The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
To be published: June 23, 2015
Simon Watson is a reference librarian at the local whaling history archive and library, but quickly loses his job due to budget cuts. He lives in a quickly collapsing house on Long Island Sound, formerly owned by his parents, who are now dead. His sister Enola ran away years ago and reads tarot cards for a traveling carnival. His mother used to be a famous “mermaid” who could hold her breath for several minutes underwater, but she drowned in the water outside of their house. One day, Simon gets a mysterious old book from an antique bookseller who bought the book through speculating and sent it to Simon because it mentioned a woman in his family. The book is from a traveling carnival/circus from the late 1700s, whose “mermaids” also seem to have a drowning problem. Simon quickly realizes that all the women in his family die the same way and always on July 24th. Will Simon be able to understand the connection between the book and his family before it is too late to save his sister? 4 stars.
I picked this book up originally because I love books about librarians and circuses, especially circus history and freak shows. I’ve not yet read The Night Circus, although this book has been compared to it a lot. The book kept moving between the two storylines in a rather seamless way, which was nice as it doesn’t always work like that. I liked the older story a lot better than the modern one. I did feel really anxious for Simon and wanted him to uncover the truth, although I felt like his story and the 1700s story were very slow-moving, especially in the middle of the book (so much so that I almost gave it up). Alice’s character could’ve been more filled-in, especially as she seemed to be such an important part in Simon and Enola’s life. Enola herself was pretty whiny, but I enjoyed her boyfriend Doyle and the images in my head of his octopus tattooes. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.