Book Review: The Book Of Speculation By Erika Swyler


I had never heard of this book until my sister grabbed it off the shelf at Target. She finished the book in less than a month, which with her busy schedule means she really liked it.

I was glad when she finished it and passed it along saying she wanted me to give it a go so we could discuss it. I dragged my feet for a day or two rereading some old favorites as I usually do when transitioning on to the next book on my TBR, but she kept nagging me, so I decided to dive right in (pardon the pun…if you’ve read this already, you’ll get the pun).

Right off I was surprised when I realized this wasn’t a YA book. The characters are closer to my age (I’m 35) and the subject matter isn’t childish either, what surprised me was that I had read it was about a circus and mermaids and old books. All the makings of something for Young Adults.

Let’s begin where it feels most fitting to begin…the beginning (sort of…)

On Long Island Sound, Simon Watson, a librarian receives a book in the mail. It’s old. It’s full of sketches and appears to be a diary/log of sorts that followed around a carnival type operation in around the 1700’s.  He is unsure why someone he doesn’t know would send him such an odd book, but he soon finds out.

His mother once worked the carnival circuit as a “mermaid” and had drowned herself on July 24th, which is only a week away. Turns out this may not have been an isolated suicide. There is a history in the book, Simons history, his families history and he won’t stop piecing it together till it all makes sense.

Simon begins to become overwhelmingly worried about his sister who left to join the circus some years earlier. Hoping she won’t find the same fate as the other unfortunate women in their family lineage. The old book brings to light secrets and curses. Love and symbolism. Family and betrayal. Birth and death.

The story is told in a dual narrative. Each chapter switches between Simon in 2013 and an array of characters working in a traveling act in the 1700’s. I enjoyed this so much. The story actually unfolds from two points of view and each one is as exciting as the other.

What stuck out most for me, was the character development. I came to love them all, but also to understand them without the author having to spell out every aspect of their lives. She was vague when she needed to be and specific without cramming backstory down my throat.

I seriously could not put this book down. I finished it just before bed and spent quite a few hours thinking about the world I had just left. To me, that’s the ultimate in good books. I wanted to know more, what happened next, yet I am confident that I know all I needed to know by the books end. I hope that makes sense….

Highly, highly recommend. When I posted a picture of this book on Instagram, I had quite a few people asking me what it was all about and I hope it got some of them interested to read it themselves. I hope this gets you interested if you haven’t read this already.

If you’ve read it, let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear what others thought of this as it has quickly become one of my favorite books.