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Mercury Pictures Presents

A Novel

by Anthony Marra

Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra X
Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2022, 432 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2023, 448 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Reviews

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There are currently 15 reader reviews for Mercury Pictures Presents
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Kevin D.

An Exquisite Wartime Tale
“Mercury Pictures Presents” is a magnificent tribute to the immigrant community and their contributions to the nation’s war propaganda efforts in Hollywood during the 1940s. The cast of characters include architects, poets, actors, carpenters, screenwriters, as well as a very entertaining group of older Italian aunts who make up Maria’s support network. Each of these are a story unto themselves and the author has dedicated ample space for each.

Expertly written, “Mercury Pictures Presents” by Anthony Marra is a tale that weaves itself across two continents and through several decades with a style that incorporates both wit and thoughtfulness. At once both excruciatingly painful and delightfully humorous, it is a unique story that reminds us we are a nation of immigrants who have each contributed to the rich and colorful tapestry of American history.
Bettie T

Wild Ride
Mercury Pictures Presents is a wild ride through 1930’s and 1940’s Hollywood and Italy. I was privileged to read an advance copy through Net Gallery, and it was a fun read for someone who enjoys historical fiction. I learned a lot about that era of which thought I had a fair understanding. Marra packs a lot of information in his rapid fire descriptions of life at that time. The characters are quirky, not without their faults, but draw our sympathy and empathy. He highlights issues, such as discrimination and fake news, that may have been swept under the rug at the time, but are topical today. The story is largely about an ambitious young Italian-American woman, who immigrated to the US as a young girl with her mother when her father had fallen into political disfavor. They make their way to Los Angeles, where our heroine grows up and becomes a talented, though under-recognized, movie producer with a small film company that lands some big contracts from the War Department for propaganda movies. We see her dealing with issues at work, at home and with her memories of her father in Italy, all while history marches on. A witty and entertaining book.
Laxman Shrikonda

The World War II Hollywood setting is colorful.
An ambitious young Italian woman makes her way among the émigrés of 1930s and ’40s Hollywood.

Maria Lagana has come to Los Angeles after her father is sentenced to confino—internal exile—for his anti-fascist advocacy in Mussolini’s Italy. Living with her mother in the Italian American neighborhood of Lincoln Heights—also home to a trio of no-nonsense great-aunts forever dressed in black—Maria finds work as a typist at Mercury Pictures International, working in the office of studio head Artie Feldman, a fast-talking showman with a collection of toupées for every occasion. In time, the letters from her father stop, and Maria becomes an associate producer, Artie’s trusted right hand, as well as the secret lover of Eddie Lu, a Chinese American actor relegated to roles as Japanese villains. When a young Italian immigrant turns up at her door introducing himself as Vincent Cortese, Maria’s past—and the mystery of what happened to her father—crashes into her present. Like the author’s earlier novels, the award-winning A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013) and The Tsar of Love and Techno (2015), this one builds a discrete world and shows how its denizens are shaped—often warped—by circumstance. But the Hollywood setting feels overfamiliar and the characters curiously uninvolving. While the prose frequently sings, there are also ripely overwritten passages: At a party, the “thunking heels of lindy-hopping couples dimpled the boozy air”; fireworks are described as a “molten asterisk in the heavens to which the body on the ground is a footnote.”
Carol N

WWII movie epic
When I choose this book from BookBrowse’s First Impressions and Book Club Program, I thought it would be a novel about the movie/movie studio business. It was to some point, but not what I had expected. The book focuses on a group of European immigrants casted together at a “B” Studio, it begins in pre-WWII Italy and continues through wartime Los Angeles. It deals mainly with Maria, who has left Italy under Mussolini’s rule, her father’s imprisonment, and her rocky relationship with her mother. She rises from the typing pool to associate producer at Mercury Pictures, a B-movie studio with aspirations to play with the big boys at MGM, Warner Brothers, Paramount. The studio execs, Artie and Ned Feldman, don't let a shady deal pass them by and soon they are being called to testify before Congress for violating censorship protocol. The novel contains many flashbacks to Italy and her father’s exile, however the only character I had any attachment to was Maria’s Chinese American actor boyfriend who is constantly denied the roles he needs to play and becomes a victim of the raging racism of Hollywood.

This novel was a definite struggle for me. Too many story lines, too many characters and an extremely slow-moving plot I found myself putting the book down and not anxious to pick it up again. The author is a very skilled writer perhaps too much so. He often lost me in the second portion of the book as he ambles too many paths and into characters, I was not invested in.
Toby Jill Galinkin

Drifting away......
In spite of all the accolades, I simply could not enter the realm of this book in spite of my efforts..The first quarter held my imagination but then I kept drifting off and losing all interest in the men's stories...I tried, I really did but had to close it halfway and give up.
Power Reviewer
Techeditor

You may be disappointed
Anthony Marra‘s A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA was so wonderful that I read his second book, THE TSAR OF LOVE AND TECHNO, without bothering to first read its reviews. So I was disappointed; it did not measure up to CONSTELLATION. Still, when his most recent book, MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS, came out, I bought it. And, again, it doesn’t measure up to CONSTELLATION. “Fool me twice, shame on me."

If you want to read MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS because you loved CONSTELLATION, be warned that you will be disappointed.
Power Reviewer
Techeditor

My warning
Anthony Marra‘s A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA was so wonderful that I read his second book, THE TSAR OF LOVE AND TECHNO, without bothering to first read its reviews. So I was disappointed; it did not measure up to CONSTELLATION. Still, when his most recent book, MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS, came out, I bought it. And, again, it doesn’t measure up to CONSTELLATION “Fool me twice, shame on me."

If you want to read MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS because you loved CONSTELLATION, be warned that you will be disappointed.
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