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The Book of Speculation

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


"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.

From Publishers Weekly

Apr 06, 2015 – In Swyler's whimsically dark debut, a damaged journal kept by the owner of a traveling freak show in the 18th century finds its way to Simon Watson, a Long Island librarian in the present with a family history that seems to be tied up in the mysterious tome. Simon's mother, Paulina, a former carnival mermaid, intentionally drowned herself, leaving Simon to care for his sister, Enola, after their father eventually died from heartache. At the book's outset, Enola, who also joined a traveling show, returns to the decaying family home where Simon still lives, fraught with worry over a series of bad tarot readings. As Enola's behavior continues to concern him, Simon finds out from the book that women in his family all drown on July 24. As this date draws closer, Swyler alternates chapters of Simon's narrative with the story that unfolds from the show's log: it details how "Wild Boy" and tarot apprentice Amos came to be cared for like a son by proprietor Hermelius Peabody and fortune teller Madame Ryzhkova. The trouble begins once Amos falls for the mermaid Evangeline, who reminds Madame Ryzhkova too much of the woman she blames for the death of her father. The carnival chapters aren't as engaging or convincing as they could be, particularly at key moments, although for the most part Swyler does a commendable job of juggling the various loose ends, and eventually weaving them together. A good deal of time is spent in Simon's head, but Enola isn't fleshed out enough. The author does get kudos for fabricating a fully formed mythos chock full of curses, omens, and coincidences, all of which help make up for the story's weak points.

Customer Reviews

Took me away

This book took hold of my imagination and swept me away. I couldn't wait to get back to it when I'd put it down. Very creative and special. A treasure!

Lovely and charming debut!

The Book of Speculation captured me from the very first sentence with beautiful language and a uniquely crafted family tale. I wanted to stay in both Simon and Amos’ worlds a bit longer, if only to experience Swyler’s uncanny ability to enchant me with her words, much like Evangeline enchanted those with her presence.
Everything had a touch of whimsy and danger with each turning page, and after page 60 or so, I finished this book in one sitting. The building upon the family mystery was done so masterfully that I spent my entire Sunday afternoon gripped to the book until I knew Simon and his family’s fate.
At moments, I found the flashbacks to Amos to be more gripping, just because of the beautiful and terrifying backdrop of the carnival. Though, as I reached the end when Simon discovered at an alarming rate that his sister might be the next to share the same fate as his ancestors, I enjoyed looking through his eyes again.
As a big fan of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, I found the comparison natural. I would encourage those who have not read The Book of Speculation to greet it with an open mind and heart, and let the story of carnival mermaids and family secrets whisk you away for a calm Sunday afternoon.
“Once you’ve held a book and really loved it, you forever remember the feel of it.”

Good book

It was a good read. It kept you wanting to read more to find out what happens next.

The Book of Speculation
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Jun 23, 2015
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 352 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings