Mercury by Margot Livesey - Blog Tour

Today I have the pleasure to introduce you to Mercury by Margot Livesey. Take a look at the original plot...

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.

Interesting, don't you think? Here are a few words from Margot Livesey explaining how this original idea came up on her mind...

And the Mercury began with a column I wrote for the Boston Globe about learning to shoot a gun. When the column was published, I got over a hundred emails and several phone calls, almost all from men, taking me to task for my views on gun control. One man left a message: “You’re just a Scottish immigrant. You’re lucky that there are Americans with guns ready to protect you.”

A month or two later I was having a drink with a Scottish friend who, like me, spends most of his time in the States. On his second glass of red wine he told me that the previous week, searching for something in the boot of his car, he had found a gun. His wife had bought it legally, to protect herself, but not bothered to mention it to him. They had met years ago at an anti war demonstration. Now he said sadly, “We used to believe the same things but we don’t any more.”

I was deep in another novel, The Flight of Gemma Hardy, but I was very struck both by how my column about guns had hit a nerve and by this different kind of infidelity which I had not seen in many novels. I had also long wanted to write about an ambitious woman. Gradually these two ideas converged with my desire to write something about vision. Of our five senses sight is the one we rely on most and yet it’s the one that’s most easily manipulated or deceived.

So I made my husband Donald – I named him after a Scottish king - an optometrist but I wasn’t sure at first what the focus of his wife, Viv’s, ambitions would be. A good friend has become an ardent rider and visiting the stables with her, I remembered how passionately I loved riding and horses as a teenager. And I thought this was a perfect passion for Viv because people have such different opinions about horses. Some people think it makes perfect sense to lavish time and money on these large animals. Others think it’s mad.

Writing Mercury required a good deal of research - for me always a very pleasurable part of writing. There were many visits to stables and conversations with equestrians. My optometrist was very helpful, as was the librarian at the school for the blind in Boston. And I had a wonderful time visiting pet shops and interviewing African Grey parrots who were not always as articulate as Donald’s parrot, Nabokov.

The biggest stretch was writing about guns, and I visited a number of gun shops in New Hampshire. They were often oddly cosy, with groups of men sitting around drinking coffee and eating donuts. When I explained about my novel, they were eager to help me get things right. To them there was nothing surprising about wanting to buy a gun. That required no explanation. What did need explaining was why I had waited so long. Talking to them I began to understand the deep divide in American culture and Viv might cross that divide.

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