Mercury Pictures Present
Publisher: 26th July 2022 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 408 pages
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 3.5 cups
The epic tale of a brilliant woman who must reinvent herself to survive, moving from Mussolini's Italy to 1940s Los Angeles
Like many before her, Maria Lagana has come to Hollywood to outrun her past. Born in Rome, where every Sunday her father took her to the cinema instead of church, Maria immigrates with her mother to Los Angeles after a childhood transgression leads to her father's arrest.
Fifteen years later, on the eve of America's entry into World War II, Maria is an associate producer at Mercury Pictures, trying to keep her personal and professional lives from falling apart. Her mother won't speak to her. Her boss, a man of many toupees, has been summoned to Washington by congressional investigators. Her boyfriend, a virtuoso Chinese-American actor, can't escape the studio's narrow typecasting. And the studio itself, Maria's only home in exile, teeters on the verge of bankruptcy.
Over the coming months, as the bright lights go dark across Los Angeles, Mercury Pictures becomes a nexus of European émigrés: modernist poets trying their luck as B-movie screenwriters, once-celebrated architects becoming scale-model miniaturists, and refugee actors finding work playing the very villains they fled. While the world descends into war, Maria rises through a maze of conflicting politics, divided loyalties, and jockeying ambitions. But when the arrival of a stranger from her father's past threatens Maria's carefully constructed facade, she must finally confront her father's fate--and her own.
Written with intelligence, wit, and an exhilarating sense of possibility, Mercury Pictures Presents spans many moods and tones, from the heartbreaking to the ecstatic. It is a love letter to life's bit players, a panorama of an era that casts a long shadow over our own, and a tour de force.
‘Everyday the war in Europe produced melodrama to rival Hollywood's most indolent imaginations’
Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra is a piece of historical fiction that takes the reader into the lives of several individuals associated with an American movie studio during the 1940s. I thought this was a clever way to approach this time period as it was different and unique. Combined with a distinct writing style the end result is most interesting.
Looking at Mercury Pictures allows Anthony to weave a range of characters and themes throughout the story. The downside of this is that, clever as it is, it does lend itself towards readers per chance getting lost amongst the many threads. Still, if a unique read surrounding an iconic era is your thing then look no further. Anthony undertakes themes including movie studios and war propaganda, European war refugees/immigrants who look to establish their identity and find a place for themselves in America.
Maria Lagana is the consistent character in this tale, with characters coming and going and a look at the issues that surround each of them. Her story is the common thread throughout. Anthony has a unique writing style and is able to achieve many people and plots throughout this book with his flavour of writing. This is not really a story about war, rather it’s about what it was like to live through a war and the consequences of that to both governments and individuals.
Touching on politics, immigrants, the impact of war and many, many other stories Anthony presents a unique perspective of this time. It is an interesting take and at times you will laugh, at times you will pause but there is no doubt Mercury Pictures Presents will appeal to a cross section of readers.
‘Long before she went to work in the pictures, she understood that the true temptation of fantasy wasn’t its outlandishness but its aching plausibility.’
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.