Books, Reading, Reviews

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

I received a copy of this from the publisher for reviewing purposes

Title: The Book of Speculation
Author: Erika Swyler
Publisher: Corvus
Category: Fiction
Pages: 352
Available formats: Print and eBook
Publication Date: 29/7/15
RRP: AU$29.99


Synopsis from the Publisher: 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, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks.

One day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon’s grandmother.
Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before fate deals its next deadly hand. The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler’s gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic.

The Book of Speculation is a mysterious book, one that takes the reader on an unexpected journey. When Simon embarks on his journey to discover why the women in his family have all drowned on the same date, the twenty-fourth of July. With the return of his sister, Enola, so close to this date, he is determined to save her from the fate that took their mother from them. The mystery intensifies when a second-hand bookseller sends him a book that holds the name of their grandmother, Verona Bonn.
Swyler takes the reader on a journey through the present – told from Simon’s point of view, and alternates this with chapters told in third person, set in the past that set up the curse and it’s impact on the family through Evangeline, Amos and the travelling show they read tarot cards for. There is a mystery and intrigue surrounding these cards, which is woven throughout the secondary storyline that seeps into Simon’s story. Yet at first, it is not evident what this third person, historically based narrative means to the main plot. It slowly unfolds to reveal what the reader needs to know, to connect it to the ongoing events of Simon and Enola’s lives. In doing it in this way, Swyler’s mystery has the effect of wanting to read on, to find out about Amos the Wild Boy, Evangeline and the people they travel with, and what is to become of all the characters.
It is this structure that gives the overall novel the mysterious air that a good mystery of any kind should have. The answers Simon seeks do not lie in the books he is sent. Yet the legacy of Madame Ryhzkova and what she taught Amos, who in turn, taught Evangeline how to read the cards, ebbs and flows like the waters that have taken the lives of Simon and Enola’s mother, and those who came before her. Yet the father of Simon’s girlfriend, Alice, is hiding a secret that will shake Simon’s world and cause a rift between him and Alice’s family, all while Simon fights to save his sister, and fights to save his house.
The climax is one I did not want to pause in at all, to keep reading to see if the curse is broken and how, to find out what happens to Simon and Enola following the destruction of their childhood home. The intensity of this novel had me reading whenever I could, sometimes a few pages, sometimes a few chapters. The ending tied up what readers yearn to find out yet opened the door to further mystery and speculation – a nicely written book with an ending that suited it perfectly.

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