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Mercury: A Novel by Margot Livesey
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Mercury: A Novel

by Margot Livesey

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
a great disappointment. terrible plot made worse by stupid twists. unlikeable characters. strong, strong attachments to horses which i am not interested in. ( )
  mahallett | Jun 29, 2017 |
Mercury by Margot Livesey is a 2016 Harper publication.

This book has cropped up on my radar several times in the last several weeks. I have so many books in my TBR pile, I really didn’t need to add another library book on top of that, plus readers seemed to have a mixed response to it. Yet, every time I read the blurb, I found myself intrigued more and more, so I relented and checked it out.

The phrase ‘compulsively readable’ came to mind when I started reading this book. Donald’s first person narrative sucked me into the story right away and I just couldn't stop reading.

As the clever cover art hints at, Donald is an optometrist, originally from Scotland, married with two children. But, when his father passes away after a lengthy illness, Donald experiences intense grief, while his wife, Viv, seems to experience relief. Not only that, a new love has entered Viv’s life… no, it’s not another man… it’s a horse.

Viv also get a turn at telling her side of things, but her voice is not as heartfelt, or as poignant as Donald’s and of course by the time she gets her say, I knew things about her that made it hard to sympathize.

While the book is placed in the mystery, crime, thriller category, it’s not just about the crime. It’s about what leads up to it that makes the book hard to put down. Donald is great at dropping little ‘If only I had known then, what I know now’ statements that gives the reader hints and causes much speculation, creating an atmosphere of foreboding.

This is another one of those books, though, that if you are anticipating the usual thriller format, you will find yourself becoming very frustrated. It is not until very deep into the book that the crime is revealed, along with the motive. From there the fallout revolves around the couple's crisis of conscience.

For me, it’s a portrait of a marriage, as much as it is about a crime. The secrets they keep, the complacency and neglect that leads, in no small part to jealousy, obsession, and a need to recapture something lost, and eventually about accountability. While this is interesting if you enjoy breaking down the complexities of marriage, it is a slow moving story, and the ending is not at all satisfying.

I have mixed feelings about the book, overall. It started off strong, but lost significant ground during the last quarter of the book and ended up falling a little flat.

If you are looking for a traditional crime novel, this one might not be exactly what you are looking for, but it's worth a look if you are a fan of this author or you enjoy reading contemporary fiction or literature.

Overall 3 stars ( )
  gpangel | Mar 19, 2017 |
This is an OK marital drama focusing on how certain conditions in a marital relationship can cause an interest to turn into an obsession, and how two people drifting apart make things worse through their secrets and lies. It portrays a crisis in a marriage -- two partners who, partly because of the sacrifices they have made (Donald to quit his work as a surgeon, Viv to move to the suburbs and devote more time to motherhood than to work), keep hidden resentments toward the other, which fester and lead to duplicities, secrets, and worse.

The center of the drama is Viv's increasing preoccupation with a horse in her care, the Mercury of the title. The drama is understated at first, with Donald narrating the story after the fact. The narration is divided into 3 parts: Donald's, addressed to the reader, Viv's, addressed to Donald, and then back to Donald. I didn't quite see the point of the different POVS's; Viv doesn't really present a vastly different picture of events from her end than Donald does, and I'm not sure why the author saw it necessary to have her address her husband.

Donald's narration is full of measured observations, with just a little too much foreshadowing, with lines in the vein of "had I only known then what I know now," often several times in a chapter. This definitely keeps the reader reading, but I found that the plot that unfolded didn't quite live up to the foreboding Donald presents early on.

Donald is an eye doctor, and the seeing-related metaphors are a bit heavy-handed at times. The name "Mercury" does triple-duty as the name of the horse, the name of a Roman god, as well as a substance that can cause blindness. The reflections on sight and eye-related metaphors scream out to the reader, "Get it??"

There is an excessive almost snobbish, self-righteous anti-gun rhetoric here which is heavy-handed as well and turned me off. ( )
1 vote ChayaLovesToRead | Feb 15, 2017 |
Mercury, Margot Livesey, author; Derek Perkins, Nicol Zanzarella, narrators
This book was about a host of characters that never seemed to grow up. Even when they became adults and parents, they reverted to childish behavior, using outright lies and lies of omission, secrets, and excuses to avoid responsibility for their irresponsible behavior, in order to satisfy their own wishes. Often, they had no regard for the outcomes, never even thinking about what they might be. Self-serving would be an accurate description of most of them; selfish would be an accurate description of the rest. They seemed to be frequently disappointed with something that had affected their lives and had a difficult time adjusting to most situations with grace.
Donald opened the narrative by revealing his background, first in Scotland and later on in Massachusetts. Employment moved his parents from Europe to America, and after some years of traveling back and forth, they decided to remain. Don had a very close friend, Robert, but unable to cope with the idea of the move and separation from his friend, he left his letters unread and unanswered. This behavior became a character trait as he grew up. Avoiding his problems by pretending they didn’t exist became a habit.
Donald began his career as an Ophthalmologist when Viv, a mutual fund manager met him, serendipitously, on a train. Sometime later, they were married. Don’s father, who had Parkinson’s Disease, took a turn for the worse and Don decided to move closer to his parents, change careers and open a business. He became an Optometrist. His father was a stickler for following rules, a whistleblower at times, regardless of the consequences, and his mother was devoted to him. Don was devoted to both of them. After his father died, Don became the caretaker of his charming parrot named Nabokov. I thought the bird would have had more of an impact on the story than it did, but the parrot did provide a lightness to the tale.
Viv’s parents were divorced. They lived on opposite sides of America. She was not close to either of them. Don and the children were her everything. Viv had never wanted to live in Suburbia with the Republicans and the rednecks, but she agreed to try it. As a young girl, she had loved horses and had been a fairly good rider. After obtaining a job at a stable, working with a close childhood friend, Claudia, she became increasingly involved with one particular horse named Mercury. Perhaps, because of the lack of closeness she had with her parents, and the growing distance between Don and her, she became obsessed with a magnificent horse she wished to train and enter into competitions. Mercury was the bay owned by Hilary whose daughter Diane was a patient of Don’s. Hilary had inherited the horse after her brother Michael died. Although she did not ride him, she arranged to have him properly cared for at the stable run by Claudia and Viv. It was how she kept her connection to her brother alive. Hilary also knew Don’s very good friend Jack, and as events unfolded, all of their lives would be severely impacted by their selfish needs, their secrets and their lies. None of them seemed to fully embrace the idea of sacrifice or loyalty, but rather they harvested the seeds of envy and watched them grow.
After Don’s father passed away, he grew ever more distant at home, sometimes even fantasizing about another woman. Although he appeared to be listening and engaging with his family, he was really distracted and paying little attention to their messages. Although Viv sensed his shutting down, she was so wrapped up in her own needs, she did little to help him. They were both traveling in opposite directions and they grew further apart as she grew closer to the horse she had fallen in love with. This overpowering love had a powerful effect on all of the characters as the story developed.
Without revealing more of the story than necessary, suffice it to say that it seemed to be about choices. How do we make them and why do we make them? To what lengths will we go to satisfy our own needs? How damaging are secrets and lies to a relationship? Is it possible to forgive someone after you feel betrayed by them? Which characters are more forgiving than others? Why are some characters able to forgive and some unable to do the same? Which choice was the worst one in the story?
It is also about relationships, those with parents, siblings, and friends. What kind of loyalty is owed to each? In addition, there seemed to be a narrative that pitted instability vs. criminality, loyalty vs. honesty. Was there any evidence of any character actually changing as they grew up or were they all simply stuck in their own childhood? They had egocentric views of themselves, seemed preoccupied with the detritus of their youth, their sad memories, and never seemed to have truly moved on as adults. Why is the character Jack blind? What does he represent? Is he the catalyst, the character that reveals the others’ strengths and weaknesses? Charlie was a young spoiled girl who also loved horses. What purpose did she serve in the story? Was it to point out that Viv never grew up or that young and old were equally selfish? In this novel, in the end, was it better to tell the truth or to lie? Which act would have hurt fewer people? Which choice would have had worse consequences? How did Robert’s choice, as an adult, regarding Donald’s dilemma, compare to his assessment of choices in Tristan and Isolde? Was Hilary’s assessment of Rick’s responsibility to her fair or selfish? Because the story is told in successive alternate parts, first Don’s and then Viv’s, it is of necessity a bit redundant, and sometimes the novel’s pace grew slow. Overall, though, it was an interesting read for a book group to discuss as the misinterpretation of events led to mistaken conclusions with disastrous results.
The narrator of the male character, Don, was excellent, reading the story with the appropriate amount of expression without making himself the focus. He allowed the character to develop slowly and authentically. The narrator of Viv, however, over emoted and took over the character, almost preventing her from taking her natural form in the book. Her voice was often too enticing and breathy, sometimes falling off too low at the end of a sentence. I felt that she inserted herself too strongly into the reading. The author’s apparent liberal views became very apparent as she injected her anti-gun, anti-conservative, and pro-life positions throughout the narrative, but they were not offensive. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Jan 29, 2017 |
I love horses and have enjoyed a few of Livesey's other books, so why not? Well, this one was passable but not particularly memorable. Viv is a mom, a successful businesswoman married to a successful optometrist, and is obsessed by personal success in whatever guise it comes. When superhorse Mercury gallops into her best friend's stable, Viv's obsessed in no time, thrusting herself backwards in time to her adolescence, when she actually overtrained and ruined her own horse. Inconveniently, Mercury belongs to an owner whose brother was actually killed while riding him, and there's a teenage girl at the stable who also covets the horse and thinks Viv's too old for competition. So: things go very wrong, and Donald, Viv's husband, dithers around trying to decide what action to take. Mercury is a pale and muted version of the groundbreaking domestic thriller Defending Jacob. ( )
  froxgirl | Dec 15, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006243750X, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 26 Mar 2016 01:22:55 -0400)

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