Some books, like people, you are just drawn to…..but The Book Of Speculation was simply an itch that needed to be scratched for me. When reading the summary I was immediately sold and captivated by the idea of mermaids and circuses…..buuut….
First I became well acquainted with denial. I thought to myself– yeah this book will get better! I kept turning the pages hoping that I’d be swept under the so called spell of The Book of Speculation. But…BUT I made a new friend. Her name is rage and she created thirty fires that melted away my soul. I absolutely HATED this book. I don’t even think hate is a good enough word. Don’t get me wrong, The Book of Speculation is a page turner, but not because of its whimsy writing and magical characters. In my opinion, Erika Swyler failed miserably at the magical realism aspect of this story. This book is a page turner simply because you are going to want to find out what keeps killing off the matriarchal lineage of this family. That is the only reason why I kept reading so kudos to you Erika for building up enough suspense.
Tone deaf I think perfectly explains what is wrong with Swyler’s debut novel. Swyler isn’t a bad writer. I honestly would pick up another book of hers, but I just don’t think magical realism is her thing. There were moments where I was genuinely confused. For example, Evangeline thwarting her grandmother to death with a spoon!?!?! I laughed so hard and from then on decided to hate read this entire book. MAYBE I missed something? Amos and Evangeline are insufferable and I couldn’t help but feel like Swyler was forcing feeding me their relationship. I didn’t get any sense of chemistry from them. Their relationship just kind of happens?
Let me go ahead and get in on the characters. The only person I liked in this book was Doyle. Everyone else was incredibly unbelievable. Simon is a doormat, Enola is neurotic with a unexplained stick up her asshole (like really her attitude was so unappealing), Frank and Alice are the most boring and uninspiring people in this entire clusterfuck. Alice and Simon have no chemistry. THAT’S THE THING NO ONE IN THIS BOOK HAS CHEMISTRY. And I don’t know if Swyler got too caught up in trying to make everything seem magical….I just really don’t know what happened. Most of all I just found myself not caring about any of the characters. I read this book immediately after I finished Dragonfly In Amber, so maybe that’s why I disliked it so much. It was no match to Gabaldon’s storytelling, but days after reading it I concluded that this book is just dull.
There’s nothing wrong abrasive and rude characters, but I think Enola just wasn’t handled correctly. Everyone could’ve been handled better. This book is steeped in nauseating melodrama and pettiness. I just couldn’t stomach it. I was so happy when it ended.
The Book of Speculation isn’t bad enough to not suggest. I would still suggest this to book to anyone interested in its genre. It just didn’t work out for me. Maybe this review was too harsh….
TLDR; If you love corny, cheesy, magical stories about traveling circuses then this might be for you. Swyler’s clearly got an imagination, but her characters are really flat. I will be looking out for other books she might publish in the future. I hope next time around she WOWs my socks off.