Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

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*I received this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Book of Speculation

Author: Erika Swyler

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 9781250054807

The Book of Speculation

Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.

—–

I was so drawn to this book. It combines that bit of mystery, with the thrilling creep of a ragtag circus, a family cursed, and hidden secrets.This book was full of a strange kind of magic. It’s dark and ominous, but will have your heart racing. Swyler paints a vivid picture of the traveling circus of the past, and the haunted family in the present. I loved her characters. Each has a magical quality, almost not real, but still totally believable: the mermaid who can hold her breathe seemingly indefinitely, the gypsy who reads the taro cards that never lie, the wild boy who can’t be tamed. These characters leap to life, stealing the stage, but their lives seem doomed. In contrast is the studious and homely Simon.

Simon Watson is an unassuming character. He’s a librarian, with a passions for solving the mystery of a text. He can hold his breath, just like the many family members before him. When he comes across a book that ties so closely to his own family history, Simon uncovers things about his family’s past that perhaps he wishes remained hidden. He feels a pull into the past, needing to know more, and burning with a desire to protect what remains of his family. With his parents dead, all he has left to hold on to are his sister, Enola, and the house that his parents loved so dearly. As he makes his way through a mysterious text labeled The Book of Speculation, he begins to uncover a trail of curses and death tied closely to the figures he comes to know as family.The knowledge of his past throws his present into turmoil as dark secrets loom overhead. Death stalks his family and who knows who could be next.

This is the perfect book to get me into the carnival stories. I’ve been told that I’ll enjoy The Night CIrcus after loving Swyler’s book. This is a story of unknowns, of speculation. The past and the present are intricately tied. Swyler creates tension between the characters and between eras as well. No action is without consequence and Simon seems to be racing against the clock, trying to stop whatever evil looms so closely on their horizon. In the present, the taro cards, so similar to the images recorded in Simon’s book and read by Enola, threaten a disastrous, unspeakable outcome. History threatens to repeat itself. I couldn’t put this book down. I’m so excited to share it with you today.

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