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The Book of Speculation: A Novel by Erika…
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The Book of Speculation: A Novel (original 2015; edition 2016)

by Erika Swyler (Author)

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1,1459410,282 (3.68)58
Member:artistlibrarian
Title:The Book of Speculation: A Novel
Authors:Erika Swyler (Author)
Info:St. Martin's Griffin (2016), Edition: Reprint, 384 pages
Collections:Wishlist
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The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler (2015)

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Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
This book is phenomenal - I loved it. It's amazing how the author uses location and weather as such strong characters to complement the cast of troubled family members. ( )
  mmaestiho | Sep 20, 2018 |
Simon Watson is a librarian in the town of Napawset, on Long Island. His house, inherited from his father, is crumbling around him, as is the land it stands on. His father, inexplicably, never did the basic things necessary to maintain it against the forces of erosion, and the problem is now unfixable on a librarian's income.

That's before Simon loses his job to budget cuts.

But in the midst of the crisis, he receives a book in the mail, from Martin Churchwarry, a dealer in old and rare books. The book apparently belonged to Simon's grandmother, or someone who knew her, and it's the log book of a traveling circus. This is where we get the first hints of the strange family history of Simon's late mother, Paulina. Paulina was a circus mermaid, able to hold her breath for impossibly long periods. Yet she died by drowning, a suicide. And so did her mother, and her grandmother... As Simon uncovers more and more of his family's past, he becomes frightened for his younger sister, Enola, who is also a circus performer, although she's a fortune teller, not a mermaid.

The story unfolds in alternating chapters, Simon's story of his uncovering of painful family secrets that will change his life and his sister's forever, and the story of the first of their mermaid ancestors, and the fortune teller who finds her wandering, lost, and leads her to the traveling circus.

Both stories are poignantly told, and Simon, Enola, Alice, and Doyle, in the present, and Amos, Evangeline, and Madam Ryzhkova, in the late 18th century, become real and compelling characters. The fantasy elements here are subtle but crucial, as Amos and Evangeline experience unfolding disaster, and Simon, Alice, and Enola learn secrets they never imagined about their own families.

Recommended.

I'm instituting a new policy of noting Hugo eligibility wherever relevant. This book is eligible for the Hugo Awards in 2016.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
I should know by now that the trope of "people discover patterns in family history, usually with the help of an inanimate object and then break the pattern" doesn't really do it for me. I've read lots of books with that trope, and find them to be really predictable. This book is no exception. It beats you over the head with symbolism (Tarot cards! the family house is falling into the sea!), and I knew how it was going to end about one fifth of the way into it. There are two intertwined timelines and stories - the circus storyline was evocative and interesting, if implausible. ( )
  Gwendydd | Aug 13, 2018 |
At least I finished it. ( )
  shelbycassie | Aug 5, 2018 |
Really 4.5 Stars! When a novel begins with a house teetering precariously on the edge of the Long Island Sound you know you are in for a riveting, unusual read! Debut novelist Swyler has written a fast paced, mesmerizing story about a family with a haunted past.

A mysterious antique book arrives addressed to our first narrator - research librarian Simon. It is his home that is slipping over the edge into the sea. The reader is quickly drawn into an intriguing mystery. The novel presents dual narratives - Simon in the present day trying to determine where the antique book came from, what connection it has to his family, and whether or not it can provide answers to the questions he has regarding his mother, who died when he and his sister Enola were young. If you love books, libraries, the ocean, and/or your family, not to mention a good mystery, Simon's storyline will pull you in.

The second narrative belongs to the young mute boy Amos. Set in the 1780's, for me this was the most fascinating portion. A traveling circus, curses, murder, an epic love story, mermaids, tarot cards, caravans - the author brings it all to life so vividly! I found myself racing through the book, eager to read each chapter, but then I forced myself to slow down and savor the brilliant descriptions and spend time with all the fascinating characters.

I added to the enjoyment by checking out Swyler's tumbler and Pinterest feeds - great pictures of things that inspired her as well as the process whereby she learned to book bind and age paper in order to send out her novel to perspective publishing houses looking like an antique book such as the one Simon received in the mail - so cool!

My big quibble with the book is the cover the publisher has chosen for the USA edition - way too generic and bland! I much prefer the drawing on the back of the ARC I received, it shows the house on the edge of the cliff. It looks like the UK edition may get this cover - lucky! It would be interesting to see how the cover influences sales..... ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (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.
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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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