Golden Hour Books

Barbara: A Novel by Joni Murphy (2/18/25)

Barbara: A Novel by Joni Murphy (2/18/25)

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Like Nolan's Oppenheimer by way of Lucia Berlin, a radiant novel tracking the lifecycle of a silver screen starlet rising against the backdrop of the mid-20th century.

Barbara is born shortly before World War II and lives through the conflict as a desert child trailing her father, an engineer in the famed and infamous Manhattan Project. When Barbara is thirteen, her beautiful, sensitive mother commits suicide. From that point on, these twin poles-the historic and the personal, the political and the violently intimate-vie for control of Barbara's consciousness. As Barbara grows up and becomes a successful actress, traveling the world between film sets and love affairs, she takes on and sheds various roles-vampire's victim and frontier prostitute; a saint and a bored housewife. She marries and divorces and marries again, the second time to a visionary director who proves to be the love of her life. Though they are not faithful to each other, their relationship provides the most enduring anchor in a remarkable life turbulent with fiction. Joni Murphy's Barbara is a deep character study of a woman losing hold and recapturing her identity through the art and technology of moviemaking. Through an intimate first-person perspective, the novel follows Barbara as she navigates decades and genres-from austere 1950s family dramas to countercultural 1970s gothics-glimpsing herself in the reflective and deadly shards of the long 20th Century. 

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