I believe in book magic. When I was younger I used to go to Barnes & Noble or other bookstores with nothing in mind, and see what jumped out at me. I firmly believe this is one of the best ways to buy books, and it almost never fails to bring me some gems that end up becoming some of my all-time favorite books. The Book of Speculation is one of those books.
I heard about this book a year ago, read the description, and wrote it on my to-buy book list. Then I completely forgot about it. A few weeks ago I was browsing the bookstore looking for a birthday present to buy myself, and The Book of Speculation drew me in. I bought it, and then later remembered that it had been on my book list for months. It seemed like it had found its way to me, which is spooky considering that this is precisely the premise of the novel.
The Book of Speculation is narrated by a man named Simon Watson in his late twenties to mid thirties living in a beach town on Long Island. His mother drowned herself and his father wasted away shortly after, leaving him to take care of his sister Enola when he was still a teenager. Now Enola has fled their home, and Simon is a librarian living alone. The narrative begins when Simon receives a very old book in the mail, sent to him by a aging bookseller who thought the book has some connection to Simon’s family.
Simon discovers that the book is the journal and log of a circus owner living in post-Revolution America in the 1700s. Within its pages are tales of the circus and also of Simon’s ancestors. Slowly, Simon discovers that every single one of his female ancestors have died from drowning on the exact same date—July 24th. As Simon begins to piece together this shocking coincidence, his sister returns home acting odd, and Simon realizes that July 24th is only a few days away. The book holds the key to piecing together what may be a centuries-long curse on his family, and he scrambles to break the curse before his sister becomes its next victim.
I absolutely loved this story because it perfectly captures the magic of books and of history. It also brings to life a vivid portrait of circus and carnival life in the 1700s, and is beautifully written. I also loved all of the characters: they’re all complex and sympathetic, without being too simplistic. There’s a thread of magic woven into the book, and it completely enchanted me.
“Once you’ve held a book and really loved it, you forever remember the feel of it, its specific weight, the way it sits in your hand.”
“We carry our families like anchors, rooting us in storms, making sure we never drift from where and who we are. We carry our families within us the way we carry our breath underwater, keeping us afloat, keeping us alive.”
“Perhaps the book opened a door; books have a way of causing ripples.”
Buy this book on Amazon!