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.