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The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
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The Book of Speculation (2015)

by Erika Swyler

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1,068907,835 (3.68)50
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Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
Kinda obvious story arc still wanted to finish it to see how everything resolved however. ( )
  Rachel3stelle | May 12, 2018 |
I liked this one. Both storylines were interesting. ( )
  Aseleener | Mar 24, 2018 |
It’s been a while since a book so captured my imagination that I found myself talking to the characters. (You know, like when you’re watching a movie and you tell the girl not to look behind her as she runs away through the woods.) Simon lives in the house he grew up in on the Long Island Sound, but the cliff is eroding and the house is in danger. Simon is unable to keep up with repairs on a librarian’s salary. Someone sends him the logbook of the owner of a traveling circus from the 1700’s. His grandmother’s name is written in the back of the book along with the names of other women who all drowned at a young age on July 24th. His own mother drowned on July 24th when he was young. He struggles to find the connection and solve the mystery before something happens to his sister Enola.

The chapters alternate between Simon and the story of the traveling circus and its members. Some reviewers have found this book to be slow moving and dull, but that was not my experience. I devoured this tale in two days because I didn't want to put it down. I'm looking forward to more books from this author. ( )
  AWahle | Mar 22, 2018 |
Mermaids, tarot cards, curses, a librarian, old books, and a family history weaved through time. This book had everything. The story weaves from past to present effortlessly and captivates you in both time lines. The characters truly came to life. ( )
  karenvg3 | Mar 19, 2018 |
I picked up The Book of Speculation despite reading a lukewarm review of it from another LTer because I'm a sucker for so many elements that are present in this book -- two timelines, family secrets, circus people, magical realist elements, mysterious books. I knew there was a great likelihood I'd be disappointed, but I found it at the elibrary with no wait, so what the heck.

It ended up being fine, but vaguely disappointing. The story focuses on a librarian and his sister, orphaned in childhood after their mother's suicide and their father's death from natural causes. The sister reads tarot cards with a traveling circus, but returns home as her brother is being drawn into a mystery that seems connected to their family after receiving an old book containing names and dates of death of his female ancestors, all of whom die of drowning, like his mother did.

The parallel plot concerns a young, mute boy called Amos who is adopted by traveling circus performers in the late 1700s and comes to assist the company's fortune teller in reading tarot cards. Amos later falls in love with a mysterious girl who wanders out of the woods and joins the company doing a mermaid act that involves holding her breath for ridiculously long periods of time.

The book centers on the librarian's obsessive investigation of the book and the history of Amos and the other circus performers. Eventually the two connect.

Like I said, it was fine but there was something missing or wrong that I can't quite put my finger on. I was not sucked in the way I had hoped I might be. ( )
  fannyprice | Mar 10, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
****
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

That quote, a golden oldie by George Santayana, about the nature of history, just kept coming to me while I was reading The Book of Speculation, the smart and beguiling new novel by Erika Swyler. This book isn’t about history with a capital H, but it’s a story about a family whose future and past are linked, by tragedy and love, and maybe by magic.

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone in his family’s house, which is slowly but surely threatening to crumble into the Long Island Sound. His parents are both dead. His mother, who worked in a circus as a mermaid, drowned in the waters his house overlooks. Simon lives a quiet life, trying to keep the house in one piece with the help of his family’s life long friend and neighbor, Frank. Meanwhile, he begins to drift into love with Frank’s daughter, Alice, who also works at the library. He worries all the while, about his younger sister, Enola, who ran off years ago, and now works for a carnival reading tarot cards, a talent that her mother Paulina also had.

Then Simon receives a book in the mail, sent by an antiquarian bookseller. Old, waterlogged, and damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a travelling carnival in the 1700’s, with many tales of strange and magical occurrences, including the death of a circus mermaid. Simon studies the book, and realizes that it may be about his family. During his research he discovers the fact that many generations of “mermaids” have died by drowning, on July the 24th, the day that his mother died. He also finds out that his sister, Enola, is coming home to visit him. When Enola arrives, followed by her boyfriend Doyle, another circus performer, events accelerate, and Simon, who has lost his job, delves deeper into the book to try and discover if his family is cursed, and if they are, can he find a way to save his sister Enola, and his own future.

There are a lot of things that I am skipping in this synopsis, to avoid spoilers, but I was very charmed by the way that Ms. Swyler mixed the the two stories together, often linking the threads with Tarot cards. The present narrative, told in the first person, and the past, told in the third, were both equally engaging. The ways that each narrative fed and supported the other showed that Ms. Swyler has a real feel for character and a flair for plot and technique. Near the end the present story, the struggles of Simon and Enola and Alice and Doyle, and their quest to end the cycle of tragedies that haunt them seemed to me more engaging than the stories from the past, but it was a quibbling matter. All of the characters in the present tale were so vivid, and their stories were so captivating to me that the tales from the past, became, well, the past. I don’t know if that was Ms. Swyler intent, but I found that it was entirely fitting, and an appropriate and satisfying end to a very good novel. For me, there is no speculation in that.

Review by: Mark Palm
Full Reviews Available at: http://www.thebookendfamily.weebly.co...
 
The history of The Book of Speculation also involves a book within a book.

To submit her book to publishers, Swyler wanted to mimic for them the feeling Simon gets when the old book arrives at his home. She learned how to tea-stain pages and hand-bind books, then turned her manuscripts into, as she says in the same publisher’s interview, “little replicas of the mysterious book that Simon receives,” as it was important for her “to convey both the magic and the tactile pleasure that is an old book.”

She also illustrated her manuscript with sketches that would have appeared in Peabody’s book. Some of these sketches are in the published novel, though that wasn’t Swyler’s original intention: “When St. Martin’s said they were interested in illustrations, I foolishly latched on to this idea that an illustrator would be brought in and we’d have fantastic meetings over coffee where we’d discuss tarot cards and circus wagons.

“When I realized that St. Martin’s wanted my illustrations, I had a small heart attack.”

She need not have. The illustrations add charm, and make Peabody’s book seem all that much more real. So when you return this book to its shelf, be prepared to leave a little piece of your heart in a couple places.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/entertai...
 
Narrator Simon and his younger sister, Enola, grew up in an 18th-century house on a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound. Taking after her mother, a former circus performer who drowned herself when Simon was 7, Enola travels with a carnival as a tarot card reader. Simon is still living in their dangerously dilapidated family home when, out of the blue on one June day, he receives a book from an antiquarian bookseller, who had noticed Simon's grandmother's name inside. Soon Simon discovers a frightening pattern among his female ancestors, all unnaturally good swimmers, all drowning as young women on July 24.
added by smasler | editKirkus Reivews (Apr 1, 2015)
 
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For Mom, there are no words.
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June 20th - Perched on the Bluff's edge, the house is in danger.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 125005480X, Hardcover)

"Dear Mr. Watson, I came across this book at auction as part of a larger lot I purchased on speculation. The damage renders it useless to me, but a name inside it—Verona Bonn—led me to believe it might be of interest to you or your family...."

Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home—a house, perched on the edge of a bluff, that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, works for a traveling carnival reading tarot cards, and seldom calls.

On a day in late June, Simon receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who lived and worked in a traveling circus more than two hundred years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes, sketches, and whimsical flourishes; and his best friend and fellow librarian, Alice, looks on in increasing alarm. Why does his grandmother's name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? Why do so many women in his family drown on July 24? Could there possibly be some kind of curse on his family—and could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in six years, risk the same fate in just a few weeks? In order to save her—and perhaps himself—Simon must try urgently to decode his family history while moving on from the past. 

 
The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler's gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books and family and magic.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:32 -0400)

"Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home--a house, perched on the edge of a bluff, that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, works for a traveling carnival reading tarot cards, and seldom calls. On a day in late June, Simon receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who lived and worked in a traveling circus more than two hundred years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes, sketches, and whimsical flourishes; and his best friend and fellow librarian, Alice, looks on in increasing alarm. Why does his grandmother's name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? Why do so many women in his family drown on July 24? Could there possibly be some kind of curse on his family--and could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in six years, risk the same fate in just a few weeks? In order to save her--and perhaps himself--Simon must try urgently to decode his family history while moving on from the past. The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler's gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books and family and magic"--… (more)

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