I confess. I forgot about this book. Not that I read and forgot it. But that I received it from the publisher some months before and then left it lying around and it got lost in my stacks of books. So I panicked when I got the email about the blog tour – and my post was due in four days!!
Luckily, I found the book. It was in the pile of books by my table that I thought I had looked at, but it turns out I didn’t really and there it was, right at the bottom, where it really didn’t belong.
And also, it was such a great read that I blew through it effortlessly, after an initial slow start. I had struggled with my previous book tour (The Yard – you can read my review), so I was just relieved that this one was more readable.
I requested to be on this book tour because I remember really liking one of Livesey’s previous books, Eva Moves the Furniture, a strange ghostly read about love and loneliness.
Mercury was a rather different read. It opens, slowly, with Donald, an optometrist recounting his move from Scotland to Boston when he was a child, his relationship with his wife Viv and her running of Windy Hill, a riding stable, where Mercury, a dapple-grey Thoroughbred, “the most beautiful animal Viv had ever seen” has just been boarded.
Donald’s words have a bit of an ominous tone:
“Looking back over the months following his departure, I can see that I lost track of certain things.”
And the truth is, I wasn’t really sure where Livesey was taking us, where she was bringing Donald and his family. But just as his part of the story is ending and Viv takes up the narration, things all click into place. And there it is, the something that happens (no I’m not going to tell you more than that), and the way it plays with their lives. Regret. Hesitation. Uncertainty.
The synopsis (you can read it here at Goodreads) describes the book as an “emotional thriller” but I feel like putting the word “thriller” tends to make one think of life and death situations, lots of screaming and chasing and mayhem. So if you’re coming into this book thinking “thriller! Yes!”, well sorry, that’s not really it.
But to me, this book was, in its own way, thrilling, it had a quiet intensity to it that hit home because it was a book about consequences, about how the actions (or non-action) of ordinary people can lead to such unexpected results. There are a lot of nagging ‘what if I had done this’ thoughts throughout the story. And it made me wonder, what if this were me? What if a loved one had done something like this? What would I do? Could I still love that person? Would that even matter?
Mercury is an unforgettable story about relationships and second chances, about desire and ambition. It is thrilling and haunting in its own way, and hits home in its sharp look at moral dilemmas.
For me, the deeper meaning of a novel often emerges slowly. I try to make the characters and the situations vivid and gradually, as they come into focus, I begin to understand what it is I’m moving towards, what lies at the heart of the novel.
And that’s the beauty behind Mercury.
Margot Livesey is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Flight of Gemma Hardy, The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Vogue, and the Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Born in Scotland, Livesey currently lives in the Boston area and is a professor of fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
I received this book for review from its publisher HarperCollins, as part of a TLC Book Tour