Uncharacteristically dark, yet more evidence of Livesey’s formidable gifts.

MERCURY

Another probing study of the way character shapes our destinies from the author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy (2012), etc.

It’s perhaps a bit much to make Donald an optometrist, given that he confesses shortly after disclosing his occupation that he failed to see wife Viv’s obsession with a horse named Mercury until it was much too late. But Livesey, a Scottish transplant whose brilliant novels are underknown in her adopted country, rings so many dazzling changes on the subjects of eyesight, hindsight, and blinkered sight that she may be forgiven the whiff of contrivance in her setup. Donald’s personality is utterly credible: cautious, precise, Scottish-ly phlegmatic yet roiled by deep feelings of loss. They go back to boyhood, when his family’s move from Edinburgh to Boston cost Donald his best friend, and have been elevated to devastating levels by the recent death of his father after a long siege of Parkinson’s disease. The intensity of Donald’s attachment to his father is palpable but never really explained; Livesey has a healthy respect for the mysteries of the human heart. Viv, who narrates the novel’s middle section, is rendered with somewhat less nuance: her lifelong need to be the best, focused on riding in adolescence and only temporarily derailed to a career in mutual funds, re-emerges with a scary edge when Mercury arrives at the stable she now runs with her best friend, Claudia. It’s hard to be entirely sympathetic when she tells Donald (accurately), “Since your dad died you’ve been MIA,” as we see Viv driven into secrecy and lies by her hysterical need to make Mercury a champion and herself a star. But Donald also keeps secrets, one of which contributes to a ghastly act of misdirected violence that leads to a dance of regret, recrimination, and indecision bringing further losses for husband and wife. A sharply sketched supporting cast adds to the depth and cumulative power of this grimly great novel.

Uncharacteristically dark, yet more evidence of Livesey’s formidable gifts.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-243750-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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