The Book of Speculation


Erika Swyler’s “The Book of Speculation” is an addictive read. Told from the perspective of Simon, a librarian and diver living on the Long Island Sound, it unravels a family saga ruled by a curse: In Simon’s family, all women – despite being experienced divers – die at a young age through drowning, and they all do so on July 24th. Simon only begins to understand this when he is sent a mysterious, more than 200-year-old book about a traveling circus that turns out to be connected to his family. Digging deeper in what turns out to be the story of two doomed lovers rather than a simple journal by the circus manager, he comes to unfold a family secret that is posing a danger to his only living relative, his little sister Enola.  For when she shows up at his front door only a couple of days preceding July 24th, he sees her life in danger …

This race against the clock bestows Swyler’s novel with a great deal of suspense.  The book sent to Simon is treated as book within the book, with the narration jumping from chapters covering Simon’s story to the line of story about said traveling circus and the relationship between Amos the mute Wild Boy and Evangeline the mermaid that is doomed to failure. I particularly enjoyed these passages about a bygone, almost fairytale-like world, for the circus to me seems like a place of magic. Somewhat I was reading this book at the right time in my life, for I really welcomed this escapism, leaving my stressful everyday-life behind me and instead becoming a fellow traveler in the circus. I refer to this line of story as fairytale-like, for magic – or tarot, to be precise – does play a significant role in the curse running through Simon’s family history. Sadly, I do not know much about tarot, but hearing an opinion of someone who does would be really interesting as far as the authenticity of the story is concerned. But then again, it is ‘only’ a novel, a piece of fiction. And as such, I really enjoyed it.

Lisa v. D.




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