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BOOK REVIEW: All The Stars In The Heavens by Adriana Trigiani

| 20 May 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: All The Stars In The Heavens by Adriana Trigiani

Simon & Schuster
January 2016
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Alternate History / Historical Fiction

6 /10

All The Stars In The Heavens - Adriana Trigiani

In the interests of full disclosure, it must be said that this reviewer is not one for syrupy melodrama, nor any shade of ‘chick lit’, which All The Stars In The Heavens most certainly is. It was the Golden Age of Hollywood which drew me into this book: a look behind the scenes of movie making at some of the stars and personalities that made the movies of the 1930’s so important.

Be aware that spoilers follow – though none you can’t find in five minutes on Wikipedia or a hundred other websites.

Trigiani promises a sumptuous retelling of the lifetime love affair between movie star Loretta Young – a former child star of the silent era who went on to be one of the biggest box office smashes of the pre-war era, and Clark Gable – the one-time King of Hollywood.

Instead, what she delivers is a somehow jerky tale of a serial womaniser onto his second marriage and the naïve woman – twelve years his junior – who falls for his charm and indulges in an on-set affair, then pines for him for the rest of her life. She also has ridiculously grand visions of him suddenly abandoning his lifetime wanton ways and magically becoming a model Catholic husband and father to the child, Judy, she had in secret by him then ‘adopted’ in order to protect her reputation and career against the hypocritical morality of the day.

Trigiani redeems herself with some evocative writing, and her research of her subject is impeccable and mostly believable. Actors Spencer Tracy, David Niven and more cycle through Young’s life, alongside her three sisters and former convent novice-turned-secretary and best friend Alda. It’s the repeated lapses into Mills & Boon-esque fancy, and the near-complete disregard of world events like the War that detract from the story.

There’s also the little matter of whether Judy was conceived consensually or – as is claimed by many – Gable raped Young. With the main players all having taken that secret to their graves, we may never tell the truth, and perhaps Trigiani wants to (and wants us to) believe the fantasy… but if Young’s real-life claims of rape to her daughter-in-law Linda Lewis WERE true, is this sugar-coating of the story doing a disservice to women’s rights, and tacitly perpetuating the hypocritical misogyny of the times, where a man could dominate a woman however he liked with barely an eyelid being bat about it?

We can’t help thinking that Trigiani’s obvious talents could have been put to better use focussing on a story that is publically acknowledged to be a true romance, or at the very least make some kind of acknowledgement of her position on the issue rather than ignoring it in favour of the fantasy.

As my own postscript to this review, I will acknowledge that all of this makes it very difficult to award a rating for this book. The rape claims are unproven, and damning if true: but I wouldn’t want to take either side in any kind of false authority. As such the rating I have given the book is purely for its literary merits, and not in any way taking into account the possibility of Trigiani’s book trying to gloss over a potentially vile crime.

Category: Book Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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