Marra's first book, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, could stand as the crowning achievement of a writer's career. His second novel is another triumph by a writer whom we will be following for years to come. An intricate tapestry of characters whose lives connect over continents and time, Mercury is set in Fascist Italy of the late 1930s and early 1940s, and in Hollywood at the same time. The novel follows emigres and prisoners and people in power as they scheme with and against each other on a turbulent stage. The myriad characters struggle against racism, xenophobia, and political oppression as America enters the "Good War" and Hollywood is conscripted to deliver indoctrination films. Rising above it all is recent immigrant Maria. She is estranged from her mother, her father is confined in a prison colony in Italy, she endures a complicated relationship with a young Italian acquaintance whom she blames for her father's fate, all while persevering at a middling film studio where she is literally trying to make a name for herself. Marra showcases his expansive talents in this beautifully written, deeply researched wonder of a novel.
The pretense of art is more elusive than Garbo at Mercury Pictures. The company churns out B movies on shoestring budgets under the watchful eyes of Artie Feldman and his brother Ned, two men who don't particularly like each other. Although Mercury is a minor player in Hollywood, barely managing a meow while the MGM lion roars, the coming of the Second World War changes the studio's fortune--for better and for worse. Although it is largely told from the perspective of people who work in an industry that subsists on illusions, this brilliantly original novel projects a beam of light through the dark days of one of the bleakest periods in history. — Alden Graves
The epic tale of a brilliant woman who must reinvent herself to survive, moving from Mussolini’s Italy to 1940s Los Angeles—a timeless story of love, deceit, and sacrifice from the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
"A genuinely moving and life-affirming novel that’s a true joy to read.”—Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere
ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2022—BookPage
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 by a novelist whose work The Washington Post calls “a flash in the heavens that makes you look up and believe in miracles.”
About the Author
Anthony Marra is the New York Times bestselling author of The Tsar of Love and Techno and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, winner of the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and longlisted for the National Book Award.
“[Anthony] Marra has ascended to the top of the literary ranks.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Achingly beautiful . . . You laugh, then you sigh, then you weep. . . . Extraordinary.”—Luis Urrea, bestselling author of The Devil’s Highway and The Hummingbird’s Daughter
“Anthony Marra is a writer of boundless talent: He is a top-notch historian, a razor-sharp social critic, a deeply sensitive psychologist, and an exuberant satirist—all at the same time. . . . A singularly pleasurable read—smart, sad, hilarious, and always full of heart.”—Nathan Hill, bestselling author of The Nix
“Mercury Pictures Presents is a wonder—intimate and sweeping, heartfelt and satirical, one of the funniest and most moving novels I’ve read in a long time. A story of fascism, war, and refugees finding freedom through art and storytelling, it’s both a joy to read and highly relevant to our times.”—Jess Walter, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins and The Angel of Rome
“Smart, heartfelt, and sneakily funny, Mercury Pictures Presents has all the breadth and power of an epic and the attention to detail of an intimate conversation. I read it in a state of admiration for the beauty Marra has wrung from the English language.”—Sara Nović, author of Girl at War and True Biz
“A novel so rich and wondrous, written with such grace and wit, that there’s only one word for Anthony Marra: genius.”—Sally Mann, author of Hold Still, finalist for the National Book Award
“Marra brings his considerable gifts for scope and scene to early Hollywood, animating, as he does so thrillingly, the city, the players, the war, and the repercussions of small and huge actions on families, fates, countries, and film. And: this fully-realized world is also really funny! I laughed aloud many times, even as I marveled.”—Aimee Bender, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
“Crackling with wit and suffused with insight, Anthony Marra’s new novel is as epic in sweep as a movie set yet delineates the inner workings of the human heart with a miniaturist’s precision. Mercury Pictures Presents explores the endless give-and-take between life and art, the cost of integrity, and the ways we must make peace with the past in order to move toward the future.”—Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere