All the Stars in the Heavens: A Novel

Image of All the Stars in the Heavens: A Novel
Release Date: 
October 13, 2015
Harper Collins
Reviewed by: 

There is something about really good fiction that brings out the voyeur in the reader, eagerly peeping through a window into another world. And where better to peep than into the golden years of Hollywood with all its glamour?

This story captures the true story of the romance between Hollywood movie star Loretta Young and screen legend Clark Gable, a heart breaking romance embellished with all the compelling intricacies that have become Adriana Trigiani’s signature.

We begin by getting to know Alda Ducci, a young, failed nun from a convent where unmarried and disgraced Catholic single mothers are sent to deliver their babies. As soon as the child is born, the innocent infant is whisked away to a family carefully selected by the nuns.  

When Alda pleads the case for one sorrowful young mother to be allowed to keep her child, she is dismissed before her final vows and sent to work as a secretary to a Hollywood family, the Youngs. And so Alda’s indoctrination into the world of Hollywood’s dazzling, romantic excesses begins.

Loretta Young’s life is a tapestry embroidered with romantic twists and turns from the outset. Abandoned by her father, the former child actress morphed into a beautiful screen star with a reputation for falling in love with her leading men, and despite being a devout Catholic she fell for the (married) Spencer Tracy.

Ultimately, she couldn’t go through with destroying her marriage and was delighted to win a coveted role playing opposite the screen legend Clark Gable. Leaving the Hollywood glitter behind her, Loretta headed off with Alda Ducci by her side to the remote locations for filming Call of the Wild with the determination not to fall in love with the already married Mr Gable. No prizes for guessing the outcome.

Alda remains true to herself and her faith, and becomes Miss Young’s confidant and conscience. She falls in love with a scene painter, and her own tale of heartache and excitement is interwoven with the life of her boss and her luminaries, like the mischievous young English actor David Niven, who is beautifully drawn. 

If you strip away the Hollywood fizz and the inevitable drama befitting a story about movie stars, this is ultimately a heartrending story of loves lost and thwarted. In reality (as in the book) Miss Young gave birth to Gable’s daughter, raising her as her “adopted” child. Few knew the truth for many years, so earth-shattering was the stigma in those bygone days of a single mother having a child, let alone by a married man.

The pace feels as though it slackens after the revelation of Miss Young’s illegitimate daughter. The timeline then skips and jumps, perhaps leaving the reader hungry for more detail. Overall though, reading this book is like indulging in a naughty, sweet confection: it may be full of sugar and a little sickly at times, but nevertheless you can’t stop consuming it.