The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre – Dominic Smith

The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre was a surprise package for me. I didn’t know what it was about and had little expectation going into it so just rode with the book. This novel tells the story of Daguerre, one of the father’s of photography. After a decade working with the lethal mercury he suffers a prophetic hallucination. The world will end in one year and he must photograph ten objects before the apocalypse, including the mysterious Isobel Le Fournier.


I do love the concept of taking a sliver of history and weaving a fictional narrative around it. The writing in this novel is simple, easy to read and evocative creating a fascinating plot driven by the historical figure of Daguerre. I did note that this book is distinctly different at the beginning, middle and end. Each portion of the story was unique focusing on different aspects of the plot. I certainly did not predict where the end was going from the beginning or even the middle.


The characters are interesting and keep the reader is invested in the story. Daguerre is a fascinating character intent on fulfilling his goals before the world ends and his affinity for mercury, what gave him his fame, was fascinating especially as the reader knows that the element he loves so much is doing him much harm. Pigeon is a great character playing the role of a beautiful bohemian making her way in life. The mysterious Isobel is a fascinating character that the reader spends the first half of the book wanting to know more about, learning more and more as the chapters slowly reveal her role in this book. I did find some of the characters started to frustrate me further into the novel but just as they began irritating the plot changes it’s course again.


This novel is a bit of a slow-burn rollercoaster, if that even makes sense? The beginning is very promising and draws the reader right in, particularly with chapters cutting to Daguerre’s childhood. The plot seems to dip a little in the middle before heading in a completely different direction and finishing strongly. This novel was very easy to read and was highly enjoyable. It is also easy to under-estimate due to the subtle complexities of the plot. I do highly recommend this read and I plan to read more of his work in the future, starting with the award-winning The last Painting of Sara de Vos. I give The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre three paint pallets, where Daguerre started his journey.


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