THE TESTAMENT OF JUDITH BARTON

Last time the world heard from Judy Barton she was tumbling out of the bell tower at Mission San Juan Bautista to her death, but it turns out the ethereal beauty of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece Vertigo has more to say.

Barton is telling her own tale this time around, and she’s just as frustratingly enigmatic as she ever was in the movies—but that turns out to be a good thing. Initially, the flat, first-person narrative feels bogged down in the banality of Barton’s pre-San Francisco existence. The years she spends growing up in America’s heartland in a picture-perfect nuclear family carry the verisimilitude of tranquility, and tragedy is a foregone conclusion. It takes a while to escape it all (or is that merely subterfuge, à la Alfred?), and there are layers of chaos roiling just below the calm, much like the Hitchcock classic itself. Authors Powers and McLeod have a lot to say about the suppression of women during America’s “Happy Days,” and they do so quite deftly. The plot picks up in the final third of the book as Barton’s date with the bell tower looms, and she’s revealed as the most fantastic cipher—most tragically to herself, and all but oblivious to the deepening depths of her own anger and desolation. All of which, sadly, makes her the perfect pigeon for Gavin Elster’s elaborate machinations to murder his wife and make it look like suicide. The authors could have easily used numerous inside references to the cinematic Vertigo but instead show restraint. (A Jake “Stewart” posing as a disappointing love interest for Barton shows up suspiciously at one point, but that’s about it.) Ultimately, this is a serious work. Barton doesn’t acquit herself a half century after her fatal plunge, but she does spread the blame around to where it belongs.   A multifaceted journey for devotees of Vertigo to contemplate and enjoy.

 

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615589848

Page Count: 181

Publisher: PM Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2012

Categories:

MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

Categories:

FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

Close Quickview