Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Book of Speculation - Erika Swyler

Summary: 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.

(Summary and pic from goodreads.com). I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Review:The first thing I noticed about this book is it is really beautiful. I know this is totally a “judge its book by its cover” kind of thing, but seriously. The cover is really cool and inside, the chapters have some color and some drawings, which are really cool. The reason why I am noting this is A) I am a very hearty appreciator of real books. eReaders are really not my thing, despite my love of technology. When I encounter a beautiful book, it is kind of rare, especially in a world where self-publishing is everywhere. Not that there’s anything against that, but they’re not hardbound with that cool velvety cover. B) This book is about an old book—a Book of Speculation, as you may have handily guessed—so to have a book that is actually really cool on the outside added to it. It gave the book an edge of having a cool vibe to it right from the start. It set the tone.

I liked this book a lot, actually. It has an alternating voice between the main character (who is not a reliable narrator, which I actually kind of love although it always throws me off) and reading from the actual “Book of Speculation.” It’s such a cool story. It’s macabre, it’s a little creepy, and it walks the edge between fantasy and realism that I really like. I don’t like it when books are completely out of the realm of possibilities unless I know that it is completely out of the realm of possibilities. Does that make sense? I’m fine with paranormal books (unless the love story is LAME and then I’m not. Don’t get me started) but I am not okay with a book that considers itself to be dealing in reality but actually it’s just stupid and the author takes too many liberties. This book is not that way. This book walks the very fine line but remains in that fun and crackly place where it’s real, but it’s a little more fantastical than real, but it could be real.

And there are carnies and freaks in a freak show. Who doesn’t love that kind of thing? It brings up all the right kind of fun creepiness. The people are interesting, the history is interesting, the fact that this kind of thing actually existed (and still exists!) is just so outside of my realm of reality that I really enjoy reading about it. Swyler does a great job of creating that old timey feel where it’s a little creepy, almost fairytale-esque, and bringing it to the present and carrying that over.

Something I loved—no LOVED—about this book was the idea that this book had a will of its own and found who it wanted to be with. As someone who loves books, and understands the importance of them personally, historically, culturally, I love the idea that books have a personality of their own, that they have a will and a purpose. That they understand their importance as well. Seriously. This is awesome.

I am giving this book four stars because although I think Swyler is great, I do think that there were a few rookie maneuvers with the plot. It doesn’t ruin things and I still highly recommend the book, but Swyler doesn’t flawlessly pull everything off.

Overall, I would recommend this. It’s got a cool, fun vibe with just a hint of the macabre to make it creepy and delicious.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language and some discussion of sex. There is nothing too shocking, though, and I find it to be on par with others from its genre. 

1 comment:

Jillian said...

This sounds like right up my alley. Sounds mysterious and books and librarians?? Sold.


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