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The Book of Speculation

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  32,583 ratings  ·  4,827 reviews
A sweeping and captivating debut novel about a young librarian who is sent a mysterious old book, inscribed with his grandmother's name. What is the book's connection to his family?

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead,
Hardcover, 339 pages
Published June 23rd 2015 by St. Martin's Press
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Marilyn Nyliram Yes! I can't wait to get my hands on a copy when it comes out.…moreYes! I can't wait to get my hands on a copy when it comes out.(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Ariana I was just thinking I wish there was a timeline and family tree at the end of the book.

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**short story prequel The Mermaid Girl available today!!**

and as a bonus, here is a really dark and blurry picture of me with the author, who is either delighted or terrified by my drunken enthusiasm about her book:

 photo IMG_4093_zpse4fwfjyj.jpg

this book is for all you fans of The Night Circus or Geek Love. BUT - if you hated The Night Circus, don't run off just yet, because this is both better-written and much darker. BUT - those of you who are turned off by me saying "much darker" should know it's not too dark. there,
Emily May
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc, magic-realism, 2015
I fell asleep at my desk, having spent the last day teaching myself about curses and searching for Ryzhkova. The National Archives were lacking in ship manifests pre-1800, but allowed me to track bibliographies that led to the New York Public Library’s archives and manifests from 1600 on...

This is a book about a whiny narrator doing research. And also about tarot cards.

The Book of Speculation is a strange novel and, really, that's its greatest merit. Many different - flat and lifeless - char
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
The story of the Book of Speculation takes place in two time periods. Modern day and a setting in the 1700's.
Simon is our present day main character. A lonely research librarian that lives in his family home due to the fact that he can't bare to leave it. His mother walked into the water one day and killed herself and his father grieved himself to death. Simon raised his younger sister Enola and then she left.
Simon's family is a special family. All the women in it have been able to hold their
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1-fiction
4 stars to Erika Swyler's The Book of Speculation, a beautiful story full of intense imagery and powerful connections among the many characters. With a slight border into the fantasy realm, this tale is well-woven and provides an opportunity to feel the impact the past has across a family's descendants and relationships. The book alternates chapters weaving the past and the present together while challenging the reader to determine the connection between the two stories.

In the past, a
Darth J
Jul 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Average Rating: 3 Stars
Past Chapters: 4 Stars
Present Chapters: 2 stars

I felt like this book was a gyp. The blurb oversold this as more interesting than it actually was. The "mermaids" here are not the kind that transform and have a fish tail, they are just mundane people who can hold their breath. Ugh. I get that this is magical realism and everything, but that just feels cheap.

The most interesting story takes place in the past and involves a fortune teller. This is the backbone of the boo
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
3.5 stars. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Simon Watson, a librarian, is unexpectedly gifted with a mysterious old book out of the blue, from a man he’s never met: a badly damaged record from a traveling circus. In another unanticipated development in his life, Simon enters into a romantic relationship with his longtime friend and next-door neighbor, Alice, though for now they’re keeping it secret from their co-workers and her parents. Unfortunately everything else in Simon’s life is c
Heidi The Reader
Simon works in the reference section at a struggling library in Maine, whose biggest draw is a whaling archive. He's hard up for money and his historic home on the coast is in such disrepair that it's about to fall into the ocean.

One day, Simon receives a very old book in the mail. Strangely, it has some of his family member's names in it.

The text describes a circus, a boy who can't speak, and a girl who can hold her breath so long that they call her a mermaid.

But, what does this have to do with
Jul 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wow.... Wow... Wow... This book was simply amazing. I'm not usually drawn to books of this nature but I thrive on how the author uses one book, a book that began with one man who ran a carnival with 3 people in it that change the course of the characters lives. Swyler braids these families together in the book with nothing out of place, no "hairs" loose. Truly a captivating story about family and love and how our roots can help us grow wings.

Read this novel it doesn't disappoint and is magical
Diane S ☔
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
It took me a while to get into this one, I didn't take to Simon right away and the pace started out very slow. It was the mysterious book that did it. Imagine being sent a book, with pictures of tarot cards, descriptions of traveling show acts and realizing you are reading about your own family.

Told in two separate time periods, the present and the late 1700's,this is a book that has a little of everything.

A mute boy who is originally a wild boy in the traveling show but than is taught to read c
Carole (Carole's Random Life)
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life.

2 Stars

I am not really sure what I expected from this book but I finished it feeling rather disappointed and completely underwhelmed. The story never quite pulled me in even though there were some sections that did catch my attention. In the end, this is one of those books that I will probably forget quickly. It wasn't a book that I hated but I didn't really like it either.

This book is told in alternating timelines which I admit that I am no
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Eilonwy by: Kels

3-1/2 stars, rounded up. I do appreciate the weirdness of this story.
This book consists of two stories, one present and one past.

In the present, Simon is paralyzed with loss. His mother committed suicide when he was seven, his father died ten years later, and his younger sister has left home to be a fortune-teller in a traveling carnival. Lost and lonely, with no direction or desires, Simon moulders away by himself in a house that is falling apart around him. Then a far-off bookseller sends hi
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really can't decide between three and four stars for this one. On the one hand the characters never really grabbed me and a few of them actually antagonised me (Enola especially). Simon, the main character, is basically hopeless and helpless. On the other hand the story is original and I thought it was paced really well. I found it hard to put down and ended up staying up late to finish it. The ending is particularly clever with a nice little twist that I did not see coming. Take no notice of ...more
Wow. Just wow. I didn't have many expectations when I picked this novel up on a whim, yet this is by far one of the best books I've read. It's fresh and wildly innovated, gorgeously written, intelligently plotted, and utterly captivating. I haven't had much luck with magical realism, but this book is what I feel like the genre is missing. It has a puzzling mystery, depths that will drown you, well-developed characters, and a touch of curious magic that is spellbinding. I read this in doses to be ...more
Jan 23, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

Simon Watson is a librarian is struggling to keep his job and his home that is falling down around him. When he is sent a book in the mail by a old book dealer because his grandmother's name is in the book. He discovers it is a circus log book, keeping track of the comings and goings, which reveals another startling fact. Women in his family tend to drown themselves on July 24th. Suddenly his sister is calling saying she is coming home, and acting strangely as the day rapidly approaches
2 stars--it was okay.

This book has everything I usually like (a narrative based around an old book, hints of the supernatural, dual narratives), but the whimsy fell flat for me. I greatly disliked the narrator as well (if he said "sorry" one more time--without taking any action to change himself or his life--I was gonna slap him) and found the other characters pretty hard to connect with as well. The book just overall was kind of a downer for me.
An audio read with the last chapter or so finished off via paperback from Old Bar library while on holiday. I didn't fancy finishing this off with a month gap in the middle. An interesting fact is that on seeing this book in the flesh, I was completely unaware the hard copy book is so full of beautiful illustrations, I am almost of the opinion this story is almost lacking the full picture without these illustrations. Listening to the audio misses out on so much.. None the less, still 'nice' to e ...more
Jul 30, 2015 rated it did not like it
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was suspicious of this book, but also curious about it. On the one hand, I gnerally hate books about the circus. I also find that most "literary" authors are rubbish at writing the fantastic. On the other, maybe mermaids? A family curse? Mysterious book? I did like "The Night Circus". Maybe this is another unexpected treasure?

No. It was not. The language was utterly precious. And the protagonist, either utterly unbe
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A wonderful tale of mystery, magic, carnivals, mermaids, tarot and through it all is the book of speculation linking the lives of two families. The main character is Simon who on receiving the book has to learn to unravel its mysteries if he wants to save his sister. His family has a line of mermaids and an unsolved mystery running through it.
The writing flows beautifully and is full of mystery, magic and the urgency needed for Simon to solve the riddle the book has delivered to him. It's such
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it

In Erika Swyler's gorgeous debut novel, The Book of Speculation, Simon Watson receives an old ledger that once belonged to a traveling carnival in the mail, along with a note mentioning a connection to his late mother's family. Struggling with his recent redundancy, the inevitable crumbling of his family home into the sea, and the return of his sister, Simon develops an obsession with the book which reveals a troubling history. For generations, the women of his family, all with a talent for hold
May 30, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

Simon Watson is a librarian in Napawset, NY and is on the cusp of losing it all, when a old book finds it's way into his hands, and as he tries to find how this book came into his possession. He discovers his family's hidden secret- they are mermaids that can hold their breath underwater for ridiculous amounts of time, yet on July 24th, they all seem to drown. He has to figure this out before July 24th this year to save his sister Enola. Two rotating story-lines make up this book- the p
Jennifer Masterson
I'm done. I'm bored senseless. The 2 stories are dull and so are the characters. I was spoiled by "The Church of Marvels". ...more
Okay, I'm reunited with my keyboard and can finally write -- try to write at least -- something a bit more cogent than my initial excited and incoherent ravings.

Carnivals seem to be popular in literary circles this year -- The Book of Speculation is the second novel I've read in the span of a month that incorporates elements of carnival life. Of course, carnivals have a long history of appearing in fiction. The strangeness of the lifestyle fascinates and allows for the exploration of both the e
Listening to the audiobook - that is, at a slower pace than reading myself -, I realized how boring and shallow this book is. There is practically nothing of interest here, at least not for me. It even failed to be that kind of light and entertaining read, the type that can be forgiven for its flaws. No trace of engrossing atmosphere or cliff-hangers or surprising discoveries, just a jumble of banal events propelled forward by the narrator's wish to uncover his family's past and find a way to pr ...more
Liz Barnsley
This was a beautiful read (fans of The Night Circus might want to check it out!) that hooked me right from the start and honestly I was totally in this world throughout the read, so wonderfully does it flow.

Shifting time between Simon Watson, a young man who receives a mysterious book, and the story of the people within that book, this is gorgeously constructed with some lovely prose and a completely fascinating story. Quite difficult to review honestly as it is one of those novels that you woul
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
For a book that relies heavily on the theme of drowning, this quirky and unusual story is far from depressing as we look through family history and a curse that continues through the ages. Soon to be redundant library archivist Simon Watson is intrigued when a journal arrives on his doorstep. It appears to document the happenings of a travelling carnival in the 18th century. When he notices descriptions of long gone female relatives in it's pages Simon want's to find out more.

What he will find i
Willow Hadley
Jul 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Even though this took me quite a while to finish, I really did enjoy it! The Book of Speculation is told in alternating chapters of the past and the present. The protagonist of the story, Simon, is a lonely librarian that has slowly been watching his life crumble down around him for years. One summer, a stranger sends him a book that contains secrets about his family that have dated back to a carnival in the late 1700's. I really loved the historical aspects of this book--the chapters surroundin ...more
Erin Clemence
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
This review is for the audiobook version of “The Book of Speculation”, by Erika Swyler, narrated by Ari Fliakos and published by MacMillan Audio.

Audio: 5 stars The narrator for this one is Ari Fliakos, who apparently has starred in the television show, “Homeland” (haven’t seen it) but to be honest, I was prepared to hear that Ari was a long-time theatre performer, or awarded actor, as his narration skills are top notch. His diction and enunciation are perfect, making his voice soothing
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
**I would like to thank Netgalley and St Martin's Press for an ARC of this book.**

I love the ideal of this book, but it wasn't really for me. I think the only person I really liked in the book is Mr. Churchwarry. They are not bad characters, I just didn't click with any of them.

I loved Amos story from when he was a child. It was so very sad what his family did to him, but I am glad he found the circus.

Simon gets this book from Churchwarry with his grandmothers name written inside. After doing
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to TL by: saw in goodreads giveaway
Shelves: favorites
Read via audiobook then put on hold for awhile till I finally got the hardcover in to finish it quicker.
Narrator: 5 stars
Story itself: 5 stars
Once you've held a book and really loved it, you forever remember the feel of it, its specific weight, the way it sits in your hand.

We carry our families like anchors, rooting us in storms, making sure we never drift from where and who we are. We carry our families within us the way we carry our breath underwater, keeping us afloat, keeping us alive.
The Book of Speculation alternates back and forth in time from the present era in Long Island to the 1700’s travelling circus. In the present, we meet a reference librarian, Simon whose situation is in dire straits. He’s lost his job, he’s broke, he’s having a secret love affair with his neighbours daughter and he needs an extensive amount of cash to repair his crumbling down home – the home in which he inherited from his deceased parents. Simon’s experienced a great loss in his life. His mother ...more
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Erika Swyler is the bestselling author of Light From Other Stars, and The Book of Speculation. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in Catapult, Literary Hub, VIDA, The New York Times, and elsewhere.

Erika lives on Long Island, NY, with her husband and a petulant rabbit. She writes, bakes, is a casual runner, and has very strong feelings about typewriters.

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