Three years ago, I read a book called Beautiful Ruins on the recommendation of Cory. As he promised, I loved it. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter had elements that as a past Film Theory major/then publishing student, I loved: an epic, old-Hollywood romance that begun during the filming of a very real, very iconic film and spanned continents and decades.
It appears my taste in fiction hasn’t changed, as I could easily describe All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani similarly. Where the romance between the characters in Beautiful Ruins begins on the Amalfi coast during the filming of Cleopatra, All the Stars in the Heavens begins on the top of Mount Baker where Loretta Young and Clark Gable film The Call of the Wild. What sets these two lovers apart is not miscommunication and distance like in Beautiful Ruins, but the Motion Picture Production Code and their own personal values (or, in the case of Mr. Gable, lack-thereof).
But where Beautiful Ruins lets the “real people” play background characters, and focuses instead on Pascale and Dee Moray, All the Stars in the Heavens allows the real actors, and real events, to drive the plot. With meticulous research and beautiful detail, Trigiani paints a rich, historical landscape of 1930s Los Angeles and shows both the glamorous and the seedy world of a young actress hungry for fame and success.
Again, like Beautiful Ruins, there is a trip to Italy. And unwed mothers. And hidden family secrets. But perhaps the most unique and endearing part of Trigiani’s work is a story that’s told in parallel to the Young/Gable affair, of a former nun, who, forced to leave her convent, becomes Miss Young’s assistant. Alda experiences love, loss, heartbreak alongside Loretta, and though their situations mirror each other, they couldn’t be more different.
Despite its 450+ page-count, you’ll fly through All the Stars in the Heavens. Afterwards you will research the real lives and stories of the characters (both the good and the bad) that inspired this epic novel. Or you’ll re-watch Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams video, which is also scary-similar: