let’s review: the book of speculation

bookofspeculation“I may never again hold another book this old, or one with such a whisper of me in it…”

Simon Watson, an archival librarian about to be unfunded out of a job, lives in his family’s old crumbling house on a cliff by the sea, tip-toeing around the ghosts of his parents and worrying about his sister, Enola, who left to join the circus like their mother, and is about to return home. Then, Simon receives a rare book from an antique bookseller who tracks down Simon by the name of his grandmother, found inside its pages–a traveling carnival logbook from the 1800’s. The women in Simon’s family, a line of performing “mermaids” who can hold their breath for an impossibly long time, apparently have a way of dying young–drowning themselves–all on July 24th. Simon sets out to uncover the deeper story at work–coincidence or curse?–in order to save his sister, and to reckon with his family’s buried secrets and the murky waters of his own history.

With lovely, layered prose and an alternating storyline, I became easily engrossed in The Book of Speculation. Erika Swyler’s writing beautifully weaves together the story of Simon and his family saga, immersing the reader in the long-ago tales of mermaids and fortune-tellers and a family of carnival cast-outs, of beautiful, dangerous girls with half-souls and a pull towards the tide–stories and prophecies colliding with the present day: a brother lost without his sister, a family separated by waves of sadness. Simon tries his best to preserve his family’s falling-apart home with the help of the neighbors, longtime family friends who get mixed up in the story, and Alice–always Alice, and the hope for love rising to the surface–”the things you do for people you’ve known your whole life.” I felt connected to these real characters, caught between dark waters and the will to keep moving forward. I love the way in which this story unfolds, not without a dose of suspending disbelief along the way. So many phrases pulled at me, which made a good story even better. The Book of Speculation is a compelling read to dive into–melancholy and magical, rare and strange, lovely and deep.

2 Responses to “let’s review: the book of speculation”

  1. Marti Sullan Says:

    You’re concise yet entising reviews are so convincing. I always feel as though the book you review is the one I need to rush out and look up first thing in the morning. never get rid of your archives, they hold my list.

  2. Marti Sullan Says:

    like I said – enticing

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