Synopses & Reviews
When the vision came, he was in the bathtub.
So begins the madness of Louis Daguerre. In 1847, after a decade of using poisonous mercury vapors to cure his daguerreotype images, his mind is plagued by delusions. Believing the world will end within one year, Daguerre creates his "Doomsday List" -- ten items he must photograph before the final day. The list includes a portrait of Isobel Le Fournier, a woman he has always loved but not spoken to in half a century.
In this luminous debut novel, Dominic Smith reinvents the life of one of photography's founding fathers. Louis Daguerre's story is set against the backdrop of a Paris prone to bohemian excess and social unrest. Poets and dandies debate art and style in the cafés while students and rebels fill the garrets with revolutionary talk and gun smoke. It is here, amid this strange and beguiling setting, that Louis Daguerre sets off to capture his doomsday subjects.
Louis enlists the help of the womanizing poet Charles Baudelaire, known to the salon set as the "Prince of Clouds," and a jaded but beautiful prostitute named Pigeon. Together they scour the Paris underworld for images worthy of Daguerre's list. But Louis is also confronted by a chance to reunite with the only woman he's ever loved. Half a lifetime ago, Isobel Le Fournier kissed Louis Daguerre in a wine cave outside of Orléans. The result was a proposal, a rejection, and a misunderstanding that outlasted three kings and an emperor. Now, in the countdown to his apocalypse, Louis wants to understand why he has carried the memory of that kiss for so long.
"In its evocation of the artist as lover thwarted by time and death, it captures some of the sweetness of feeling of La Bohème.
By the time it reaches its final pages, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
has become a genuinely moving experience."
-- Anthony Giardina, author of Recent History
"In The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre,
Dominic Smith writes with an authority very few first-time novelists possess. He wonderfully evokes nineteenth- century Paris through a chemically addled consciousness -- a formidable achievement that he manages with humor and grace. A remarkable debut."
-- Mark Jude Poirier, author of Modern Ranch Living: A Novel
"An endlessly thought-provoking story about a man driven to capture and preserve everything that is fleeting and evanescent. It is a book as haunting as a daguerreotype: true in its details, but pesteringly strange; and as beautiful as if it were written not in words but in light."
-- Stephen Harrigan, author of The Gates of the Alamo
"A lyrical journey into the world of a man lost to nostalgia and undone by beauty. Dominic Smith has generously rendered an artist in desperate pursuit of the sublime."
-- Paul Jaskunas, author of Hidden
"In this evocative novel, Louis Daguerre is a poet whose medium is light, a man for whom memory is as penetrating and fixed as his photographs.Dominic Smith's acute detail calls forth visions of a world and a man on the verge of transformation."
-- Ronlyn Domingue, author of The Mercy of Thin Air
"A splendid novel. You don't often see such a graceful command of historical detail in a first book. Or such striking and elegant prose. Dazzling and wondrous."
-- John Dalton, author of Heaven Lake
When the vision came, he was in the bathtub. So begins the madness of Louis Daguerre. In 1847, after a decade of using poisonous mercury vapors to cure his daguerreotype images, his mind is plagued by delusions. Believing the world will end within one year, Daguerre creates his "Doomsday List" -- ten items he must photograph before the final day. The list includes a portrait of Isobel Le Fournier, a woman he has always loved but not spoken to in half a century.
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