Mercury Pictures Presents is a detailed novel about propaganda films during world War II, the most different historical fiction of the war I have ever read. It takes place in LA and Italy, jumping between many characters and between time frames, some of which are more interesting than others. You learn about the government building a replica of Berlin in the Utah desert to learn how to best bomb it, how the Italians that fled fascism to the US became illegal aliens here suspected of being spies, and of the parachuting of cows into Italy.
The writing was good, and there were many tidbits I loved. However, my interest sagged in places. There was a lot of precise vocabulary used, and some brilliant descriptions.
New (to me) vocabulary:
Examples of writing I tabbed to share with you:
- “She’s twelve years old, walking beside her father. Their footsteps rise and fall, rise and fall, like sewing needles stitching them to the city, and it seems impossible that this is about to end…”
- “Maybe she’s use a cactus as her flower. That way she might enjoy tossing the bridal bouquet.”
- “Don’t trivialize your accomplishments. To present yourself honestly is to undersell yourself.”
- “His week-old Lincoln was a vanilla sundae of a coupe: all cream and chrome, rounded curves and stretched lines.”
- “Artie felt eyes on him when he walked in. He heard the wind-beats of unfurling tablecloths. The bright chime of silverware on porcelain.
- “Then there’s Jesus. Talk about a fella who needs psychanalysis. Poor guy thinks his dad’s God and mom’s a virgin. No wonder he has a messiah complex. Still, I must admit, I like Jesus’s politics. Feeding the hungry, blessing the meek, wearing a robe to work…The problem with Christianity, of course, is the Christians.”
- “Acceptance has always sounded like a euphemism for surrender to me.”
- “Hell hath no fury like a lawyer uninformed.”
- “The less you saw, the better it looked.”
- “Life offered few pleasures as affordable as a well-made bed.”
Our book group was treated with a visit from the author, which made us like it more. It took him almost 9 years to write this book, which might be correlated with why it took me so long to get through it!
All in all, I give this book 4 stars, since it was a bit of a slog in some places and great in others. Read it if you are interested in the movie business in the 30’s or in a completely different take on WWII which feels relevant to the issues of today.