First line: "A cold gust of wind sounded like a faraway train whistle as it blew through South Bend that morning."
Based on the true story of Gretchen "Loretta" Young and Clark Gable, Adriana Trigiani tells a fictionalized account of their brief love affair in her novel All the Stars in the Heavens. Gretchen was a child actor turned leading lady in the golden age of Hollywood. Following a heartbreaking and chaste relationship with Spencer Tracey during their filming of Man's Castle, Loretta Young is cast opposite Clark Gable in The Call of the Wild.
Alda Ducci is a young Italian woman who fully intended to become a nun. She was working in a Catholic facility for unwed mothers as a novice, just before she would have taken her vows. It was at this point that her Mother Superior decided the convent was not where Alda belong, and she recommended Alda for the job of Loretta Young's secretary.
All the Stars in the Heavens tells Alda's story alongside Loretta's in epic strokes of art befitting the glamorous world of Tinseltown.
Shooting on location on Mount Baker, a snowstorm stalls the filming of The Call of the Wild and keeps the movie cast and crew stranded on the freezing set much longer than anticipated. Isolated from all the fanfare of Hollywood in this frigid world, both Alda and Loretta's worlds will be forever changed. Both women return to the realities of California as different people than when they ascended the mountain.
All the Stars in Heaven has a bit of a slow start, but as Trigiani builds up the characters and the world of Hollywood, it soon becomes engrossing and captivating. She builds the atmosphere with the detail of a set artist, whether it's a sound stage in Hollywood or an open air market in Italy. And the perspective is vividly connected to the character seeing it. Alda views her world markedly different than Loretta, despite their being in the same places.
The book also makes the film super stars accessible, human, contrasting the gossip and celebrity news images of them. This works to make them empathetic characters, ones readers can relate to instead of look up to.
This is a fascinating story to tell in 2015 as there will be readers who remember these Hollywood idols very well, some who have a small inkling of who they were and others who unbelievably will be able to say--in all seriousness--"Clark who?" Those different experiences will make reading All the Stars in Heaven vary drastically between the groups. As one who fits in the middle category, I was drawn in and desperate to learn more. These down-to-earth, emotion-filled versions of glittery names are far more interesting than the gossip rags could ever conjure.
All the Stars in Heaven is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9780062319197) from Harper and as an unabridged audio (ISBN: 9780062419910) , narrated by Blair Brown, from HarperAudio
My review today is part of the TLC book tour for All the Stars in the Heavens. Check the schedule to see what other bloggers are saying about this divine account of Tinseltown's stars.
Disclosure: I do some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work with them does not obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.