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The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  421 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
bBarnes Noble Discover Great New Writers/bbrSmith's compassionate and thought-provoking novel reinvents a famous life with delicacy and precision. At the age of 12, Louis Daguerre fell in love with women and light on the same day. Several decades later, the founder of modern photography invented a process that ignited 19th-century Paris and secured his wealth and fame. But ...more
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Published February 1st 2006 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published January 1st 2006)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”’I consider myself a scientist as much as an artist,....’ Louis said, placing the phials beside each other.

‘And this is science? Asking strangers to pose naked for you?’

‘I’m a student of light,’ Louis said.

‘And a poet.’

‘No, I leave that to Charles Baudelaire. My job is to capture things before they disappear.’

‘Am I going to disappear, Monsieur Daguerre?’

‘No, I meant---capture things in their essence.’

 photo Louis_Daguerre_zpsylooma04.jpg
Daguerreotype of Louis Daguerre.

Louis Daguerre is a lonely, brilliant man. He has never marrie
David Katzman
Sep 22, 2008 David Katzman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction or books about artists, and those who enjoy a non-cliched love story
I’ll admit it. I cried.

To write some back-cover copy, “This is a finely wrought tale of love lost, found, and then lost again.” And then misplaced somewhere in that damn garage. No, seriously, this is quite a lovely book. I chose The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre because I thought it was going to be the portrayal of an artist (the inventor of photography, Louis Daguerre) going mad, wandering Paris and experiencing hallucinations. Something I hope to do someday. I was mistaken. The “mercury v
Jul 29, 2008 Angela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was so into this book until the end. I hate when I read a great story and read a disappointing end. It was all right, but the "love" storyline superseded the "photography" storyline and that's just not what I planned on reading. You could have substituted anyone for Louis Daguerre and acheived the same ending. The history was fascinating, the setting ideal, and Smith certainly knows how to tell a story. But it's like he changed his mind halfway through and went a completely different direction ...more
Nov 16, 2008 J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A clever depiction of Louis Daguerre -- a historical figure -- set against the backdrop of an authentic 19th century France results in this alluring historical novel by emerging novelist Dominic Smith. The beauty of this piece is in the balance between the story -- about a man's obsession with capturing forever a fleeting moment -- and the storytelling.

Daguerre, having invented the daguerreotype, finds that his brain has been poisoned by the mercury process he discovered. Believing the apocalyp
Larissa Nash
Dear Desperately Dull Novel,

Alas, I've given you up. I'm sorry to have abandoned you in the laundry room; I hope your heart isn't broken.

Simply put: you're well-written, but you fail to hold my interest. I hope the lady with the purple basket treats you better than I have.

With Regret,
Matt Wood
This fictitious account of the life of Louis Daguerre is at a vivid and sensuous tale. Small nuggets of fact coated with a candy sheen of fiction.
Kristen Long
Aug 02, 2016 Kristen Long rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
“Love is not like choosing a partner for whist. It has a life of its own. Our duty is merely to follow its call.”

While suffering from mercury poisoning, Louis Daguerre–father of the daguerreotype– has a vision of Armageddon and becomes convinced that the world is ending very soon. But before the end, he has a list of daguerreotypes that he wants to take, including one of the woman he has always loved. The completion of his list, with the help of a poet and a prostitute, takes him all over Paris.
Jun 21, 2009 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Louis Daguerre fell in love with women and light on the same day”---pg. 17

‘The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre’, by Dominic Smith is a wonderful and haunting story, well and beautifully told. Dominic Smith is a ‘phraseologist’ of the first stripe. Let me borrow the words to further illuminate this novel, my own being inadequate.

“An unforgettable novel from an award-winning writer, ‘The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre’ is the story of enduring love, fame unraveling, and a prodigious mind com
Evelyn Porter
Filled with historical detail that brings 19th century Paris alive. An interesting novel about the man responsible for developing the 'daguerreotype' (the precursor to our modern day photograph) and his muse. A good read for those interested in art and photography.
Mary Danger
Sep 29, 2013 Mary Danger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers who enjoy photo history or those who like stories of early Paris life.
Recommended to Mary by: saw it at the Columbus Museum of Art bookstore
Loved this combines my interest in early photo history, the streets of Paris in early 19th Century turmoil and the story of a complicated man and artist. Hmm, maybe I'll read it again.
Well, admittedly this was pretty much two different books, but I liked them both!
1/3 of the way through this book my fellow bookclub members asked me what I thought of it. I didn't have too much to say at that point other than it was an enjoyable read. Now that I've finished the novel, I will say that the second half captivated me much more than the first and I would read other works by this author. (Note to the Reader: There are drug and sex references and some profanity.)
Sep 09, 2011 Alex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are times when a premise seems so out of the ordinary that a book becomes a sort of destiny. The title alone makes the promise of visions. The end-times list of items that must be recorded sets up a search and also questions of "why those items?" That these elements eventually make a circuitous path to a lost love becomes an intrigue. So if you're like me, you enter the world of Daguerre expecting to be dazzled by strange and fantastic visions, an element of mystery, and a frenzied desire ...more
Smith's prose is irritating -- it is usually just competent, but occasionally it starts to pick up a rhythm and a beauty to it, only to abruptly fall flat. For instance:

"He removed a speck of tobacco from his tongue and prepared to speak with some gravity. He believed in Louis Daguerre's apocalypse as an invention of the artistic mind, no different than a belief in God or Beauty or Piety. He enjoyed watching Louis, the pensioned scientist and artist, hatch and unfold inside this epic delusion, s
Smith creates a fictional life for Louis Daguerre, his early years growing up in the country where he falls in love with Isobel Le Fournier, his rise and success as a young man nearly obsessed with his passion for art, and finally his confusion due to illness and disease after having exposed himself to the toxic chemicals used in the process of capturing a moment in time.

I had a varied experience reading this book. The majority of the time I thought it was really well written, funny, engaging, i
Susan Steggall
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre, 2006.

Having read Smith’s most recent and very successful novel, The Last Painting of Sarah de Vos – and enjoyed it – I was interested in returning to the beginning and tackling his debut novel on one of the founding fathers of photography, Louis Daguerre. And fascinating it is too. With few details of Daguerre’s personal life to go on, other than the basic ‘life’ facts and his degenerating physical and mental health due to the toxic chemical
Jan 07, 2010 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical-novel
Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre is an often beautifully written story of the development of the daguerreotype and the life of its inventor.
Daguerre is a passionate boy who grows up to be a passionate man, but the mercury used in his photographic process slowly eats away at his brain and body until, at the end, is suffers seizures and becomes erratic in his thinking. It is a sacrifice he is more than willing to make for his art.
When he is a boy, he falls in love with Isobel Le Fournier who i
Oct 02, 2009 Denis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here's an intriguing novel that becomes more and more engrossing as the story unfolds, and which ends being actually very moving. Part historical biography (Daguerre basically invented photography, and Smith narrates his life and career through fascinating flashbacks), part bittersweet love story (Smith invents a rather tragic yet very romantic, never really fulfilled, love affair for Daguerre), this book is beautiful written, in a satisfying literary way that, somehow, fits the times and places ...more
Oct 20, 2012 Hira rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you can stop short of a 100 pages, pick up this book. If you can't, do some research and read an original biography of Daguerre. If you want to give Dominic Smith a chance and read the entire 300+ pages, be prepared to be thoroughly disillusioned in the transition between "a well-crafted story of the coming of age of a visionary" to "the pages that articulate the fate of two star-crossed lovers in the face of death and deprivation." The second part, which is essentially a love story crafted f ...more
Feb 23, 2011 Shan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay read. Good to have while just passing time and if you're not a picky reader.

I loved the setting, descriptions and language style, enough to pull you into Daguerre's life, passion and profession. Story wise... Facts coated in candy as someone mentioned before, so yes I learnt some random bits of knowledge, and I enjoyed its general biography-/historical fiction- like aspects And story line.

Wasn't too thrilled on the romance part though. The relationships between each character were not clich
I've heard a lot of people poo-poo this book. I liked it. I'm a very imaginative, creative person... So when the author takes several pages, if not half a chapter, to discuss visually one thing Louis Daguerre is painting and how he paints it, then I'm all for it. However, this is only because the author does a decent job of portraying the mood, atmosphere, and general expression of the paintings and pictures taken.

On the other hand, had it not been for the well-integrated colorful descriptions,
Jun 04, 2009 Karyl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the way this was written. Daguerre suffered from mercury poisoning due to his work developing daguerreotypes, and wandered through the last portion of his life as if in a dream. The writing reflected that, with a strong sense of haze and fog obscuring the details until one thing swims into focus but is quickly swallowed up again. Two-thirds of the way through, however, the writing changes, becomes more hurried and more amateurish. There's a distinct difference from what had gone ...more
When Louis Daguerre was twelve years old, he became sick and a maid was sent to his room to care for him. It was at this time that two of the most important events happened in his life - he fell in love with the maid and he discovered the miracle of light. For the rest of his life, Daguerre pursues both of these passions up until the tragic end.

Paying careful attention to historical detail, Smith brings Paris to life during the 19th century. The history of the daguerreotype and the love story o
Oct 09, 2013 Yvette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Oh how I wish it ended differently...but it was not to be. I also cried.

I felt like everyone forgot, at the end, how ill Daguerre was from poisoning from primarily mercury, but also the other noxious substances he used to create his images. Perhaps that was done on purpose - what with revolution, rediscovering his love interest, and everything else, maybe he forgot how ill he was also!

I thought the last scene was very poignant. "I am prepared to wait a long time." Lovely phrase to finish off a
Chris Bailey
As usual with a book like this the historical aspects are always fascinating. The depiction of society in Paris in the 1830-40s was interesting. The book was a little boring. I was not familiar with Charles Baudilier and his character in the book made no sense and added nothing. The photography history was what I was most interested in, the love interest was... eh. And I can't forgive what happened to the dog. Seriously??
Dec 30, 2015 hrh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical fiction about the life of Louis Daguerre and his vision of light and of the sun painting a picture. The "mercury visions" are caused by his mental and health problems from regular and close-up exposure to mercury. Well-written and descriptive but only read if you're in the mood for a dark and oppressive mood.
Kristy Renee Martinez
It has been a long time since I connected with characters and their story to the point of tears. The backdrop of French revolts and the Bohemian surge are beautiful symmetry with the personal revolutions and artistry of each character. Love and regret intertwined with fame and futility make for this evocative story. I highly recommend this novel.
Michelle Will
Aug 23, 2011 Michelle Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had forgotten about this book until I found the audiobook on our library shelves this morning. I really enjoyed this book. Smith's descriptions of light as seen through Daguerre's eyes were brilliant at times. The history of photography was fascinating and the Paris setting was beautiful and gave new meaning to the City of Lights.
Bonnie Parent
I'm waffling between 2-3 stars. Two for the slow, slow start and middle, three for the last third of the book, where the pace picks up and it finally gets more interesting. Not sure if I would recommend this to my friends. I would like more of the history of the era in this book. Let's give it 2-1/2 stars.
Ame Gadsby Shillington
This was a fun way to approach the history of photography. The style of mixing the main character's past lost love with the present spiral of insanity was a nice mechanism. I appreciated the background of revolutionary Paris.
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Dominic grew up in Sydney, Australia and now lives in Austin, Texas. His short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly and The Chicago Tribune.

Dominic is the author of four novels, most recently of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos (forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and Bright and Distant Shores (a sel
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“Love is not like choosing a partner for whist. It has a life of its own. our duty is merely to follow its call.” 6 likes
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