BOOK TOUR REVIEW: Mercury by Margot Livesey
by Margot Livesey
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.
Mercury’s owner, Hilary, is a newcomer to town who has enrolled her daughter in riding lessons. When she 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 had harbored, and relinquished, as a young woman. 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.
1 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Mercury by Margot Livesey
Though there is a horse cover of this novel, the horse doesn’t actually factor in as much as one would imagine. I’m OK with this; I’m not really a horse or horse book fan. What I wasn’t OK with was the extremely slow plot development, the plethora of characters, or the fact that these two married people seemed to be living in different worlds, neither of them expressing to the other their discontent.
Viv and Donald Stevenson have been married nearly 10 years, have two kids, and vastly different careers. Donald left his surgical career after the death of his father to become an optometrist. Viv left a fast paced job in New York City to work with horses at a friend’s stable. What was once a pleasant relationship becomes filled with secrets and comes to feel perfunctory. Viv falls in love with Mercury, a horse that seems to give her a new lease on life and a chance to capture her lost childhood dreams.
The book starts off very, very slowly. To be honest, it didn’t ever truly pick up speed. The characters all felt boring to me. The only one who had a modicum of personality, Donald’s friend Jack, lost it after he started a relationship with a woman. Even the Stevenson children do nothing to bring levity or humor to this droll story.
One thing that bothered me a lot is the extremely heavy use of foreshadowing. Several times a chapter, the narrator would say something like, “But how could we know what was to come later?” or, “Looking back, I wish I would have known…”. It took me way out of the story and I just plain didn’t like it. I would like to just experience what is going to happen as it’s happening, thanks very much.
As a married person, I can see how the tedium of everyday life can cause stress on a marriage. But if you want to make it work, why not talk it out? Viv and Donald ignore each other, speak under their breath, and do nothing to make the other aware of how they’re feeling in any way. Instead of trying to talk to each other, they hide in their work and confide in others. I guess this does happen, but as a happily married person I found it very sad and immature.
I finished only about half of Mercury and couldn’t complete the rest. It just didn’t grab my attention on any level.
About the Author
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.