Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book and audiobook was provided to me by the publishers. I would like to thankMore reviews @ The BiblioSanctum
Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book and audiobook was provided to me by the publishers. I would like to thank the author and the publishers for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed from here forward are my own.
Simon Watson is a librarian living in a house on the edge of a cliff over the sea, a cliff that is crumbling into the waters threatening to take the house with it. On top of that, the house is structurally unsound after years of neglect partly due to his father never keeping up the house even before his mother’s death and partly by Simon’s own willful ignorance of the upkeep needed to maintain a house in that situation even after his father died. Simon receives a book in the mail from an antiquarian named Martin Churchwarry who tracked Simon down after reading his grandmother’s name in an old carnival ledger he acquired. Simon learns that a strange, tragic trend occurs with the women of his family. They all commit suicide by drowning before the age of thirty on July 24th including his own mother. When Enola, Simon’s estranged sister and tarot reader for a traveling circus comes home, Simon has ten days to solve the mystery surrounding the deaths of the women in his family and break the curse that surrounds them.
This book plays around with the Slavic myth of the Rusalka, a type of water nymph. At one point, the Rusalka was a symbol of fertility, but in later years, they became malevolent in stories. They’re believed to be the result of a woman committing suicide by drowning or being violently murdered by drowning. Since their life was fated to be a full one, they continue their lives as Rusalka, luring men to their deaths. However, this is not their sole way of being created. I did a Google search to get all this information since I love learning about new mythology, but the book does a fair job of painting a portrait of the tragic story of the Rusalka. I would call this fantasy, but it is very light fantasy with the magic realism being much more pronounced throughout the story. Much like Mandel’s Station Eleven, this is one of those books that defies it genre by being moving and poetically written. There’s so much going on with family secrets, betrayals, old pains, and how one’s past can come together to be an almost self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a painful read with so many wins being punctuated by devastating defeats that shapes the history of not only the Watson family but the families that are interconnected with the Watsons.
I probably would’ve rated this book much higher, but I did find it a little hard to connect with the characters, and while this book worked largely on the idea of a thread weaving together many lives, it still felt too coincidental rather than feeling like it smoothly pieced together the many puzzles making up a history that was larger than any of the characters could imagine. I cared more about the story being told about their ancestors than the modern day tale that was unfolding. However, Ari Fliakos was simply amazing. At first, I didn’t know if I was going to like the tone he used for Enola, but as I continued to listen and learned more about the character, that clipped, sarcastic tone he used for her fit the eccentricity of her character well. In fact, he did a wonderful job of making all the characters feel so distinct from Churchwarry’s jolliness to Peabody’s larger than life magnetism to Evangeline’s pensive wistfulness to Frank’s simple straightforwardness. I even loved his southern accents which sounded mostly right and used that softened twang just the way it’s supposed to be. Where I might’ve just rated this 3 stars, Fliakos narration was beautiful and swayed some of my opinion on its rating.
The Book of Speculation is a haunting, poetic story that shows how wants, heartache, and wishes can breathe intent into actions that were done simply out of love, how generations can fall into those same cycles until someone tries to break the “curse.” This book has just the right amount amount of myth, magic, and realism that can cause its readers to ponder the ideas presented, and if I’d had the chance to care a little more about the characters that Swyler introduced me to, this book would’ve definitely been a home-run for me.
Narrator: Ari Fliakos | Length: 11 hrs and 42 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Macmillan Audio (June 23, 2015) | Whispersync Ready: Yes
I'd give this 3 stars, not because I'm wowed by the story at this point, but because it's not as bad as it could've been especially when pitted againsI'd give this 3 stars, not because I'm wowed by the story at this point, but because it's not as bad as it could've been especially when pitted against other fantasy books written in this era. Parts of it I liked. Parts of it made me think, "Heavy damn sigh..." I think listening to this might've tainted my perception, as well, as the narration wouldn't allow me to take this too seriously.
Oh... I guess that ending was intended to make me read the next book. I will ponder this. Perhaps since I'm still on the fence I may venture into the next book....more