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Mercury Pictures Presents

On sale

20th July 2023

Price: £9.99

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Selected: Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781399804417

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Chosen as a BOOK OF THE YEAR in the Sunday Times, Stylist and Observer

‘A multifaceted novel that is funny, verbally inventive and moving’ Sunday Times, Book of the Year

‘In Mercury Pictures Presents . . . the story moves between the real war and the better version Hollywood is busy creating. Sometimes tragic, often hilarious’ KAREN JOY FOWLER, Observer, Books of the Year


‘Its prose pulses with humour, wit and affection’ Mail on Sunday

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

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 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’.

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Reviews

CELESTE NG
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 forward toward the future . . . A genuinely moving and life-affirming novel that's a true joy to read
SARA NOVIC, author of GIRL AT WAR and TRUE BIZ
Smart, heartfelt, and sneaky 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 Anthony Marra has wrung from the English language
SALLY MANN, author of HOLD STILL, finalist for the National Book Award
A novel so rich and wondrous, written with such grace and wit, that there's only one word for Anthony Marra: a genius
LUIS URREA, bestselling author THE DEVIL'S HIGHWAY and THE HUMMINGBIRD'S DAUGHTER
Achingly beautiful . . . You laugh, then you sigh, then you weep. Extraordinary
JESS WALTER, #1 New York Times bestselling author of BEAUTIFUL RUINS and THE ANGEL OF ROME
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 novel of fascism, war, and refugees finding freedom through art and storytelling, it's both a joy to read and highly relevant to our times
AIMEE BENDER, author of THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE
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
NATHAN HILL, bestselling author of THE NIX
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
Washington Post
The author's fans will recognize his elegant resolution of tangled disasters, his heartbreaking poignancy, his eye for historical curiosities that exceed the parameters of fiction... Marra unspools this period comedy with so much old-time snappy wit that Mercury Pictures Presents should come with popcorn and a 78-ounce Coke
San Francisco Chronicle
You'll laugh, you'll cry in the marvelous 'Mercury Pictures Presents' about 1940s Hollywood
Spectator
Summer is a time for blockbusters and Anthony Marra has delivered the goods with Mercury Pictures Presents, a sweeping book about 1940s Hollywood, Mussolini's Italy and America's entry into the second world war . . . a deft and convincing writer with a sharp turn of phrase and a dark sense of humour that ignites every page... [It] will win him committed new fans and, if there is any literary justice, prizes
International New York Times
It is impossible to do justice to Marra's smooth, sweeping style in bits - viewed in isolation, such descriptions could easily seem overwrought and clumsy - but knit together, these pieces have striking command and authority
Mail on Sunday
Its inventive prose pulses with humour, wit and affection
Sight and Sound
Marra's glowing prose brings the intricate story to life, and his chapter-and-verse world-building will thrill Golden Age devotees
The Crack Magazine
A bravura work and a real thrill-ride
Sunday Times, Historical Fiction Book of the Month
Funny, verbally inventive and, ultimately, very moving, Mercury Pictures Presents is a wonderful novel
TOM SUTCLIFFE, BBC Radio 4 Front Row
An excellent holiday read
New York Times
The success of Mercury Pictures Presents, both the novel and the Hollywood entity it depicts, is evanescent and ambiguous, enduring and clear all at once. Whether Artie, the showman, and Maria, the book's historical anchor and ethical conscience, will survive is one question, but the ideas posed by Marra's novel assuredly do, and they resonate all the more strongly through our own contemporary, distressingly fascist-adjacent, moment
ISABEL ALLENDE, Daily Mail, Best Reads of 2022
A smart satiric novel about Hollywood in the 1940s, war, fascism and personal drama
Karen Joy Fowler, Observer
The story moves between the real war and the better version Hollywood is busy creating. Sometimes tragic, often hilarious