The Testament of Judith Barton
The Testament of Judith Barton: A Novel by Wendy Powers and Robin McLeod takes the reader into the life and mind of Judith Barton, the pivotal character in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film Vertigo. The novel fills in the back story of how Barton arrived at the intriguing place she did—as a body double for Gavin Elster’s wife Madeleine. Powers and McLeod do justice to the character of Judith and her humble Salina, Kansas, beginnings. In the novel, which holds a cinematic structure as a brief prologue followed by three acts, readers become steeped in Judith’s early life in part one, including her begrudging interest in acting in school plays with her slightly older sister. The authors establish Judith’s strong relationships with her family and the changes they are forced to overcome. Powers and McLeod set Judith’s life in faster motion as she drives out of Kansas alongside her sister. Our protagonist has a bold streak and, in Act Two, she ends up in San Francisco.
Powers and McLeod heat up the plot in this act as Judith becomes a single, independent woman—no easy feat during the 1950s in an unfamiliar city while trusting strangers. But Judith succeeds in finding an apartment and job. Throughout the novel, there are specks of sibling rivalry between Judith and Maggie and these don’t disappear with Judith’s independence. But the simple story gets decidedly sinister and more complicated as Gavin Elster appears on the novel’s pages. The complications intensify as the reader sadly realizes that the direction this Judith’s life is going is parallel to the Judith in Hitchcock’s suspenseful movie, Vertigo.
Powers and McLeod produce a solid novel of Judith’s assumed life. Although some sections are slower paced than others, Hitchcock fans will appreciate this homage to one of his classic and complex heroines.
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