Book Review – Book of Speculation

December 4, 2015 Reviews 9 ★★★½

Book Review – Book of SpeculationThe Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Date Published: June 23rd 2015
Genres: Family Life, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Pages: 352
Audiobook Length: 11 hours 42 minutes
Audiobook Narrator: Ari Fliakos
Rating: three-half-stars
Description: 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.



Lynnpic Lynn’s Review:

The Book of Speculation is dual narrative, part of the story taking place today, and part of the story taking place in the late 18th Century. The two stories are bound together by a book of family history.

The current story line concerns Simon, a librarian who has received an odd book. A book, unbeknownst to Simon, about his family history. Simon is from a long line of circus mermaids and tarot readers. While Simon is investigating his family history, he looses his job to cutbacks, and his sister Enola mysteriously comes home, with her Octopus-tattooed, lightning-conduction boyfriend, Doyle. Think that’s complicated? And that’s only half the plot. There is a curse. Tarot cards. And a bunch of horseshoe crabs. All told in first person, from Simon’s point of view.

The historical time line concerns Amos, a mute boy who wanders into circus life. His first job is as a Wild Boy, then, later as a tarot reader. Amos falls in love with Evangeline, a girl with a past who also wandered into the circus. Amos uses a special set of tarot cards to communicate with Evangeline, and the two fall in love.  There is a curse. Tarot cards. And a bunch of horseshoe crabs. This portion of the story is told in third person. 

As I listened to the audio for Book of Speculation, I lost the plot. Often. I think this might have been a better book to have read. I always find that my focus is must better while reading. I thought the narrator was competent, especially with the changes in point of view throughout the book.

Overall, I preferred Simon’s story. And by the looks of most of the reviews I’ve read, puts me in the minority. I much preferred the modern setting, the investigation of family history, the empathy over Simon loosing his job. And Doyle with all his tattoos and literal electric personality. I found this story much more relate-able. The historical characters bored me. I didn’t really care about Amos or Evangeline. Or any of the other circus characters.

I’d say read this if you are not afraid of horseshoe crabs. Or have interest in circus history. Or mermaids. But, if you are not interested in overly-complicated plots, skip it. Stick with the book, though, and not the audio. 

Note: Some posts may contain affiliate links. Should you choose to purchase a product, we will receive a small commission for the sale at no additional cost to you. Chapter Break is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Rating Report
Overall: 3.5

Subscribe to Chapter Break posts.

Never miss a post on Chapter Break. Subscribe today for all the bookish awesome in your inbox.

Join 17,690 other subscribers

9 Responses to “Book Review – Book of Speculation”

  1. Bookworm Brandee

    I can see how this would make for a better read, Lynn…I’d get lost in the plot while listening, I’m sure. But the book sounds so intriguing. I don’t know how I feel about circus characters – I can only think of The Night Circus as a place where I’ve encountered them and I liked that one. I’m sorry this wasn’t a complete win for you but I appreciate the introduction to a new book! 😉
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…25 Days of Book Boyfriends ~ Logan “High” Judd

  2. Julie

    Horseshoe crabs? hmmm. I typically don’t care for circus characters either, so I think I would only like the parts you did too.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge