Book/Audio Book Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

BOOK OF SPECULATION_tpMECH_01.inddTitle:  The Book of Speculation

Author: Erika Swyler

Release Date:  June 23rd, 2015

Genre:  Adult Fiction

“As Simon, a lonely research librarian, searches frantically for the key to a curse that might be killing the women in his family, he learns strange and fascinating secrets about their past. A tale full of magic and family mystery, The Book of Speculation will keep you up all night reading.”—Isaac Fitzgerald, BuzzFeed

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone in a house that is slowly crumbling toward the Long Island Sound. His parents are long dead. His mother, a circus mermaid who made her living by holding her breath, drowned in the very water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, ran off six years ago and now reads tarot cards for a traveling carnival.

One June day, an old book arrives on Simon’s doorstep, sent by an antiquarian bookseller who purchased it on speculation. Fragile and water damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports strange and magical things, including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of “mermaids” in Simon’s family have drowned–always on July 24, which is only weeks away.

As his friend Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly worried about his sister. Could there be a curse on Simon’s family? What does it have to do with the book, and can he get to the heart of the mystery in time to save Enola?

In the tradition of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, The Book of Speculation–with two-color illustrations by the author–is Erika Swyler’s moving debut novel about the power of books, family, and magic.

Summary from

My Review:  I came upon this book because it was in my suggestions on audible.  I am a librarian and the main character was a librarian so I thought it would be interesting to give this book a chance.  I have seen comparisons to The Night Circus and Water for Elephants and I would not put this book in with either of those.  Yes, there is a traveling circus in this book, but that is where the similarities end for comparing those books end.  The Book of Speculation weaves a story from the past and the present together in a magical and intriguing way that keeps you completely enthralled, desperate to discover how the two are related to one another.

I listened to the book on audible and the narrator was fantastic!  He did all the voices, read at a great pace and was very engaging.  I loved him and will be sure to look up what else he has narrated and give those a try as well.  There were a couple of moments at the beginning of the story that I was not sure if I was going to stick with it, but his narration kept me interested and I am glad I stuck with it, because about 50 pages in, it really started to pick up.  I will say that listening to the audio had one downside, I did not know there were drawings in the book until after I was done.  I happened to pick up a copy and noticed them and wish I had known about them earlier because I would have liked to see them as I was reading.  I am pretty sure they were described to me throughout the novel, but the illustrations were very interesting and I went back through to see all of them.  So if you do listen to it, know that there are small illustrations in there that you might be interested in seeing.  I just checked the book out from my library and scanned through them that way.

I am not sure how much I can really say about the book itself without giving too much away.  The magic in this story was not knowing what was going to happen and who was related to whom.  Each chapter unraveled one mystery only to present a new one which kept me very intrigued and always guessing about what was going to happen next.  We follow Simon, a librarian who is about to be let go, as he tries to uncover why an old book landed on his doorstep and how it relates to him and his family.  The book itself tells the story of a travelling circus from long ago, the characters all acts within Mr. Peabody’s show.  Honestly, almost every one of them could have had their own book and I would have been interested in learning every detail about them.  I was fascinated by their lives and what they entailed.  At the beginning of this book I wanted to get back to the chapters about them, but by the end I was more interested in Simon’s life and how it connected to this traveling circus.  Swyler weaved an amazing journey, that I was not sure I was willing to go on at first, but now I cannot stop thinking about it.  I know it is a book that I will re-read and it will stay with me.  I have not read anything else by her yet, but I will be on the lookout for her books in the future in hopes of getting lost in a new and magical world.

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