Monday, November 2, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "All the Stars in the Heavens" by Adriana Trigiani, Served with Torta Di Spaghetti

Today's TLC Book Tour stop takes us to 1930's Hollywood, with a brief stop in Italy. I am reviewing a sweeping novel inspired by some real events--"All the Stars in the Heavens" by Adriana Trigiani. Along with the review comes a recipe for a simple Torta di Spaghetti that is inspired by my reading--perfect for using up leftover pasta and a great meat-free Monday dinner. 

Publisher's Blurb:

Adriana Trigiani, the New York Times bestselling author of the blockbuster epic The Shoemaker’s Wife, returns with her biggest and boldest novel yet, a hypnotic tale based on a true story and filled with her signature elements: family ties, artistry, romance, and adventure. Born in the golden age of Hollywood, All the Stars in the Heavens captures the luster, drama, power, and secrets that could only thrive in the studio system—viewed through the lives of an unforgettable cast of players creating magic on the screen and behind the scenes.

In this spectacular saga as radiant, thrilling, and beguiling as Hollywood itself, Adriana Trigiani takes us back to Tinsel Town’s golden age—an era as brutal as it was resplendent—and into the complex and glamorous world of a young actress hungry for fame and success. With meticulous, beautiful detail, Trigiani paints a rich, historical landscape of 1930s Los Angeles, where European and American artisans flocked to pursue the ultimate dream: to tell stories on the silver screen.
The movie business is booming in 1935 when twenty-one-year-old Loretta Young meets thirty-four-year-old Clark Gable on the set of The Call of the Wild. Though he’s already married, Gable falls for the stunning and vivacious young actress instantly.

Far from the glittering lights of Hollywood, Sister Alda Ducci has been forced to leave her convent and begin a new journey that leads her to Loretta. Becoming Miss Young’s secretary, the innocent and pious young Alda must navigate the wild terrain of Hollywood with fierce determination and a moral code that derives from her Italian roots. Over the course of decades, she and Loretta encounter scandal and adventure, choose love and passion, and forge an enduring bond of love and loyalty that will be put to the test when they eventually face the greatest obstacle of their lives.

Anchored by Trigiani’s masterful storytelling that takes you on a worldwide ride of adventure from Hollywood to the shores of southern Italy, this mesmerizing epic is, at its heart, a luminous tale of the most cherished ties that bind. Brimming with larger-than-life characters both real and fictional—including stars Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, David Niven, Hattie McDaniel and more—it is it is the unforgettable story of one of cinema’s greatest love affairs during the golden age of American movie making.

Hardcover: 464 pages  
Publisher: Harper (October 13, 2015)

My Review: I have seen and occasionally picked up books by Adriana Trigiani but had never read one until All the Stars in the Heavens. I was pulled to this book by the description of the "golden age of Hollywood" and that it was based in part on a true story--or at least on some true facts--chiefly that Clark Gable and Loretta Young had a child together. I am a lifelong movie lover and a big fan of the classics, thanks in a good part to my parents, especially my dad. Growing up we had a set of movie books put out in the mid-1960s and my favorite was "All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!: A Pictorial History of the Movie Musical." I would pour over that book and it's many black and white photos of movie stars. There were other volumes on "bad guys," westerns, and foreign films and some volumes on particular stars like Judy Garland, Laurel & Hardy, Katherine Hepburn and Clark Gable. My dad always had a thing for Loretta Young too, so this book seemed right up my alley. 

All the Stars in the Heavens is an ambitious and epic story and Trigiani tells it well, making Hollywood and its stars come to life on the pages. As glittering as Hollywood was in its heyday, there was a lot that wasn't pretty going on behind the scenes. The studios ruled and the stars were securely tied to them with heavy contracts including strong morality clauses in place, ironic--since much bad behavior went on behind the scenes and everyone was sleeping with everyone--regardless of relationships or marriages. Most of it stayed under wraps or was only speculated about as a violation of a morals clause could be the end of an actress. Luckily for the stars, the 1930s and 1940s were in the days before not only the paparazzi, but everyone on the street, had the ability to snap and send out a picture of a celebrity at any time, so much of the gossip and innuendo stayed as rumors only and indiscretions were more easily covered up.

The book mostly follows the story of Loretta Young and Alda Ducci, two women from very different backgrounds who come together when Alda is asked to leave her convent and is then placed as Loretta's secretary and companion, reviewing her fan mail and assisting her on set. The two develop a strong friendship and Alda is witness to Loretta's habit of falling for her (married) co-stars, most notably Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. Meanwhile Alda, who ran to her California convent from a failed relationship in Italy, finds love with Luca Chetta, a scene painter working in the movie industry. Although the ups and downs of the Gable-Young love story and subsequent love-child, and Alda and Luca's romance bring love and passion to the forefront of the novel, to me the more important love story was the deep and long-lasting friendship between Loretta and Alda. That friendship and watching Alda navigate Hollywood, along with the constant parade of celebrities in and out of the story (David Niven, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow , and Carole Lombard to name a few), kept me turning the pages and engaged in the story.  

The story does meander quite a bit in its 450 or so pages, so it requires a patient reader. In fact, I  think you need to be the right reader to truly enjoy this book--someone who loves the movies, old Hollywood, and historical fiction. If you are like me and turn on the Turner Classic Movies and American Movie Classics channels when you want to escape back in time, you will enjoy getting caught up in All the Stars in Heaven and escaping to the sparkling Hollywood of yesteryear.

Author Notes: Adriana Trigiani is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. Her books include the New York Timesbestseller The Shoemaker’s Wife; the Big Stone Gap series; Very Valentine; Brava, Valentine; Lucia, Lucia; and the bestselling memoir Don’t Sing at the Table, as well as the young adult novels Viola in Reel Life and Viola in the Spotlight. She wrote the screenplay for Big Stone Gap, which she also directed. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.
Visit Adriana at her website:, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Food Inspiration:

There was some food inspiration in All the Stars in Heaven. Although set in Hollywood, the food Loretta Young's family enjoyed was the homey fare made by their longtime cook Ruby like pork roast, biscuits, and pie. Stew was the on-set meal that was served most often when Gable and Young were shooting Call of the Wild in the mountains of Washington and Gable and the crew were getting tired of it. There were also some restaurant mentions and care-packages of different ingredients and See's Chocolates sent to Loretta on set by her family.

I took my inspiration from Italian food--although it had not yet "caught on" in America (and Clark Gable had never had spaghetti) in 1935--when Alda, Luca, and Loretta cook dinner on location with ingredients from Loretta's Birthday care-package. Italian food was plentiful in the book between the dinner, Loretta's time with Ada's family in Italy hiding her pregnancy, and Alda and Luca's visit to his family in Brooklyn.

"My mother used to say, if you have a lemon, a clove of garlic, some salt, olive oil, and spaghetti, that's all you need to live." Luca stirred the sauce.

"What about cheese?" Loretta placed the wedge of Parmesan on the counter. 

"Love it. But cheese is a luxury. Somebody has to make it. It takes time. Pasta, you can make from scratch if you have flour and eggs. Lemons--if you live in California, they're everywhere. Garlic, that keeps well, and olive oil--well a home without olive oil is not a home. It's just a place where people sleep."
-All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani

I was going to recreate the spaghetti in olive oil (and butter, lemon & Parmesan) that Luca made for dinner but I recently made and posted a similar dish for another book review. Instead, I kept many of the same ingredients and rustic feel and turned to one of my favorite cookbook authors Tessa Kiros for a slight variation (my changes are noted in red below) of her Torta Di Spaghetti recipe. Nothing says comfort like a fried spaghetti "pancake." I could see Luca or Alda's family making this from their leftovers.

Torta Di Spaghetti 
Adapted From Recipes and Dreams From An Italian Life by Tessa Kiros
(Serves 4)

4 1/4 cups leftover cooked pasta (9 oz uncooked)
2 1//2 Tbsp olive oil
(I added 2 cloves garlic, minced)
4 eggs
5 Tbsp shredded Parmesan, plus a little extra, to serve (optional)
a few herbs, chopped
(I added black pepper)
(I added the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon)

Have the cooked pasta at room temperature. Heat the oil in a 10 1/2-inch nonstick pan and swizzle it around. (I added minced garlic and cooked it until translucent before adding the spaghetti.)

Add the pasta, flattening it like a neat nest. Whip the eggs in a bowl with a little salt (I added lemon juice and black pepper to the eggs). Pour out evenly over the pasta and stir to make sure all the pasta is coated. Flatten again. Pan-fry for a couple of minutes, then scatter the Parmesan and herbs evenly over the top. Cook for a couple of minutes more, until the egg is set and a bit crusty in places. Pot on the lid and leave the pan off the heat for 5 minutes or longer, so the cheese melts a bit.

Loosen the edges with a wooden spatula, slipping it all the way underneath to make sure nothing is stuck. Have a large plate ready. Put the lid on the pan and flip the pan over so the torta is upside down on the lid. Now put the serving plate upside down over the torta and flip it back over with as much finesse as you can manage. Cut slices with a sharp knife and serve with a spatula. Serve hot with an extra scattering of Parmesan (and black pepper) if you like. 

Notes/Results: Another one of those recipes that I don't know why I have never made it before. It's so good! I frequently have leftover pasta (although I just cooked pasta fresh for this one) and this is a great way to use it up. I made a half recipe in my small pan and added in some garlic and lemon to keep with the spaghetti mentioned in the book. I love the crunchy underside of the spaghetti cake and the cheesy goodness of the topping. Satisfying and delicious--I will make this again.

Note: A review copy of "All the Stars in the Heavens" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.



  1. I can't believe I've never made torta, what with all the pasta I make in my house. I'll have to remember to give this a try sometime.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  2. I don't know if that book would be for me but that pasta had my attention from the beginning. I love pasta and wish I could eat it more but you know...,moderation!

  3. Mmm, yum! I haven't read this Trigiani book yet, but I've read several of her other ones and they always make me crave Italian food :) I also love the cookbook she published with family recipes and stories. It's a good one.

    Great review!


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