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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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There are currently 36 member reviews
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  • Rose N. (Saginaw, MI)
    The Book of Speculation
    Erika Swyler has penned a mystery filled with love, superstition, a family curse, genealogy, and tales of a traveling carnival. The story begins to unravel when Simon, a reference librarian, receives an eighteenth century journal that was kept by a carnival director. The mention in the journal of his grandmother leads to the discovery that his mother was only one of the carnival's "mermaids" who died by drowning...always on July 24. Simon feels he must somehow protect his sister from the same fate. The setting for the novel...Simon's house on the eastern shore which is in disrepair and about to be dashed into the ocean by the next storm, and a modern carnival for which his sister and her tattooed lover work...adds to the suspense. This is a fast-paced and enjoyable read for fans of this genre and there is much in it that would provide a good discussion for a Book Club.
  • Priscilla M. (Houston, TX)
    A story of melancholy and magic
    This is a story of magic, told slowly, layer by layer, alternately between the past and the present. Simon and his sister Enola are the only surviving members of his family. Enola works in a circus telling fortunes and Simon is a librarian in a small coastal town, living in a dilapidated house built in the 1700s. Simon's mother committed suicide by drowning, and his dad died of an aneurysm not long after. Simon describes his family as a sad family, perhaps cursed, a fear given new life when a bookseller sends hm an old book that mentions Simon's grandmother. Simon is launched into an investigation of the history of his mother's family to find out if he can keep his sister from meeting the same fate as their mother. It is a story of discovery, of tangled family lines, and ultimately of redemption. I would have given it 5 stars, but the plot moved very slowly until the reader had enough clues to follow the story. Some readers may not want to stick around that long. It is a marvelous, magical story peopled with quirky characters and definitely worth reading.
  • Freya H. (Phoenix, AZ)
    The Book of Speculation
    For a debut novel I think this was well done. Ms. Swyler's writing style was agreeable, and her research impeccable. My only problem, character development. I couldn't seem to connect with any of the main characters. "Night Circus" was a better read in my opinion.
  • Beth M. (NY, NY)
    Good but ultimately not satisfying
    I have very mixed feelings about the Book of Speculation. On the one hand it's a multi generational story of love, magic, and ultimately redemption. The book is beautifully written and very atmospheric. It was a quick, entertaining read. The driving plot absorbs you and keeps you turning pages to find out what actually happens.

    My problem was that I couldn't really connect with any of the characters. I didn't feel the characters had much depth. Plus I felt the storyline was a little too fantastical. By the time I reached the end of the book, I felt disappointed and didn't care whether Simon, the main character, succeeded in his quest.
  • Melissa H. (McKees Rocks, PA)
    The hook "If you liked Night Circus.." was all I needed to submit my request to read this Advanced Readers Copy! I wouldn't give it the 5 stars that Night Circus garnered, but this story earned a solid 3, possibly a 4. It was an easy read, I enjoyed the parallel stories of the carnival years ago and today's descendants. It wasn't quite as magical as Night Circus, but an entertaining read all the same.
  • Katherine Y. (Albuquerque, NM)
    So many good fun ideas, but not a great novel
    I was especially excited to review this book given the elements that it brings together: Tarot cards, book dealers, libraries/librarian and circuses. And there are all these interesting elements in the book and it's clear that the research on these topics was well done, but somehow they didn't come together for me to create a compelling story. Perhaps it's that there were actually too many interesting quirky elements in the story and that detracted from the development of a the narrative.
  • Patty S. (Towson, MD)
    A little too farfetched
    I wanted to like this book more than I did. The passage of time, a circus, and even a librarian! Erika Swyler has a real gift of prose that showed itself over and over again but her use of dialog felt forced to me. Reading it made me want to dig out the tarot cards I used to play with years ago. I appreciated the way she was able to take these parallel storylines and was able to sustain them until coming together in the end. All in all, an interesting book about family and memory and trust. A good first novel.

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