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The Book of Speculation: A Novel

The Book of Speculation: A Novel

Scris de Erika Swyler

Povestit de Ari Fliakos


The Book of Speculation: A Novel

Scris de Erika Swyler

Povestit de Ari Fliakos

evaluări:
4/5 (41 evaluări)
Lungime:
11 hours
Lansat:
Jun 23, 2015
ISBN:
9781427261441
Format:
Carte audio

Descriere

"Dear Mr. Watson, I came across this book at auction as part of a larger lot I purchased on speculation. The damage renders it useless to me, but a name inside it — Verona Bonn — led me to believe it might be of interest to you or your family..."

Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home — a house, perched on the edge of a bluff, that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, works for a traveling carnival reading tarot cards and seldom calls.

In late June Simon receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who worked in a traveling circus more than 200 years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes, sketches, and whimsical flourishes. His best friend and fellow librarian, Alice, looks on in increasing alarm.

Why does his grandmother's name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? Why do so many women in his family drown on July 24? Is there a curse on his family — and could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in six years, risk the same fate in just a few weeks? In order to save her — and perhaps himself — Simon must try urgently to decode his family history while moving on from the past.

The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler's gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books and family and magic.

Lansat:
Jun 23, 2015
ISBN:
9781427261441
Format:
Carte audio

Despre autor

ERIKA SWYLER is a graduate of New York University. Her short fiction has appeared in WomenArts Quarterly Journal, Litro, Anderbo.com, and elsewhere. Her writing is featured in the anthology Colonial Comics, and her work as a playwright has received note from the Jane Chambers Award. Born and raised on Long Island's North Shore, Erika learned to swim before she could walk, and happily spent all her money at traveling carnivals. She blogs and has a baking Tumblr with a following of 60,000. Erika recently moved from Brooklyn back to her hometown, which inspired the setting of the book. The Book of Speculation is her debut novel.


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  • (4/5)
    Simon Watson and his sister, Enola, are swimmers. Or to be more precise, breathers. Or even more precise, breath holders. Like their mother before them and, we eventually learn, all their female forebears, they are able to hold their breath under water for extraordinary lengths of time. Long enough to be thought part mermaid. So why have all their female forebears, including their mother, died by drowning? And why always on July 24th? It’s a puzzle that has always haunted Simon, a reference librarian in the small town of Napawset on the coast of Long Island Sound. The arrival of an ancient tome that appears to be a circus master’s ledger may hold the clue. But more important matters are pressing. Enola is coming home after years away and July 24th is looming.Unravelling the mystery of Simon and Enola’s cursed family sets up a wild race of investigation and insight in the present. But we are also, alternatingly, provided with the origin story as we see the emergence of the wild boy, Amos, and his love for Evangeline in the menagerie that is Hermilius H. Peabody’s troupe of travelling entertainers. Somehow a curse is passed on to Evangeline and her heirs. But how and by whom?This is an engaging twin page turner as we follow the story in the present and the one in the late 18th century. Swyler maintains the tension and, for the most part, makes plausible the incredible number of coincidences that result in Simon and Enola’s situation. She gently weaves in the real possibility of rusalki preying on men and luring them to watery deaths as well as grave destinies foretold in tarot readings. And even, curiously, a man who can generate electricity. Plus there are lots of books and libraries and research. What’s not to like?Gently recommended.
  • (4/5)
    nteresting read with 1790s wandering "circus" group alternating chapters with present day narrator, Simon Watson- a librarian in a small New England coastal village who's just been laid off from his job as reference/archivist. He remains the only resident of his childhood home, a crumbling, aging house looking out onto Long Island Sound, surrounded by memories of his childhood, & the faint echoes of his beautiful but doomed mother and distant, grief stricken father- both now gone. His little sister Enola has fled the town years ago, but he hopes for her return. A book seller sends him a strange antique book, the chronicles/diary of the 18th century circus manager, mainly because it contains 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." -Amazon review For a first novel, I thought this was an engrossing read, and the dual narration wasn't distracting - it was obvious the parallels author was trying to weave between the present day characters and those of the past... and slowly unravel the mysteries of the women in Simon's family line that mysteriously all drown, early deaths, in spite of being amazingly good swimmers, able to hold their breath under water for longer than anyone should. The descriptions of the tarot cards and the magic and the lure of these "water" women who somehow damage or kill those around them was unusual enough folklore to keep my interest, but eventually (esp near the end) Swyler continues to hammer home the same details - esp the horseshoe crabs and their "swarming" on the slowly drowning characters ugh. Nevertheless, her ability to draw realistic characterizations, build an understanding of each one as they interact with each other, and Simon's basic good hearted attempts to keep Enola safe, to connect with his childhood friend and library co-worker, Alice McAvoy, and his growing obsession with the details of his family's past, and the mysterious book were well done.
  • (4/5)
    The story of Simon and his sister Enola, in the present day. And the story of Amos and Evangeline, in the late 1700's and early 1800's. Simon is a librarian, living in his childhood home on the Long Island Sound. His home is crumbling around him after years of neglect. His sister travels with a carnival as a tarot card reader.

    Simon receives a mysterious book from Martin Churchwarry of Iowa, an antique book dealer. The book is an old logbook from Peabody's traveling carnival, dating back hundreds of years. In it, Simon discovers the story of Amos and Evangeline, two of his ancestors. He also discovers that he comes from a long line of "mermaids," women who made their living holding their breath for minutes at a time underwater in the carnival. All of these mermaids have died on July 24th, of drowning. As July 24th rapidly approaches, Simon becomes more and more worried about the fate of his sister.

    This was an interesting book. I enjoyed the story of Amos and Evangeline the most. Reading about their lives in the traveling carnival was fascinating to me. Amos starts out as the Wild Boy before learning the art of Tarot cards. Evangeline joins the carnival as a mermaid.

    The story of Simon and Enola was a little less compelling. They both have depressing lives. Simon loses his job. His house is slowly sliding into the ocean. He does not seem happy in his life.

    I did like this book. I wanted to know what would happen to the characters, and I liked exploring the interconnectedness of them. Life in a carnival has always seemed so fun, and reading about it made me jealous I couldn't travel with them.
  • (4/5)
    Ericka does a great job of weaving the past and the present so that the reader slowly finds out why the women in Simon’s life are drowning on July 24 and how everyone is connected. There are very interesting characters in the present and in the past. I liked Enola’s boyfriend Doyle who is covered in tattoos and has electricity going through his body.

    This is a beautifully written story that flows easily from past to present. I enjoyed learning about Amos, Madame Ryzhkova and Peabody. The introduction of Evangeline into Amos’ life I found fascinating. The way they were able to communicate. This book is so worth the read and should be added to all book lists.
  • (4/5)
    Really 4.5 Stars! When a novel begins with a house teetering precariously on the edge of the Long Island Sound you know you are in for a riveting, unusual read! Debut novelist Swyler has written a fast paced, mesmerizing story about a family with a haunted past.

    A mysterious antique book arrives addressed to our first narrator - research librarian Simon. It is his home that is slipping over the edge into the sea. The reader is quickly drawn into an intriguing mystery. The novel presents dual narratives - Simon in the present day trying to determine where the antique book came from, what connection it has to his family, and whether or not it can provide answers to the questions he has regarding his mother, who died when he and his sister Enola were young. If you love books, libraries, the ocean, and/or your family, not to mention a good mystery, Simon's storyline will pull you in.

    The second narrative belongs to the young mute boy Amos. Set in the 1780's, for me this was the most fascinating portion. A traveling circus, curses, murder, an epic love story, mermaids, tarot cards, caravans - the author brings it all to life so vividly! I found myself racing through the book, eager to read each chapter, but then I forced myself to slow down and savor the brilliant descriptions and spend time with all the fascinating characters.

    I added to the enjoyment by checking out Swyler's tumbler and Pinterest feeds - great pictures of things that inspired her as well as the process whereby she learned to book bind and age paper in order to send out her novel to perspective publishing houses looking like an antique book such as the one Simon received in the mail - so cool!

    My big quibble with the book is the cover the publisher has chosen for the USA edition - way too generic and bland! I much prefer the drawing on the back of the ARC I received, it shows the house on the edge of the cliff. It looks like the UK edition may get this cover - lucky! It would be interesting to see how the cover influences sales.....
  • (5/5)
    “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.” The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

    There are only a few books I’ve encountered in my reading life that have left that kind of mark on me, and I am always surprised when a new one gets added to that category. The Book of Speculation is one of those unexpected gifts.

    I didn’t go looking for it. I was browsing in B&N, killing time between some meetings a few days before my much anticipated July vacation, when I happened upon TBOS on the New Releases rack. I recognized the title as one I’d added to my GoodReads a couple weeks ago, and it looked promising. I liked the feel of it in my hand and I loved the way the text looked as I flipped through the pages, so I bought it and tossed it in my vacation book bag.

    Days later, unpacked and at ease on the shore of a Northern NY lake, I opened TBOS and lost myself completely in this lovely story of a librarian, a bookseller, and a mysterious book that served to blend past and present, fairy tale and tragedy.

    Simon Watson is a reference and archival librarian living in an ancient house perched precariously on the north shore of Long Island. Simon receives a mysterious book from an unknown bookseller just as he is let go from his position at the library. The bookseller has sent him the book because it has in it the name of one of Simon’s great-great grandmothers. The book piques his interest, as it recounts the movements of a traveling show which apparently included the women of his family, all of whom died by drowning on July 24, including his mother. Simon becomes obsessed with the idea that his sister, now also a performer in a traveling show, will suffer the same fate as July 24 comes closer. Using his library connections and his own research skills, he pieces together a lovely, tragic, and ultimately frightening story of love and loss that reconnects the family first established in that 18th century traveling show.

    Swyler skillfully blends the past and present in a way that doesn’t jar the reader, but floats you gently along two parallel currents that eventually meet in a fury of a storm. There are plenty of unexpected events that surprise, delight, and sometimes frighten, keeping the readers attention throughout. Swyler’s use of water as a metaphor knitted into the fabric of the story successfully binds the past and present, and her details around circus and show life are wonderfully colorful.

    I savored each sentence of TBOS, pacing my reading to draw it out over a few days because I loved it so. This is a book I will come back to again, without a doubt, and is one of those books I will remember long after this reading. In that way, The Book of Speculation joins Jane Eyre, Peace Like a River, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and a handful of others on my “Read and Read Again” shelf.

    Highly recommended.
  • (3/5)
    I should know by now that the trope of "people discover patterns in family history, usually with the help of an inanimate object and then break the pattern" doesn't really do it for me. I've read lots of books with that trope, and find them to be really predictable. This book is no exception. It beats you over the head with symbolism (Tarot cards! the family house is falling into the sea!), and I knew how it was going to end about one fifth of the way into it. There are two intertwined timelines and stories - the circus storyline was evocative and interesting, if implausible.
  • (4/5)
    Simon Watson is a librarian in the town of Napawset, on Long Island. His house, inherited from his father, is crumbling around him, as is the land it stands on. His father, inexplicably, never did the basic things necessary to maintain it against the forces of erosion, and the problem is now unfixable on a librarian's income.

    That's before Simon loses his job to budget cuts.

    But in the midst of the crisis, he receives a book in the mail, from Martin Churchwarry, a dealer in old and rare books. The book apparently belonged to Simon's grandmother, or someone who knew her, and it's the log book of a traveling circus. This is where we get the first hints of the strange family history of Simon's late mother, Paulina. Paulina was a circus mermaid, able to hold her breath for impossibly long periods. Yet she died by drowning, a suicide. And so did her mother, and her grandmother... As Simon uncovers more and more of his family's past, he becomes frightened for his younger sister, Enola, who is also a circus performer, although she's a fortune teller, not a mermaid.

    The story unfolds in alternating chapters, Simon's story of his uncovering of painful family secrets that will change his life and his sister's forever, and the story of the first of their mermaid ancestors, and the fortune teller who finds her wandering, lost, and leads her to the traveling circus.

    Both stories are poignantly told, and Simon, Enola, Alice, and Doyle, in the present, and Amos, Evangeline, and Madam Ryzhkova, in the late 18th century, become real and compelling characters. The fantasy elements here are subtle but crucial, as Amos and Evangeline experience unfolding disaster, and Simon, Alice, and Enola learn secrets they never imagined about their own families.

    Recommended.

    I'm instituting a new policy of noting Hugo eligibility wherever relevant. This book is eligible for the Hugo Awards in 2016.

    I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.
  • (4/5)
    An interesting tale of discovering the tragic loss of your mother is one of a string of almost identical deaths in a direct line for almost 200 years. Somewhat oppressive in mood the pace of the story sometimes drags but does keep moving, the characters are rather good and the whole ultimately satisfying.
  • (4/5)
    Mermaids, tarot cards, curses, a librarian, old books, and a family history weaved through time. This book had everything. The story weaves from past to present effortlessly and captivates you in both time lines. The characters truly came to life.
  • (5/5)
    It’s been a while since a book so captured my imagination that I found myself talking to the characters. (You know, like when you’re watching a movie and you tell the girl not to look behind her as she runs away through the woods.) Simon lives in the house he grew up in on the Long Island Sound, but the cliff is eroding and the house is in danger. Simon is unable to keep up with repairs on a librarian’s salary. Someone sends him the logbook of the owner of a traveling circus from the 1700’s. His grandmother’s name is written in the back of the book along with the names of other women who all drowned at a young age on July 24th. His own mother drowned on July 24th when he was young. He struggles to find the connection and solve the mystery before something happens to his sister Enola. The chapters alternate between Simon and the story of the traveling circus and its members. Some reviewers have found this book to be slow moving and dull, but that was not my experience. I devoured this tale in two days because I didn't want to put it down. I'm looking forward to more books from this author.
  • (2/5)
    At least I finished it.
  • (5/5)
    This book is phenomenal - I loved it. It's amazing how the author uses location and weather as such strong characters to complement the cast of troubled family members.
  • (3/5)
    A rather strange story, but it held my interest well and kept me turning the pages.
  • (3/5)
    I liked how the author went back and forth from modern day to the 1700's. The two stories were both interesting and I liked how they intertwined at the end.
  • (4/5)
    Really intriguing and fun little mystery woven into great storyline.
  • (4/5)
    This novel started out strong and captivated my interest. It follows a common structure of alternating chapters between viewpoints, only they are parallel stories of different time periods. Although I enjoyed some of the writing, there were a lot of unanswered questions and the reader is left with a jumbled feeling.
  • (5/5)
    I loved this book. It is the story of a family whose life is entwined with mystery and a curse. There's a mysterious book, an enthralling cast of characters, and threats both real and, possibly, imagined. The writing is beautiful. This is the sort of book that you hate to end, When you finish the last page, you begin mourning the loss of the characters.
  • (4/5)
    a strange but interesting story...where this was dreamed of I cannt imagine
  • (5/5)
    The eccentric antiquarian mermaid in me found this book emotionally satisfying. Slipping from present to past, the story weaves the history behind an impending horror as the present-day character seeks a way to prevent it. It's hard to know if a curse exists or the mere dread of the curse is what gives it validity. Coincidence and correlation make for a very small world when you seek answers that don't exist in a legacy of family.
  • (4/5)
    i really enjoyed this book .It is whimsical and has a bit of magic to it. it centers around a really old book sent to Simon who is an librarian. He investigates it and becomes drawn into a story of a 17th century circus complete with tarot cards, mermaids ,a wild boy. Story flips back and forth from the old circus and present day. Simon's sister is with a circus and reads cards. Paulina, Simon's mother also did andshe drown as did various other family members all on the same date. Simon has to find out why.? Such a fun book !!
  • (4/5)
    A little too predictable and quite a bit too slow. Not a bad story, pretty well written, but not as good as I'd hoped.
  • (4/5)
    Simon receives a book in the mail about an old carnival from the late 1700's from a rare bookseller. In it is a history of the carnival and names of his ancestors. He researches the names and the carnival. As he does he sees parallels between the carnival and now. Can he avoid what has happened in the past?This was not what I expected. I liked the present day story as I watched Simon research the book and his family. A lot was happening to Simon. I had a harder time getting into the 1700 carnival chapters. It was like a different story and I had a harder time relating to these people. Inferences had to be made so that the story from the past connected to the present. Secrets are revealed. Hurt and pain follow. The ending is open-ended and I don't know that I liked that. I would have liked closure for the characters and me.
  • (2/5)
    Simon Watson lives under the weight of his family's past. His mother, a circus performer, drowned when he and his little sister Enola were children, leaving the family heartbroken and even more dysfunctional. Her death is odd because as the circus' mermaid she was able to hold her breath for long periods of time. When Simon receives an old book from a complete stranger, he discovers that his family’s cursed past and present are blended in unexpected ways. The book leads him to suspect that Enola may be in danger.

    I feel like I should have enjoyed this book more than I actually did. After all, it has all of the elements I usually fall for: quirky set of characters, magical realism, tragic love, complex mystery steeped in mysticism. I’ve even seen it compared “Water for Elephants”, which I love. Yet after the opening suspense it becomes a slow, meandering tale with an awkward prose and flat characters.

    I couldn’t stand Enola's character. I have no problem with cursing, but what I’ll remember most about her is her colorful one word utterances used to convey a very limited range of emotions... It’s boring. On top of that she’s as sullen a character as there ever was. The relationship between the siblings doesn't feel true to life. Simon is disappointing in that he lets everybody dump on him and doesn’t fight back. That gets old.

    As for the second narrative, set in the 18th century and detailing the Watson family’s watery circus origins, it’s pretty dry (pun intended). I couldn’t make myself care for the flat menagerie characters. What should be the most intriguing part of the book somehow ends up being tedious, even with the various illustrations. The magic of “Water for Elephants” is not here. I did find the portrayal of Amos’ communication struggle to be effective in the way it relates to the other characters. NOBODY communicates properly.

    About 80% in the plot finally gains traction, far too late for me, although the pieces come together in a fascinating conclusion. Overall I’d say the premise held potential that wasn’t fully realized.
  • (5/5)
    COMING SOON: June 23, 2015Carnival Side-Show Performers and Librarians...Does it get much better than this?! Carnies and book-jockies are two of my favorite subsets of the human race, and their powers combined make for one hell of a delightful book, Fortune-telling tarot readers, computer-savvy information professionals, tattooed jugglers who emit their own electrical charge, modern day mermaids - this book has it all. Mermaids?! I mean, the last time I gave a crap about mermaids was in the nineties when I was singing along with Ariel and Sebastian on VHS; but, this book made me care about mermaids (and those men doomed to love them) all over again. I love this book. A lot. And I can't wait until other readers can love it too.The Book of Speculation isn't due to hit the shelves until June, so I don't want to ruin any of the surprises that this beautiful book has in store for the legion of readers who will, no doubt, run to discover its secrets. I'll try to gloss over the nitty-gritty details and big reveals, but this is a sprawling family history with back-story out the wazoo.Simon is a youngish librarian living in a decrepit house teetering on the precipice of certain disaster and the raging waters of the Long Island Sound. Simon's mother drowned in those very waters when he was just a boy. She, presumably, committed suicide - because Simon's mother was able to hold her breath for upwards of ten minutes (a feat she displayed as a sideshow Carnival act). His father died of, quite literally, a broken heart shortly thereafter, leaving Simon to care for his sister, Enola. Only, now that she's grown, Enola has chosen the life of a travelling tarot card reader, leaving Simon to care for the crumbling family homestead all by himself. His solitude is interrupted with the delivery of an unexpected parcel: an ancient diary that appears to be tied to an early 19th century circus show. In reading and researching this unusual artifact, Simon begins to unknowingly uncover disturbing truths about his family history. The most frightening of these revelations is that seemingly all of the Watson-family women, the merwomen of the circus circuit, meet their death by willful drowning on the same day, July 24th. Their suicides stretch out over the years, claiming the matriarchs' lives with pin-point precision. When his sister Enola makes an unexpected trip home, mid-summer, acting strange and claiming to be troubled, Simon realizes that the past may still hold a very powerful hold on their future.This book shifts between two stories: that of Simon and that of the lives of the people contained in the ancient book he has inherited. As Simon researches the history of the book, the reader is transported into the past, into the very pages of history, to travel alongside Amos and Evangeline, performers in Peabody's traveling circus. I was equally interested in both stories. The switch between the present and the past created tension, a delicious anticipation, that simmered throughout the entire book. When I was with Simon, I longed to be with Amos; when I was with Amos, I longed to be with Simon. I was hooked, though and through. Like I said, it doesn't get much better than circus tents, decrepit beach houses and dusty libraries. Plus, librarians (I love me some librarians). And fortune tellers. And mermaids.The Book of Speculation is a well-balanced, finely-woven family history. I'm going to go out on a ledge here and say that this may be one of my favorite reads of 2015. But, it's only February, and time will tell. Definitely worthy of a re-read in the future. I wouldn't mind adding a physical copy of this book to my library when it comes out!
  • (5/5)
    I found this as I was browsing the shelves at my local library. A mysterious book, tarot cards, family secrets. Yet he book cover reached out and drew me in and I'm glad I yielded. The story was as intriguing as promised; multi generations of two families with ties to circuses and carnivals. The youngest generation responds to family history and curses in surprising but refreshing ways.
  • (4/5)
    Simon is a research librarian who is suddenly let go from his financially struggling library. His sister, Enola, a circus performer/tarot card reader, suddenly returns to visit, just as their home is in jeopardy of falling over a cliff due to erosion. When a mysterious antique book which chronicles the history of a circus is sent to Simon with little explanation, Simon's research into the book unexpectedly leads him to the history of his own family. Alternating chapters are used to tell the story of the circus performers, including the leader, a tarot-card reader, a mute young man, and a diver, who can hold her breath for long periods of time under water. As the book moves towards the historic date when Simon's mother and grandmother both drowned, Simon fears that his sister's life is in jeopardy from some long forgotten curse somehow related to the circus in the book. I found this to be an interesting and well-written story about early circus life, which was both suspenseful and engaging. Our book club members all enjoyed this one as well.
  • (4/5)
    Hard to resist a book with a title and cover like this. I'd had it on my TBR pile, but it was chosen for book club this month, so I was more than happy to move it up on the reading queue.Simon, a research librarian, lives alone. His parents are both deceased and his sister Enola has moved away to work in a traveling carnival, following in her mother's footsteps. One day Simon receives an old, mysterious book in the mail, sent by a bookseller who thinks the book may have familial ties to Simon. After studying the book, Simon becomes convinced that his sister's life is in danger, as several generations of females in his family have died via drowning on the exact same date. The story alternates between that of Simon in present-day, and the story of a particular traveling carnival in the 1800's.I enjoyed this book. Some may feel that it moves too slowly & that Simon is a bit of a weak-willed character, but I liked the way it gradually unfolded. The reader slowly learns a bit of family history and things begin to tie together nicely near the end. I thought it was a fairly impressive debut novel and look forward to any future writings by this author.
  • (4/5)
    A somewhat mystical book that runs in parallel in the current day and in a traveling circus in the late 18th century. The current day protagonist, Simon, lives in the NE USA, is a librarian, and soon to lose his job. Simon is not a very forceful character, nothing too much to endear him, and his part of the story is in the third person. His counterpart, Amos, is "adopted" by the circus and his story in the third person. There are a number of other characters close to the protagonists. Simon is given an old book from the circus, heavy into tarot cards, and yes tarots are important in the circus and the current day. As in Simon's dysfunctional sister. The two periods start off in parallel but during the story start to converge with unfortunate circumstances. The story ends in one way cataclysmic, I won't say how, and, on the other hand, a handed down curse is avoided.So very nicely written, while mystic it's not at all fantasy like and surprisingly not implausible. but I felt the ending could have been a little stronger.A very nice read though.
  • (5/5)
    I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. A great story, well written, interesting characters and a totally engrossing plot that moves easily between history and the present. The only bad thing about it is that whatever I read next will probably disappoint.