Donald believes he knows all there is to know about seeing. An optometrist in suburban Boston, he is sure that he and his wife Viv, who runs the local stables, are both devoted to their two children, and to each other. Then Mercury—a gorgeous young thoroughbred with a murky past—arrives at Windy Hill and everything changes. Read more...
Donald believes he knows all there is to know about seeing. An optometrist in suburban Boston, he is sure that he and his wife Viv, who runs the local stables, are both devoted to their two children, and to each other. Then Mercury—a gorgeous young thoroughbred with a murky past—arrives at Windy Hill and everything changes.
Hilary, a newcomer to town, has inherited Mercury from her brother after his mysterious death. When she first brings Mercury to board at Windy Hill, everyone is struck by his beauty and prowess, particularly Viv. As she rides him, Viv begins to dream of competing again, embracing the ambitions that she harbored before she settled for a career in finance. Her daydreams soon morph into consuming desire, and her infatuation with the thoroughbred escalates to obsession.
Donald may have 20:20 vision, but he is slow to notice how profoundly Viv has changed and how these changes threaten their quiet, secure world. By the time he does, it is too late to stop the catastrophic collision of Viv’s ambitions and his own myopia
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-07-11
- Reviewer: Staff
Livesey’s latest (following The Flight of Gemma Hardy) is a fiercely intelligent exploration of the ways blindness—to ourselves, others, and the power of passion and grief—can divide and transform us. After his father dies of Parkinson’s, optometrist Donald Stevenson’s reserve deepens into what Viv, his wife of nine years, likens to the airless impenetrability of an astronaut’s suit. Viv’s teenage dreams of equestrian competition resurface when Mercury, an exceptionally promising thoroughbred, comes to board at the suburban Boston stable she helps run. Donald; Viv’s boss, Claudia; and Mercury’s owner, Hilary, assume that Viv accepts the obvious: Mercury is not hers to risk, compete on, or control. Facing their resistance to her growing obsession and increasingly distanced from Donald, Viv conceals the time and money she lavishes on the horse. When the stable is repeatedly broken into, she fears that telling Claudia or Hilary will lead to Mercury’s removal. Instead, she buys a gun. Seen primarily from Donald’s muffled, sometimes pedantic perspective, the novel unfolds patiently, through a chain of small and mostly well-intentioned deceptions that nevertheless yield catastrophe. 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. (Sept.)
Can you really know the one you love?
Mercury, Margot Livesey’s eighth and perhaps most psychologically penetrating novel, describes a family destroyed by obsession, passion and secrecy. The fact that the object of desire is a horse does not take away from the novel’s intensity, or the depths to which it fearlessly dives.
Don Stevenson is an optometrist; his wife, Viv, worked as a hedge fund manager until the opportunity to manage a riding stable with a childhood friend revived her former dreams of being a champion rider. The Stevensons live in suburban Boston, close to Don’s parents. Their two young children are well adjusted and happy. But when Hilary, a newcomer to town, brings the thoroughbred Mercury to board at Windy Hill, everything changes. Viv becomes infatuated with the animal. Don is slow to notice how the changes in Viv’s behavior threaten both their lives and their livelihood. Even after he realizes she is spending some of their savings on Mercury’s care and feeding, passivity keeps him from acting until it is too late.
Mercury is a novel about seeing and not seeing, about the connection between secrecy and separateness. It is about the toll taken when we don’t pay attention and how easily lack of trust can creep into the best of marriages.
It is about literal blindness and abstract recklessness. Livesey has tremendous command over her material and unites a love of horses from her Scottish childhood and interest in the mechanics of vision to her almost uncanny perception of human behaviors. Mercury is a brilliant, unsettling novel that may make you wonder how well you know your partner.
RELATED CONTENT: Read our interview with Margot Livesey about Mercury.