The Mercury Visions of Louis DaGuerre

Written by Dominic Smith
Review by Janette King


Louis Daguerre, artist and inventor, is being poisoned, a victim of toxic chemicals used in the imaging process that bears his name. By 1847, after more than a decade of heavy exposure to mercury vapor (a hallucinogen in the extreme), Daguerre becomes convinced that the world will soon end. With that horror in mind, he devises a doomsday list of ten things and people whose essence he wishes to capture in Daguerreotype.

The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre is a fictional look into Daguerre’s life, set partially in his early adolescence. We discover the story behind the last entry on his doomsday list, a woman called Isobel Le Fournier, whom he describes as “his first and only substantial love.” But can he find her again? And did his loss of her shape his creativity?

This novel, Dominic Smith’s first, is a captivating story haunted by regret. Smith’s style is both visual and elegant. The characters feel as though they’ve arisen from the unease of France of the period. Smith’s Daguerre is there, yet not there – between life and death in a hazy limbo, like a Daguerreotype subject awaiting the final shutter click. Such a pleasure to read.