Wednesday, June 10, 2015
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
Simon, a young librarian who lives in a house threatened by the encroaching sea, receives an old book in the mail. Sent by a bookseller named Martin Churchwarry, a note included with the book says that Churchwarry bought the book on speculation at an auction and tracked one of the names inside, leading him to Simon's family.
So--an old book (very 0ld)--about a traveling carnival in the 1700's, a book connected to Simon's family. The partially damaged book tells of women in the family with careers as carnival mermaids; women who drowned young on July 24th, from generation to generation.
July 24th is approaching, a kind of due date for our hapless librarian; Simon's sister is coming home. Already rattled by his crumbling house and losing his job at the library, now Simon must confront the possibility that his sister is in danger.
A book that has been half drowned in a flood. A house on the verge of drowning. Women in the same family who drown on the exact same date. A young man drowning in complications and the secrets he uncovers. Intriguing? Add Tarot cards, supernatural/magical realism elements, the odd match of carnival characters and librarians, a curse, two time frames, odd and intricate connections...
A book full of potential, but that sometimes seemed to fall a bit off the mark. I can't explain exactly why without spoilers, but one reason (for me) was that the characters were a little remote and strangely impersonal for a story that purported more...energy. The pacing was also slow and sometimes repetitive.
As usual, my favorite character was the a secondary one. Doyle, the tattooed man. He was (tongue-in-cheek--Tentacular!) and had the most likable personality.
This is a debut novel, and an enjoyable one with a distinctive flair. I look forward to more from Erika Swyler.
NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Literary fiction. June 23, 2015. Print length: 352 pages.