Summary and book reviews of Mercury by Margot Livesey

Mercury

by Margot Livesey

Mercury by Margot Livesey X
Mercury by Margot Livesey
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2016, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2017, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Gary Presley

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Book Summary

A taut emotional thriller about love, obsession and the secrets that pull a family apart.

Donald believes he knows all there is to know about seeing. An optician in suburban Boston, he rests assured that he and his wife, Viv, who works at the local stables, will live out quiet lives with their two children. Then Mercury - a gorgeous young racehorse - enters their lives and everything changes.

Viv's friend Hilary has inherited Mercury from her brother after his mysterious death - he was riding Mercury late one afternoon and the horse returned to the stables alone. When Hilary first brings Mercury to board at the stables everyone there is struck by his beauty and prowess, particularly Viv. As she rides him, Viv dreams of competing with Mercury, rebuilding the ambitions of grandeur that she held for herself before moving to the suburbs. But her daydreams soon morph into consuming desire, and her infatuation with the thoroughbred quickly escalates to obsession.

By the time Donald understands the change that has come over Viv, it is too late to stop the impending fate that both their actions have wrought for them and their loved ones. A beautifully crafted, riveting novel about the ways in which relationships can be disrupted and, ultimately, destroyed by obsession, secrets and ever-escalating lies.

5

My father used to claim we were distantly related to Robert Louis Stevenson, and as a teenager, I had a phase of reading his work. Safe in my bedroom in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I delighted in his tales of adventure and wickedness, particularly The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. So I can report that Dr. Stevenson did not that evening meet Mr. Hyde at the crossroads, but he did glimpse some dark part of himself. Even as I followed Viv down Green Street, across Herbert and onto Milton, I was turning away from the street of honesty, and heading down the avenue of duplicity.

Inside the house Trina ran to find her mother. From the kitchen I heard her voice, then Viv's, then the sound of the shower. I turned on the oven again. By the time Viv came downstairs, Marcus had laid the table, the pizza was hot, and I had put together a salad.

"I'm so sorry," she said, hurrying into the room, her damp hair falling almost to her waist. "I only just got your message, and ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The pace flows along sharply, the most affecting portions being Donald’s remembered interactions with his ill father, a man who faced his destruction with grace and good humor. And the novel’s conflict is real. A solid marriage is first torpedoed by the distractions of illness, causing one partner to be inadvertently shut out, and then sinking because of a partner’s different blind obsession. Jealousies are unspoken, and loneliness is unexpressed, as so often happens when a marriage is on autopilot. The Stevensons' have two children, both written with distinctive personalities, but each are only sounding boards rather than active characters involved in the storyline.   (Reviewed by Gary Presley).

Full Review (596 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Livesey's skillful play with the title's many meanings - trickster god of speed, diagnostic aid, minor planet, deadly poison - gives her narrative a rich imagery that interweaves seamlessly with its textured evocation of everyday life.

Booklist
Told from both Donald's and Viv's perspectives, best-selling Livesey's (The Flight of Gemma Hardy, 2012) story of loyalty, deceit, ambition, and moral ambiguity is a read-in-one-sitting, sublimely nuanced psychological exploration of personal ethics and responsibility ideal for book-discussion groups

Library Journal
Livesey has written a tangled morality tale not about a horse but about a marriage and friendships disintegrating under the steady drip of secrets and half-truths. There's plenty for discussion here.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A sharply sketched supporting cast adds to the depth and cumulative power of this grimly great novel. Uncharacteristically dark, yet more evidence of Livesey's formidable gifts

Author Blurb Lily King, author of Euphoria
Mercury explores that thrilling, terrifying moment when grief turns blind, when passion becomes obsession. As always, Livesey tells her tale masterfully, with intelligence, tenderness and a shrewd understanding of all our mercurial human impulses.

Author Blurb Julia Glass, author of And The Dark Sacred Night
No one plumbs the depths of ordinary human folly and its consequences like the brilliantly perceptive Margot Livesey. Be prepared: Mercury will take you on quite a ride.

Author Blurb Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
This powerful novel reveals the fragility of life when tested by the shock of genuine passion.

Author Blurb Claire Messud, author of The Woman Upstairs
The mid-life crisis takes many forms, some familiar, some wildly unexpected. Livesey, in her riveting novel Mercury, portrays a couple in their season of crisis. Patiently, precisely, she unfolds the layers of their drama, at once quiet and extreme. She'll make you wonder how well you know your spouse.

Author Blurb Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit From The Goon Squad
A haunting, meticulous inquiry into the nature of blindness - its insidious power to corrupt marital trust, even between those with perfect vision. Margot Livesey is a searingly intelligent writer at the height of her powers.

Author Blurb Dennis Lehane, author of World Gone By
Mercury is as luminous, unforgettable, and perfectly rendered as only Margot Livesey can accomplish. I only wished it were twice as long.

Reader Reviews

Michael Haughton

mercury by Margot Livesey
I deliberately entered my review with this summary clearly displayed in the next paragraph below. Because scrutinizing the writers way of telling how a story plot is done. Must be seen clearly as i will go through each paragraph with open eyes. ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Thoroughbreds

In Mercury, when Donald Stevenson sees the horse for the first time he says, "Mercury, true to his name, was unmistakably hot-blooded. The lines of his body, the arch of his neck, the rise and fall of his stride...were...beautiful."

Byerly TurkHorses, like dogs, are defined by breeds, and each have their own traits and purposes. Mercury is a Thoroughbred, and that breed, while commonly used in horse racing, also competes in show jumping, dressage, and other equine sports. Additionally, Thoroughbreds are part of the foundation of the American Quarter Horse, a western horse used for working cattle, racing, and pleasure riding.

While no one can say for certain, the breed can be traced, supposedly, to three horses imported to England, each named for...

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