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Smith'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 the years following find him delusional and ill, racked with terrible fevers. Slowly dying from repeated exposure to mercury, the very means by which he was able to capture image and light, Daguerre is now convinced the world will soon end. Fashioning a "Doomsday List" of ten photographs he must take before "The End," perhaps none is more urgent that that of Isobel Le Fournier, the object of a youthful crush, lost to Daguerre years ago.
Navigating the Paris streets with his friend Charles Baudelaire and a mysterious prostitute named Pigeon, Daguerre encounters a city awash in excess, cafés charged with the talk of revolution, and a countryside blanketed by the smell of gunpowder. As the search for his doomsday subjects intensifies and his health grows more precarious, Daguerre learns, quite improbably, that he may actually have one last chance at love.
In The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre, Smith has fashioned a novel as beguiling as it is strange; an intoxicating blend of history and imagination. (Summer 2006 Selection)