• Mercury Pictures Presents

  • A Novel
  • By: Anthony Marra
  • Narrated by: Carlotta Brentan
  • Length: 14 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (190 ratings)

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Mercury Pictures Presents

By: Anthony Marra
Narrated by: Carlotta Brentan
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Publisher's Summary

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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 author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

"A genuinely moving and life-affirming novel that’s a true joy to read.”—Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere

“A great literary read.”—Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House 

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 spans many moods and tones, from the heartbreaking to the ecstatic. It 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.” 

©2022 Anthony Marra (P)2022 Random House Audio

What listeners say about Mercury Pictures Presents

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Walk with the author

Walk with the author down a memory lane of early Hollywood with its heart, corruption, deals, breaks.
By tying this in with history, the author allows readers to read a fully imagined epic.
I greatly enjoyed this captivating portrayal of many characters and events.

6 people found this helpful

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As the NYT review says, a gorgeous book

Anthony Marra has such a wonderful feel for language and extraordinary skill for creating memorable characters. But what else to expect from the author of “Constellation “? And Carlotta Brendan is a narration star — she had to inhabit multiple accents and did so with aplomb.

4 people found this helpful

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A Masterpiece

An extraordinary work of art. Sheer brilliance on every level. Depth, scope, humor, and humanity. Great audio performance.

3 people found this helpful

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Interesting story. overall, I enjoyed it

I *read* this for book club. I thought this was going to be a whimsical farce on Old Hollywood, instead it is a whimsical farce on Old Fascism. I enjoyed it. I recommend it.

2 people found this helpful

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Exiles in Hollywood

This novel is so different from Anthony Marra’s profound and disturbing first novel, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” that it’s easy to underestimate Marra’s accomplishment here. Yes, the main characters include shallow studio executives making lousy movies, but that’s not what the novel is about. Virtually every character is an exile or outsider, an immigrant from somewhere (Eastern Europe, Italy, China, Nazi Germany). These outsiders suffer at the start of World War II, from bigotry or from sadness at the sorry places that they felt forced to leave to come to America. There is a lot of cruelty and death underlying the characters’ situations, although Marra keeps that in the shadows. But there is humor too, like the scenes with (of all people) Bela Lugosi.

Nicely narrated, and a worthwhile read.

2 people found this helpful

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fun read


Really enjoyed the historic fiction aspect of the book. Never knew of the restrictions of aliens during WWII except for the Japanese.

1 person found this helpful

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It's All Here: WW II, Hollywood, Italy

A complicated honest story of life in Italy and Los Angeles during the 1930s and 1940s -- with projections to the future -- told from the viewpoint of its protagonists. The author provides clarity of the emotional strengths of women who ride the rich road in this time of world history. Unknown to me are many little narrations about WW II, for example, the construction of a Berlin neighborhood in the American desert to determine how best to create a firestorm by bombing. Sadness and joy, as in all wars, is skillfully written. The discontinuity of the narrative is why I rated 4 stars instead of 5 -- it's close to a 5.

1 person found this helpful

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Mercury Pictures Falls Flat

I normally love books telling stories of anything related to WWII. Definitely not the case with Mercury Pictures Presents. There was nothing to draw me in and make me care about this studio, the brothers, Maria, or really any of the characters. This might have been more interesting as 2 or three short stories but I’m not sure that would help. Many have immigrated to the US and have amazing stories to tell about that journey. This story just drug on and on and on and nothing interesting happened. A big flop for me.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Disappointed....

When I read a book synopsis, and like the premise, I put into my 'to read' list. Unfortunately in this books case, was not as rewarding as I'd hoped. But did finish it!!!

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A Near Miss

Marra delivers some decent prose and lively characters, but Mercury Pictures Presents ultimately tries too hard to be meaningful and flies a little too close to the sun. In trying to be deep and profound on practically every page, it ironically comes off as unconvincing and unreal. The dialogue is forced and artificially weighty, the commentary is heavy handed and self-important. If Marra had the gift of subtlety and the ability to guide you to his points through more veiled dialogue and a more natural commentary, this really could have been something.