The Book of Speculation will be released next Tuesday, June 23rd by St. Martin's Press. Mark your calendars, because you won't want to miss this one!
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. St. Martin's Press; 2015. Hardcover/Hardback. 352 pages.
**I received a free copy of this ARC via NetGalley**
Let's be honest, who doesn't love books about books? The Shadow of the Wind, The Thirteenth Tale, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, etc. are some much loved books that revolve around books. There's something immensely warm and comforting about reading something where the main character is in love with books just as much as the reader - or at least ends up making some serious life decisions based off of books in one way or another. I've also heard many people comparing this book to The Night Circus, but alas, I have not read that book and thus cannot make any judgments on that manner.
The Book of Speculation revolves around Simon Watson, a thirty-something-year-old librarian who receives a random antique book in the mail from an older, unknown bookseller known as Mr. Martin Churchwarry, who traced the book's history to Simon's ancestors, and thus felt curious enough to send it to Simon. The book turns out to be a record book from a circus-owner, which has some rather shocking connections to Simon's own family, who have been involved in the circus for generations in one way or another. His sister, Enola, is actually a current tarot card reader in a circus.
The story alternates chapters between Simon's life and that of a young boy named Amos, who finds his home in the circus that is recorded in Simon's book. Now, generally I hate split narratives, but I actually didn't mind them too much in this book. Both stories were equally enticing and tied in perfectly with one another.
Simon is a rather stoic character who seems to take the weight of the world on his shoulders simply because he feels that it is his responsibility. When his and Enola's parents died when they were kids, Simon worked nonstop in order to provide for and take of his sister. I can't say that I felt overly connected to Simon's character, but he did have a certain charisma that draws you to him. Enola, on the other hand, is a rather flighty character who has acted on impulse for much of her life. She seems to embody the true 'circus type,' who believes in her talents and enjoys not being tied down anywhere. Simon and Enola have opposite goals: Simon wants to uncover and figure out his family's history, whereas Enola simply wants to forget it and move on.
The Book of Speculation has a rather consistent dreary and dark atmosphere. You know how some TV shows that are meant to be scary or overly serious and dark are always somewhat bathed in a dark, somewhat color-lacking light? That's sort of how I pictured this book. Like the entire book had a constant rain cloud over it. That's not to say it was a bad or severely depressing book that was unreadable; on the contrary, it was written in such a manner that created a need to find out what was going to happen in these characters lives. This overall atmosphere was helped in large part due to Swyler's writing style. She wrote in such a way that it was both haunting and beautiful at the same time. It was smooth and poetic in moments of beauty and loss, yet jilting and abrupt in moments of peril and uncertainty. The pacing was slightly slower than most novels, but it was a welcome slowness. It gives the reader a chance to breathe in this unfortunate cursed family's life and history, rather than rushing the reader along in order to uncover the next major plot points. Instead, the plot comes slowly, almost unexpectedly, which creates even more anticipation of what will happen.
Overall, I have decided to give The Book of Speculation four stars. It was truly lovely, and I can easily say that I looked forward to reading it each day. This is definitely one for circus lovers, book lovers, mystery lovers, or anyone interested in an intriguing and complicated family history.
Don't forget, The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler comes out next Tuesday, June 23rd!