Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: All the Stars in the Heavens

Title: All the Stars in the Heavens
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Publisher: 1 January 2016 by Simon and Schuster Australia
Pages: 464 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, romance, Hollywood, drama
My Rating: 5 cups


Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Spencer Tracy, David Niven, Carole Lombard lead a magnificent cast of characters, real and imagined, in Adriana Trigiani's new novel set in the rich landscape of 1930s' Los Angeles. 
In this spectacular saga as radiant, thrilling and beguiling as Hollywood itself, Trigiani takes us back to the golden age of movie-making and into the complex and glamorous world of a young actress hungry for fame, success - and love. With meticulous, beautiful detail, she paints a rich landscape, where European and American artisans flocked to pursue the ultimate dream: to tell stories on the silver screen. 

My Thoughts

Get comfy .... this review may take awhile. 

"All the Stars in the Heavens" is about the Golden Years of Hollywood: Clark Gable, David Niven, Spencer Tracy, and Loretta Young just to name a few. Reading it felt like being transported back to that time in history, or at the very least, sitting enthralled as if I were watching a riveting black and white movie of the time. And what a perfect title for this book, for it reads just like a movie. 

Now, the details. 

Firstly, you have to appreciate the Golden Years of Hollywood. I love this period in history (thanks to my Mother) and to see the more private side of such unforgettable characters was fascinating. For example: the scene on set with Clark Gable and Hattie McDaniel on the set of the 1937 Saratoga movie (where Jean Harlow died - Googled that - one of many that you will upon reading this book) was most memorable. And that is just one of many factual episodes that Trigiani details. It's poignant at this stage to pause and think about the amount of research that Trigiani must have gone into and, that then begs the question, how much of the story is fiction versus fact? More of that in a moment. 

Although the focus is on Hollywood 1930s, it does jump around a bit (especially towards the end - large jumps along the timeline) but I found it all just so engrossing, that I was prepared to overlook these shortcomings. Trigiani introduces you to the leading actors, their glamourous lifestyles but, also, the double edged sword of just how controlling the studios were and the hypocrisy that existed. This was a reflection of the tragic side of movie making - it's not all bells and whistles. 

"The studio controlled the actors' public and private life. Their personal time was not their own."

Now to the controversy (have a look at the Goodreads reviews!). Let me state from the outset, this is a work of fiction. Yes, factual people and events, but just one persons interpretation. Take that for what it is - and I found it fascinating, for Trigiani can write. You will laugh, you will cry and you will be enchanted. 

"She knew that when the bubble burst, the snow globe would shatter like blown glass, and there would be no putting the picture inside back together."

Reviewers have made Trigiani's tale a battle between 'true love' versus 'date rape' (story bought to light a couple of months ago, a recalled conversation with Young who died over 15 years ago) I don't want to get into that discussion, for those answers, we will never know. I am here to discuss what I found to be a really interesting book. Any book that has you running to Google to check places and faces is good. I was hooked. The novel takes real people and imagines what might have gone on behind closed doors. Creating dialogue for characters who were real people fascinates me. You would have to be naive to not appreciate that artistic liberties were taken with the storyline and of course, things may have been very different. However, I can tell you I enjoyed my time researching all of these characters and movies just as much as reading the story. 

"Powerless to change the circumstances, she plowed ahead, believing that someday the entire situation would change for the better."

I grabbed this book having read Trigiani before, and with the added attraction of Clark Gable and Loretta Young's tumultuous love affair, which I knew nothing about. I loved reading about them and many others - Spencer Tracy (his family situation), Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, David Niven and even Young's delightful sisters -  all who are long gone. Their lives, their loves, their flaws, their joys, their hopes, their sorrows - became mine. I felt angry at Young, felt sorry for Gable, then felt empathy for Young. 

"Loretta would explain why she had to hide the truth on paper. She was protecting her baby, Clark Gable's career, her own livelihood, and the reputation of her family."

A fascinating read that had me thinking long after I turned the last page. I highly recommended it and congratulate Adriana Trigiani on another winning book. I couldn't put this down and suffered badly from withdrawals upon completion, that's how involved I had become. 

"You know, Sister, we think we have the luxury of time. We figure that there will always be a moment to have the conversation that we meant to have, and then the moment passes and it's too late."

ps. this is similar to 'A Touch of Stardust' (click on title to go to our review of that book) that involved some of the above mentioned actors also.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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