The Book of Speculation Book Review

The Book of Speculation: Book Review by Dinh.

4 stars


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 led me to believe it might be of interest to you or your family….

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone in a house that is slowly crumbling toward the Long Island Sound. His parents are long dead. His mother, a circus mermaid who made her living by hold her breath, drowned in the very water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, ran off to join the circus six years ago.

One June day, an old book arrives on Simon’s doorstep. Fragile and water damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports strange and magical things- including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of “mermaids” in Simon’s family have drowned- always on July 24th, which is only weeks away.

As his friend Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly worried about his sister. Could there be a curse on Simon’s family? What does it have to do with the book, and can he stop it on time to save Enola?

Synopsis was taken from the hardcover version (339 pages), copyright 2015 and printed by St. Martin’s Press, ISBN 978-1-250-05480-7.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler


For those that know me, know that I love magical realism. Well, The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler is right up my alley and I didn’t even know it by looking at the book cover! And what a gorgeous and intriguing cover!

It was the cover and the title of the book that caught my attention whilst I was browsing for a new book to read. And it wasn’t a personally recommended book to me- just think of that, I chose to read at random!

The synopsis pretty much tell you what to expect in novel and since I didn’t have any expectations from it I found it rather enjoying to read.

So what did I like about The Book of Speculation?


Simple Story Line

First off, it was reminiscent of the The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern since it has a traveling circus in it, but the similarity stops there. Sure, you get mermaids and other magical things, but this book is not all fantasy and more magical realism.

I enjoyed the simple plot of The Book of Speculation.

It’s about Simon, a young librarian trying to solve his family genealogy. Is there a curse on the women in Simon’s family? And will Simon be able to save his sister if all evidence points to a curse?

Although it’s about Simon, his sister and their family history, there is a bit of romance. It’s just a whiff of romance to add to the uncomplicated plot.


Beautifully written

Erika Swyler debut novel is  written beautifully. She has a wonderful style of prose that captures the magical elements whilst contrasting it with the realistic fiction.

She is very talented in conveying the historical family ties through the generations and centuries, making it interesting and captivating the reader with her specific style.

I liked how she kept the reader interested in the story by moving from present day with Simon’s story and then switching back in time.  It was interesting to see how the story of the mute bastard boy in the 1780s relates to Simon.


The Book of Speculation Book Review


Quirky Characters

I thought the main characters were developed enough and real enough to keep my interest.

I didn’t warm up to Simon even though he was the protagonist. His character was a bit boring for my liking. His relationship to his sister Enola was realistic and  I liked the development of both characters as Simon tries to figure out the significance of the book given to him.

I personally found the stories and characters of the past generations more intriguing. The circus characters were quirky, memorable, and interesting.

Moreover, I liked the way Swyler makes the characters in the past as fait accomplit, their fate already determined even before they where born. This element weaves a magical aspect to the characters and make them appealing to me.

The trouble with Evangeline started long before Amos saw her in a lightning field. The trouble was that she was born.”


Even Mr. Martin Churchwarry, the bookseller of used and antiquarian books was interesting and quirky, though we don’t get to know him as much as I would have liked.



Spoiler Alert!

Although I enjoyed reading the book, there were a few things that didn’t work for me.

I did enjoy the ending, as the puzzle gets solved and all the loose ends get tidied up but I found that it didn’t flow or connect to the original story line. Simon, Enola, and Alice go off to start fresh somewhere is a realistic aspect of the story which fails to encompass the magical element of the book.

In addition, I felt that the book was a bit lop-sided. The realistic part was not as interesting as the magical parts. If both elements were tighter and balance it would have been better.


The Book of Speculation A novel


My Final Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Book of Speculation.  I loved the captivating tale of a man’s quest to find his family roots to solve what he believes is a curse. This magical realism style dazzles the reader as it travels back to the origin of the family roots.


Get a copy of The Book of Speculation on Amazon . Or listen to it for free with an Audible trial.

Discover your next great read!

Do you like books about the circus or about family roots? Does this book appeal to you? I’d love to hear your comments!

16 thoughts on “The Book of Speculation Book Review

  1. Hi Dinh,
    Magical realism books are my favorite. I like the way skilled authors make magic and reality intertwine to make it believable 🙂 While reading your review I realized people working in circuses in real life are a good symbol of magical realism.
    I like the fact that Simon has chosen to be a librarian, a down to earth profession as apposed to his ancestors or even his sister. Two worlds that definitely exists that are turned into a magical story.
    Thanks for this review and book suggestion.

    1. Hi Carolyn!
      I love magical realism too! I haven’t read any in that style for some time and miss it.
      Swyler did a good job in making the magical parts real and the contrast with reality was a bit too harsh but I enjoyed the book overall.

      I agree with you that the circus is a good symbol of magical realism since they are “magical”.

      Do let me know if you get a chance to read this book. I would be interested in seeing if you enjoyed it. 🙂

  2. I’m pleased I found this review. I do like magical realism and the fact that Erika Swyler keeps it simple, appeals to me. I tried reading a J.R. Tolkien book a long time ago and it was just too complicated.

    Tying magical realism into genealogy is another appealing factor. This book sounds like a good read for a debut novel.

    1. Hello Craig!
      I hope you enjoy this book.
      I was surprised the book was a magical realism style. All good as I love that!
      I agree with you about the genealogy. I love to read about the links in family trees and how it ties to present day.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This sounds like another interesting book to read. I’m also a fan of magical things and sci-fi fiction. Thanks for your recommendation, Dinh!

  4. I have seen this one around but I actually haven’t ever read a book review about it. It sounds like this is a very slow and steady kind of book, which takes its time but is still so enjoyable to read because of the characters and the simplicity of it. Love the review, Dinh! Might be one I would enjoy reading :3

    1. Hello Olivia!
      Yes, this book was steady and interesting and was a good read.

      I enjoyed the simple plot and the interesting characters the most in this book. I think you’d enjoy this one Olivia!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hello Dinh, The book of Speculation sounds like an interesting read. A good review done by you.
    My first thought when I started to read the story was, did Simon manage to save his sister Enola or would she suffer the same fate as their mother? He only had a short time in which to do it. The spoiler alert section answered that however, so I was not left wondering!

    Thanks again Dinh, your love of books shows, (even when you do not enjoy the endings)!

    1. Hello EJ!
      I hope the spoiler alert didn’t stop you from wanting to read this book.

      I enjoyed this one and would recommend it although I think it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. It sounds like an interesting book. I have always enjoyed reading about magical universes as well as long as it does not become too ridiculous. But the book of speculation sound like it could have an ok balance for me to read and think I will enjoy it. From what you write, it sounds like a book that could also be made into an amazing movie:-) Will write it on my list of books I want to read and check it out soon. Thanks

    1. Hi Mike!
      I didn’t think of it being made into a movie but I agree with you that it would make a good movie. It has all the elements that would make it a good adaptation- it just depends on who would direct it.

      This book is not fantasy though it has a magical feel to it with mermaids and folks in the circus but on the cusp of fiction so I think you would enjoy it.

      Do let me know what you think when you get a chance. 🙂

  7. Whew! Thanks for the spoiler alert, Dinh. I skipped that part. I’m still formulating my opinion of magical realism. My last book, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, left me on the fence. The writing, like this one, is also quite beautiful. I guess I’ll have to read more of it. 😀 I like the sound of this one. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Lonna!
      I have to put more spoiler alerts in as I was told once before that I should do it so I can warn readers. I am glad it work and you skipped that part.
      I like the way Swyler writes and the story was interesting but it just was missing something- je ne sais pas…

    1. Hi Lynne!
      I find that I tend to fall asleep when the book is not engrossing and I am tired.
      I didn’t have any problems with The Book of Speculation! I loved the way it’s written and the characters were interesting but it wasn’t exciting like a thriller.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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