The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
[Image courtesy of us.macmillan.com]
Frankly, I’m not sure how to categorize this book. There’s mystery, folklore and family drama all mixed up in it, and yet it wasn’t what I had expected when I picked up the book.
The flow of the events was somewhat too slow for my liking, and the story was narrated in a melancholic tone that I didn’t take to. The mystery lasted for about half the book, because I had already guessed what was causing the family’s drowning problem by then, although I must say there was one confession that came as a surprise (this is part of the family drama bit and which I will not spoil for folks who are still going to read the novel). The folklore bit consisted mostly of mermaids and tarot cards (I guess that’s the reason for the allusion to “speculation”, in addition to the mystery bit).
It’s a miracle I finished the book. I think what kept me going was my own curiosity about whether Swyler would be able to save the story by giving it an unexpected twist at the end, plus maybe the fact that I didn’t have a book that I really wanted to read on hand. Unfortunately, there was no unexpected twist to be had.
VERDICT: This book is definitely not for me but if you like a mix of mystery, folklore and drama, and don’t mind reading through 300-odd pages of melancholic narration, you might want to give it a chance. The bonus is a handful of illustrations (from Swyler herself I think) sprinkled throughout the book.
Here’s an overview of the story line (from Goodreads) for those who are still interested despite my short rant above:
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.