of the movie world - on set, on location, the backbiting that went on and the endless love triangles that were ongoing. It's all there in black and white for us to read and make our own minds up about.
The main plot of the story really got going when Loretta encounters Clark Gable on the set of The Call of the Wild. Marooned on a snow topped mountain while the shoot lasted for weeks you would think they were bound to fall in love despite Loretta's strong Catholic beliefs and Clark's marriage but that didn't seem to stop them. Loretta still had Spencer Tracy on her mind but he was out of reach and in Hollywood a woman must always be seen on the arms of the latest heart throb. But the relationship between Loretta and Clark seemed an awful lot more serious even if it did have to be kept secret from the public which was silly really seen as everyone working in the industry more or less knew. It was interesting to see how the whole story would pan out especially as Loretta is left with a little more than she bargained for. Something which made her grow up and evaluate life in an entirely different manner. In the story it comes across as if the pair truly loved each other but for the sake of their careers they could not be together. Loretta seemed for the most part level headed and sensible but did need and value support from various people when times got tough. But her actions don't appear to always be the correct path to go down. In my mind she was sucked in by Clark Gable. He held her in his spell and yes although there may have been a spark and so called love that lasted until the day she died, he never really was going to fully commit to her. If he had really wanted to be with her he would have moved hell and high water to do so and pushed aside the obstacles in their way. Was Loretta just taken for a ride or as the author portrays it in in the story was this one of the greatest love stories of all time? You need to read this and make your own decision.
I knew nothing about the background to this story before I opened the book as I am not the biggest movie fan. Yes I had heard of Clark Gable but as to Loretta Young and many of the other characters featured I had never heard mention of them. The book totally opened my eyes to the world of Hollywood in the 1930's and far beyond. Unsurprisingly a lot of what went on that still continues today. Having read 100 pages I felt compelled to google the characters just to get some more information. I even checked out some of the reviews for this book and what I found surprised me. Recently as in only last year information came to light re the connection between Gable and Young which would totally change your opinion of their relationship and the subsequent plot of the book. It may taint your viewpoint on characters actions, feelings and opinions but I don't think it should. Adriana obviously wrote this book before the revelations in the press came to light and major players have since passed away. Clearly Adriana had to add her own take on the story as well as some of the evidence she had gathered from her research. She didn't set out to court controversy with her portrayal of Clark and Loretta's love story. Yes the book is not without its faults, there are pages and pages written which finally get to the point when a paragraph would have sufficed. As I have mentioned Alda could have utilised an awful lot more, we do get a glimpse inside her story into her thoughts and feelings but that's all it was really a glimpse. Alda's story had such potential but for me never quite delivered.
Saying all this overall I did really enjoy the novel yes it dragged in parts but this book certainly got me thinking and I became an awful lot more aware of the secrets and scandals that were ongoing behind the bright lights of the big screen many years ago. All the Stars in the Heavens is a real departure for the author and it seemed as if she had held a deep longing to write this book for quite some time. Do buy this book and read it for what it is - an insight into the incredible, glamorous world so far removed from our own,where as it says on the cover 'life never does end like the movies'. One thing if you are unfamiliar with the basis of this story don't do any research or googling before you read the book, wait until you are finished and then can form a more rounded opinion. I wish I had done that as I may have enjoyed the story even more than I did.
Many thanks to Sophie at ED PR for my copy of All the Stars in the Heavens to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.