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The Book of Speculation

by Erika Swyler

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler X
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
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  • Susan B. (Hahira, GA)
    The Book of Speculation
    It is always exciting to find an author that can transport you so thoroughly to another place and time and it's even more exciting when it is a debut novel. The title alone was intriguing and I really had no idea what to expect. For an author to find their voice and make a character interesting is hard enough but Ms.Swyler manages to convincingly find the voice of multiple characters in different times, ages, nationalities and sex. She has made all characters, no matter how prominent in the story, so complete and three dimensional that you can believe them to be real.

    As she allows you to peel back the layers, she taunts you to find the secrets that bind her tale together.

    I cannot wait to suggest this book as a book club selection as I feel it will be great choice for discussion.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read a book I might easily have dismissed as "just another circus/carney story."
  • Mary B. (St Paul, MN)
    Book of Speculation
    I enjoyed this book very much. Ms Swyler did a wonderful job of moving the story between past and present times. The world of the traveling carnival in the 1700s was very vivid and interesting. The characters in both time periods were colorful and engaging. The book at the center of the story is as much a character as the people portrayed.
  • Deborah M. (Chambersburg, PA)
    Didn't Expect to Like It--SURPRISE!
    Having just finished The Night Circus, which wasn't exactly my cup of tea, my first thought once I got into the first few chapters of The Book of Speculation was: "Oh, crap, another book about circus people with paranormal abilities!" Fortunately, it was a lot more and a lot better than that. The book's chapters alternate between the present day, in which the protagonist, research librarian Simon Watson, is about to be permanently laid off due to budget cuts and his house about to fall into the sea, and the late 1790s, when Peabody's Portable Magic and Miracles, a menagerie of contortionists, clairvoyants, a miniature horse, a counting pig, a wild boy, and a mermaid, travelled the eastern US states.

    The story begins when Simon is sent a strange book full of odd names and sketches, by Martin Churchwarry, an antiquarian bookseller. Neither seems to know exactly what it is, but Churchwarry has noted the name "Verona Bonn" in it and tracked down Simon as one of her descendants. Indeed, this was the grandmother he never knew, a woman who at one time worked as a circus mermaid and who--oddly--drowned at a young age. Simon recalls how his mother, also an excellent swimmer, had taught he and his sister how to hold their breath underwater for up to ten minutes. But she, too, drowned young, assumedly a suicide--on the same date as her mother.

    If there's an upside to getting laid off, it's that Simon has plenty of time to conduct research into his family's past and track down more information about Peabody's and the mysterious book, which seems to be a carnival record book of sorts. And if there's an upside to being an about-to-be-unemployed research librarian, it's that you have plenty of contacts and resources, as well as time. Even after his last official day of work, Simon still has that access through his longtime friend (and maybe sometime girlfriend) Alice McAvoy, who still works in the small Grainger Library.

    On top of all this, Simon has two other major worries: the historic childhood home in which he still resides is crumbling, and his sister Enola, a highly strung drifter who works as a carnival tarot card reader, is coming for a visit. Not to mention that the ominous date on which his mother and grandmother both drowned is fast approaching.

    So--I don't want to give any more than this--all of which you will learn in the first few chapters. There are a lot of mysteries to be sorted out, and along the way, you'll meet a number of wonderfully drawn, intriguing characters, including: Enola's boyfriend Doyle, The Electric Boy; Hermelius Peabody, carnival manager; Amos, the mute, who transforms from Wild Boy into several new incarnations; Madame Ryzkhova, the tarot reader; Benno, the contortionist; and the beautiful Evangeline, mysterious mermaid extraordinaire. Not to mention about a million horseshoe crabs.

    Beautifully written and highly engaging.
  • Gary R. (Bolingbrook, IL)
    if you breathe up you'll drown
    one of the great pleasures of BookBrowse is being introduced to debut authors like Erica Swyler, just a pleasure to read. The story of librarian Simon and his sister Enola who he hasn't seen in some time,though she calls from the road from time to time. The mystery and the fun starts when an ancient book arrives on Simon's doorstep and a message on his answering machine announces the arrival of his sister. Really enjoyed the switch to the late 1700's traveling circus and back to the present. I'm not going to give to much away you'll just have to read the book,hard to believe this is her first novel. I'll be waiting for her next!
  • Julie G. (West Hartford, CT)
    The Book of Speculation
    Wonderful and magical story which switches back and forth in time. The main character is an out of work librarian who receives a mysterious old book in the mail. As he (and we) become engrossed in the book, the connections between the past (in the old book) and the present become eerily real.
  • Lee M. (Creve Coeur, MO)
    Up and Down and Around
    What a delightful surprise. Remember all the old time carnivals, the booths, the rides, the fat ladies, and the fortune tellers? Oh what fun it all was. This book is all that and more. Did you believe everything you saw and were told. Simon, our hero, does not. We'll sort of, does not. And that's where the fun begins. Ms. Swyler has cleverly juxtaposed a modern carnival family with a written history of a carnival family beginning in 1780. Could one or the other be cursed? Does Simon believe in curses? Do you? Read on and enjoy the RIDE!
  • Molly K. (San Jose, CA)
    Spectacular Speculation
    I was excited on the first page, and when the author described language as beginning to knit, I was hooked.

    Erika Swyler is a brilliant knitter of words. I enjoyed her writing style as much as I enjoyed the story she created. It's full of mystery, suspense, fantasy, and sorrow. Sometimes dark, sometimes mundane, there is always a surprise.

    Although the story is very much plot driven, the characters are not ignored. I left this book, believing I had met some new friends. I look forward to the author's future work.

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