Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Published by St. Martin's Press on June 2015
Genres: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pages: 339
Format: eBook
Source: Publisher
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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 overlooks.

One 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.

Simon, having just lost his job and his home in much needed repair or it will fall into the sea, is captivated when a long lost book arrives in the mail with his grandmother’s name. And so unravels a thread about mermaids, carnivals, drownings and love. Can Simon figure out the great mysteries of his family before it’s too late?

I love the writing of this book. It reminds me of the magic and tone of The Night Circus, except without all of the sugar descriptions. The dark and ominous tone of the book balances well with between the two timelines as we read about current day Simon, struggling to find unravel his family history and possibly the reason of his mother’s suicide, and the long ago carnival that housed a wild boy, a mermaid, a fortune teller and company. I loved going bak and forth between the timelines, allowing us glimpses of life between both worlds. Each chapter pulled me in so that at the end, I was always sad to leave that story and go to the other one. (Both were well written.)

But the book did drag for me in places, mainly towards the end. Everything in Simon’s timeline was supposed to be coming to a big conclusion, but it felt like a let down. On the other timeline, with the circus, the closing of that storyline was beautiful and bittersweet, but also felt too fragile and soft. I would have liked to know more about what happened to them after we leave them, though we have a hint form the current timeline’s research. Still, I invested so much time in those characters, I would have like a more complete circle between the two stories. Also there are worlds and generations between the two stories and while they were mentioned and played an important role, there wasn’t enough detail on them which made me sad. I would have liked something!

Overall, The Book Of Speculation is well written and a dark bittersweet fairy tale that many will enjoy.  Even though I’m not a fan of the ending, I think the overall tone, writing and imagery of the book is well worth the read.