A sweeping and captivating debut novel about a young librarian who is sent a mysterious old book, inscribed with his grandmother s name What is the book s connection to his family Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooksOne day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon s grandmother Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before fate deals its next deadly hand The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler s gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic


10 thoughts on “The Book of Speculation

  1. karen karen says:

    short story prequel The Mermaid Girl available today and as a bonus, here is a really dark and blurry picture of me with the author, who is either delighted or terrified by my drunken enthusiasm about her book this book is for all you fans of The Night Circus or Geek Love BUT if you hated The Night Circus, don t run off just yet, because this is both better written and much darker BUT those of you who are turned off by me saying much darker should know it s not too dark there, short story prequel The Mermaid Girl available today and as a bonus, here is a really dark and blurry picture of me with the author, who is either delighted or terrified by my drunken enthusiasm about her book this book is for all you fans of The Night Circus or Geek Love BUT if you hated The Night Circus, don t run off just yet, because this is both better written and much darker BUT those of you who are turned off by me saying much darker should know it s not too dark there, i think i ve sufficiently confused everyone oh, i just noticed katherine dunn blurbed this that s pretty perfect this is a book for people who like books about books, sideshows, family sagas with a little magic in em, and strong supportive boys covered in tentacle tattoos.there s a magical element to the story, but it doesn t overshadow what is at its heart a melancholy and beautiful story of a family s sufferings across generations half of the book is the story of simon watson, a sweet and hapless librarian who is going through the roughest of rough patches he loses his job, the family home, where he has lived alone for years in a nostalgic haze, is sliding ever closer to the edge of a cliff overlooking the long island sound, he has just clumsily initiated aintimate relationship with a woman he has known since childhood, his whirlwind of a sister enola has breezed back into town scrawny, emotional, and trailing a heavily tattooed fella, and he has received a very curious book in the mail which is about to change his life the book is a log from a traveling carnival dating back to the 1700 s, and simon discovers that it contains information about his ancestors, which calls his attention to a freaky coincidence generations of circus mermaids related along the female line all died by drowning on july 24th which is the date his mother, a former circus mermaid, also drowned when he was a child both simon and enola were taught the breath holding techniques of the mermaid by their mother, but while enola has followed her mother s path into a carnival career, she deals strictly in tarot however, july 24th is only six weeks away, and patterns are starting to emerge in the book that are manifesting around him, causing simon to worry very seriously for enola alternating with simon s narrative is the fleshed out story from the log, which documents the travels of peabody s the traveling carnival where simon and enola s ancestors, amos and evangeline, meet and initiate the cycle that will affect subsequent generations it s rare for me, in split narrative books, to be equally invested in both stories usually there is one i amdrawn to, while the other becomes something i read in order to get back to the real story but this time, i was just as engrossed in the amos evangeline story as the simon one and i took such delight in the details that crossed over from one story to the other the lockpicking, the tarot cards, the horseshoe crabs, etc which, never have horseshoe crabs been so sinister.oh, and did i mention this was illustrated because it is not heavily, which would be distracting, but appropriately and squeeee this ARC came with a cool little mini book about the making of the hand bound, gilded manuscripts on tea stained paper that were sent to book publishers in September 2013. which is the way to go when trying to get a book deal and i want one of THOSE, please but for those of you who do not have an ARC, or are reading this in the future when the book is already out, hi what is the future like are there any new animals don t be jealous just click this link it s a very strong debut, and honestly knowing that this woman hand bound ornate manuscripts to circulate to publishers makes me very willing to support her in all her endeavors, because that s the kind of craftiness in both meanings i can enthusiastically applaud plus, the book is really good, so there s that.i am looking forward to reading other reviews of this, so read it which are not mermaids like this which it what i was thinking of minus the bull when i read the back of this book and thought hmmmm sounds silly but are mermaids in the sense that they can hold their breath for a really long time and swim around sexily underwater in clingy white dresses for the delight of leering menfolk.which is not silly, just kind of sad like so many elements of the carnival.come to my blog


  2. Emily May Emily May says:

    I fell asleep at my desk, having spent the last day teaching myself about curses and searching for Ryzhkova The National Archives were lacking in ship manifests pre 1800, but allowed me to track bibliographies that led to the New York Public Library s archives and manifests from 1600 on This is a book about a whiny narrator doing research And also about tarot cards.The Book of Speculation is a strange novel and, really, that s its greatest merit Many different flat and lifeless charI fell asleep at my desk, having spent the last day teaching myself about curses and searching for Ryzhkova The National Archives were lacking in ship manifests pre 1800, but allowed me to track bibliographies that led to the New York Public Library s archives and manifests from 1600 on This is a book about a whiny narrator doing research And also about tarot cards.The Book of Speculation is a strange novel and, really, that s its greatest merit Many different flat and lifeless characters have their own weird stories overlapping in this book and behind it all is the story of Simon Watson s family and the curse that may take the lives of all its women.The book seems to promise dark family secrets, books, carnivals and magic a blend which sounds like paradise for most readers In truth, though, it was very slow and dull It s one of those stories that is strongest in the very beginning when setting up the mystery it propels the reader along by a need to discover the answers and nothing .The middle section of the book about 80% of it should have been made up of compelling drama, excitement, interesting discoveries and fascinating flashbacks to the past Instead, it s about the boring character of Simon Watson stealing books from the library and conducting tedious research into why the women of his family might be cursed to die on July 24.The flashback or,accurately, the book Simon receives starts off in ainteresting way It features the story of two young lovers who are also carnival acts Amos is a former wild boy and now reads tarot cards, Evangeline is a mermaid because she can hold her breath for a long time My favourite bit indeed, the only part I really liked was the start of Amos s story as a mute boy from the wilderness, taken in and given a home at the carnival But eventually this became as tedious as the present day story There is something a little fascinating about tarot cards, but this book drained every bit of excitement out of them From endless mentions of cards and card reading, to Amos using the cards to communicate with Evangeline, I just grew so tired of the book s plotlessness and boring conversations.The Book of Speculation is being compared to two other popular books The Night Circus and Water for Elephants I haven t read the first, but I would say the latter is farengaging than this book Gruen s writing has an easy flow to it that Swyler lacks It was so very easy for me to put this book aside every few minutes.In my opinion, there are far better books about books The Shadow of the Wind, The Thirteenth Tale and The Storied Life of A.J Fikry, to name but a few.Blog Facebook Twitter Instagram Tumblr


  3. Shelby *trains flying monkeys* Shelby *trains flying monkeys* says:

    The story of the Book of Speculation takes place in two time periods Modern day and a setting in the 1700 s Simon is our present day main character A lonely research librarian that lives in his family home due to the fact that he can t bare to leave it His mother walked into the water one day and killed herself and his father grieved himself to death Simon raised his younger sister Enola and then she left Simon s family is a special family All the women in it have been able to hold their The story of the Book of Speculation takes place in two time periods Modern day and a setting in the 1700 s Simon is our present day main character A lonely research librarian that lives in his family home due to the fact that he can t bare to leave it His mother walked into the water one day and killed herself and his father grieved himself to death Simon raised his younger sister Enola and then she left Simon s family is a special family All the women in it have been able to hold their breath for long periods of time but they all have died at an early age From drowning Simon receives a book from a collector that unlocks links to his families past He becomes obsessed with breaking the curse of the mermaids carnival mermaids that haunts his family.Then you have the rest of the story Amos was the wild boy in a carnival He then was trained in reading the cards even though he is mute He falls in love with Evangeline, who shows up at the show one day distraught with a special gift of being able to hold her breath under water The stories weave themselves together and then for me just flop I wanted better characters for such a interesting concept of a book You have a guy with tentacle tattoos that can light up light bulbs in his hands for crying out loud Disclosure I picked up this book at the library For free


  4. Cristina Monica Cristina Monica says:

    I m bored So much dullness and uneventfulness that I can t take it any I ll just read something else and leave this to people who don t mind one dimensional characters, unending unnecessary descriptions and a depressive atmosphere Ugh, DNF.


  5. James James says:

    4 stars to Erika Swyler s The Book of Speculation, a beautiful story full of intense imagery and powerful connections among the many characters With a slight border into the fantasy realm, this tale is well woven and provides an opportunity to feel the impact the past has across a family s descendants and relationships The book alternates chapters weaving the past and the present together while challenging the reader to determine the connection between the two stories Story In the past, a 4 stars to Erika Swyler s The Book of Speculation, a beautiful story full of intense imagery and powerful connections among the many characters With a slight border into the fantasy realm, this tale is well woven and provides an opportunity to feel the impact the past has across a family s descendants and relationships The book alternates chapters weaving the past and the present together while challenging the reader to determine the connection between the two stories Story In the past, a traveling carnival and circus heads up and down the Eastern seaboard in the mid 18th century lead by the incomparable Peabody Along the way, he takes in stray who become part of his acts and his own life When he s forced to choose between some of the older members and the newer finds, disaster strikes causing a flood of impacts for the future.In the present, Simon Watson, receives a book from a mysterious bookseller in Iowa Simon s Long Island shore house is crumbling and he loses his job as a librarian in difficult economic times His wayward carnie sister comes home resembling their late mother His childhood friend becomes his lover He begins to make connections between the people in the book he receives with his own family but doesn t understand what it means All the women are tied together on a certain date under certain weather conditions.The two stories collide in a powerful realization leaving Simon at the center of preventing the same fate from happening to his sister In the end, everything he knew about his life is turned upside down and he finds himself a tragic hero But will he sacrifice himself in order to preserve his family Strengths The imagery is stunning The intensity of the relationships is beautiful The connections among the characters are vast It s a very simple story but it s a very complex fall out The author hits the art form right in its center, providing a wonderfully tragic tale full of intrigue, suspense and drama You never know who to root for, but you want them all to survive the impacts It s one of the only books where I didn t need to care so much about specific characters as I did for the way they all relate to one another It s about relationships and trust, love and power Suggestions I generally am not a huge fantasy fan, but when I read fantasy, I want it to go all out, e.g Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings this book crosses a very fine line of not actually having any fantasy in it, but the underlying arc that drives the connection feels like it has fantastical elements at its core I would have liked to see that exploredso it had a very clear purpose in the end don t want to give away spoilers A little too much is left to interpretation on what really happened, and why it s happening which is OK, I like the unknown magic aspects, but given this was such a strong and powerful story, I wanted a littledepth to the core of why Final Thoughts I like the author s style and would want to readfrom her I m curious to see what others think of this debut novel It has so many great components and images, it s bound to be a success At the same time, it was missing that final piece to push it over the edge and gain immense popularity The title, The Book of Speculation could have been exploredand it would have knocked it out of the park for me


  6. Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ says:

    3.5 stars Review first posted on Fantasy Literature Simon Watson, a librarian, is unexpectedly gifted with a mysterious old book out of the blue, from a man he s never met a badly damaged record from a traveling circus In another unanticipated development in his life, Simon enters into a romantic relationship with his longtime friend and next door neighbor, Alice, though for now they re keeping it secret from their co workers and her parents Unfortunately everything else in Simon s life is c 3.5 stars Review first posted on Fantasy Literature Simon Watson, a librarian, is unexpectedly gifted with a mysterious old book out of the blue, from a man he s never met a badly damaged record from a traveling circus In another unanticipated development in his life, Simon enters into a romantic relationship with his longtime friend and next door neighbor, Alice, though for now they re keeping it secret from their co workers and her parents Unfortunately everything else in Simon s life is crumbling his career, as he s laid off from his job at the library his house on the edge of a bluff, which is in danger of sliding into Long Island Sound his relationship with his only living family member, his younger sister Enola, who ran off to join the circus six years earlier Worse yet, as Simon begins to research and explore the old book sent to him by a collector because it has one of his ancestors names in it, he realizes that the women in his family, who have uncanny abilities to stay underwater working as a mermaid in a circus or carnival is a popular family occupation always drown on July 24 Enola suddenly gets back in touch to let him know that she s coming home to visit and July 24 is only days away.Erica Swyler alternates chapters telling Simon s story with chapters telling a related story from the past, about Amos, a mute young man who was abandoned by his family as a young boy and is taken in by the proprietor of a traveling carnival Amos initially acts as a Wild Man in the carnival s freak show, showcasing his ability to literally vanish and reappear before the spectators eyes As he grows older, Madame Ryzhkova, the fortune teller, adopts Amos as her apprentice, teaching him the secrets of the tarot cards All goes well, until one stormy night an ethereal girl, whose skin shimmers as if made of water, wanders into their midst and joins the group, and Amos instantly falls in love Madame Ryzkova is certain the girl, Evangeline, is a Rusalka water nymph or mermaid , but Amos is deaf to her entreaties to leave Evangeline alone.As Simon gradually finds outabout his family history, the themes and items from the past and current day becomeandintertwined circuses with power filled tarot cards and mermaids Ominous horseshoe crab invasions Love fraught with tension Betrayal Curses.The main characters in the present day story, Simon and his sister Enola whose temperament and dangerous fate echo the WWII bomber Enola Gay , are so flawed that they end up not being particularly likable Simon seems to be compelled to take actions that are self defeating Amos and Evangeline areappealing and interesting, though they each have a tragic streak that tends to tip over into fatalism.Erika Swyler weaves together several intriguing elements in The Book of Speculation, with some enchanting magical realism touches tarot cards really work, as do curses Several characters have rather subtle magical abilities, like Amos ability to gradually vanish, Enola s boyfriend s electric touch, or the ability to hold one s breath for ten minutes or , at least if you have some Rusalka blood.Tarot cards are a recurring device used to move the plot along It will help your enjoyment of this book if you re familiar with tarot cards and find them entrancing but their frequent use failed to resonate with me, though it might appealto other readers.The fantastical elements, though I appreciated them, didn t seem fully integrated into the story The theme of the titular Book of Speculation remains rather obscure, lacking the impact that it should have had The Book of Speculation is a rather gloomy and slow paced novel, and in the end it just didn t all quite come together for me It was mildly enjoyable, but personally I think it suffers somewhat in comparison to The Night Circus


  7. Darth J Darth J says:

    Average Rating 3 Stars Past Chapters 4 Stars Present Chapters 2 starsI felt like this book was a gyp The blurb oversold this asinteresting than it actually was The mermaids here are not the kind that transform and have a fish tail, they are just mundane people who can hold their breath Ugh I get that this is magical realism and everything, but that just feels cheap.The most interesting story takes place in the past and involves a fortune teller This is the backbone of the boo Average Rating 3 Stars Past Chapters 4 Stars Present Chapters 2 starsI felt like this book was a gyp The blurb oversold this asinteresting than it actually was The mermaids here are not the kind that transform and have a fish tail, they are just mundane people who can hold their breath Ugh I get that this is magical realism and everything, but that just feels cheap.The most interesting story takes place in the past and involves a fortune teller This is the backbone of the book and the only part that s entertaining, TBH.The chapters that take place in the present are so heavily weighed down with melancholy that I started hating when the story would shift back into today It s really just awful and depressing, and weirdly romanticizes suicide by drowning I know it s gross, but I started referring to this as the Book of Speculums Sorry guys, but this wasn t the book for me Like a scammy fortune teller, The Book of Speculation pulls you in with an interesting premise but fails to live up to the hype it as created for itself


  8. Mandy Mandy says:

    Wow Wow Wow This book was simply amazing I m not usually drawn to books of this nature but I thrive on how the author uses one book, a book that began with one man who ran a carnival with 3 people in it that change the course of the characters lives Swyler braids these families together in the book with nothing out of place, no hairs loose Truly a captivating story about family and love and how our roots can help us grow wings Read this novel it doesn t disappoint and is magical Wow Wow Wow This book was simply amazing I m not usually drawn to books of this nature but I thrive on how the author uses one book, a book that began with one man who ran a carnival with 3 people in it that change the course of the characters lives Swyler braids these families together in the book with nothing out of place, no hairs loose Truly a captivating story about family and love and how our roots can help us grow wings Read this novel it doesn t disappoint and is magical in a way that makes your heart twinkle


  9. Heidi The Reader Heidi The Reader says:

    Simon works in the reference section at a struggling library in Maine, whose biggest draw is a whaling archive He s hard up for money and his historic home on the coast is in such disrepair that it s about to fall into the ocean.One day, Simon receives a very old book in the mail Strangely, it has some of his family member s names in it.The text describes a circus, a boy who can t speak, and a girl who can hold her breath so long that they call her a mermaid.But, what does this have to do with Simon works in the reference section at a struggling library in Maine, whose biggest draw is a whaling archive He s hard up for money and his historic home on the coast is in such disrepair that it s about to fall into the ocean.One day, Simon receives a very old book in the mail Strangely, it has some of his family member s names in it.The text describes a circus, a boy who can t speak, and a girl who can hold her breath so long that they call her a mermaid.But, what does this have to do with his family And why do so many of the people in the book die on the same day In addition to the mystery, The Book of Speculation includes one or two love storiesRedheaded and pretty, Alice has her father s smile and a way with kids She s better with people than I am, which is why she handles programming and I m in referencepg 9, ebook.I did not like how the reference section was stereotypically depicted as the bad with people part of the library I have a soft spot in my heart for those reference types, having been one myself in my previous job Also, for being a librarian, Simon doesn t act very librarian y.Take this part when he receives the mysterious bookThe box contains a good sized book, carefully wrapped A small shock runs through me It s very old, not a book to be handled with naked fingers, but seeing as it s already ruined, I give in to the quiet thrill of touching something with historypg 15.No self respecting archivist would do that Already ruined so who cares I don t think so.But my biggest librarian related beef with this book is when view spoiler Simon steals books from the library I read that and saw red It wouldn t happen end of story hide spoiler The fantasy magic portions of this book are subtle and written so that one could almost believe that it was real.Take Amos one of the characters from the old book ability to disappearPeople may live for a century without discovering the secret of vanishing The boy found it because he was free to listen to the ground humming, the subtle moving of soil, and the breathing of water a whisper barely discernible over the sound of a heartbeat Water was the keypg 18 ebook.The history recorded in the old book is revealed to the reader through a series of flashbacks That bothered some of my friends on Goodreads but the circus folk stories are my favorite parts of this book.The characterizations are ok, nothing extraordinary.My favorite minor character, Benno, could have usedfleshing outAfter a time Benno climbed down from the wagon You are my friend and you are kind, he said quietly More than is good I was taught to watch for gentle souls, as they ve not the wit to look after themselvespg 124, ebook.Some final thoughts as brief as his role was in the book, I wanted to knowabout Evangeline s father view spoiler He s the only male mermaid mentioned in here other than Simon, right So, what s up with that hide spoiler Some similar reads perhaps a bitmagical than this The Golem and the Jinni, Magonia or The Mermaid s Sister


  10. Diane S ☔ Diane S ☔ says:

    It took me a while to get into this one, I didn t take to Simon right away and the pace started out very slow It was the mysterious book that did it Imagine being sent a book, with pictures of tarot cards, descriptions of traveling show acts and realizing you are reading about your own family.Told in two separate time periods, the present and the late 1700 s,this is a book that has a little of everything.A mute boy who is originally a wild boy in the traveling show but than is taught to read c It took me a while to get into this one, I didn t take to Simon right away and the pace started out very slow It was the mysterious book that did it Imagine being sent a book, with pictures of tarot cards, descriptions of traveling show acts and realizing you are reading about your own family.Told in two separate time periods, the present and the late 1700 s,this is a book that has a little of everything.A mute boy who is originally a wild boy in the traveling show but than is taught to read cards.Tarot cards, and a curseLove and murder,Mysterious drownings,Strange occurrences at certain births.Family loyalFriendshipsA man who can light up bulbs with his bodyFamily secretsAll this comes together rather brilliantly in the end Some very original characters and an inside look at how it was to travel from town to town in a traveling show, the various acts and the people who made up the show In the present, secrets exposed and lives saved.Good writing and a original concept for a novel Another author I will keep an eye out for ARC from Netgalley