Simon works in the reference section at a struggling library in Maine, whose biggest draw is a whaling archive. He’s hard up for money and his historic home on the coast is in such disrepair that it’s about to fall into the ocean.
One day, Simon receives a very old book in the mail. Strangely, it has some of his family member’s names in it.
The text describes a circus, a boy who can’t speak, and a girl who can hold her breath so long that they call her a mermaid.
But, what does this have to do with his family? And why do so many of the people in the book die on the same day?
In addition to the mystery, The Book of Speculation includes one or two love stories: “Redheaded and pretty, Alice has her father’s smile and a way with kids. She’s better with people than I am, which is why she handles programming and I’m in reference.”pg 9, ebook.
I did not like how the reference section was stereotypically depicted as the “bad with people” part of the library. I have a soft spot in my heart for those reference types, having been one myself in my previous job. 🙂
Also, for being a librarian, Simon doesn’t act very librarian-y.
Take this part when he receives the mysterious book: “The box contains a good-sized book, carefully wrapped. .. A small shock runs through me. It’s very old, not a book to be handled with naked fingers, but seeing as it’s already ruined, I give in to the quiet thrill of touching something with history.” pg 15.
No self-respecting archivist would do that. “Already ruined” so who cares? I don’t think so.
The fantasy/magic portions of this book are subtle and written so that one could almost believe that it was real.
Take Amos’ (one of the characters from the old book) ability to disappear: “People may live for a century without discovering the secret of vanishing. The boy found it because he was free to listen to the ground humming, the subtle moving of soil, and the breathing of water- a whisper barely discernible over the sound of a heartbeat. Water was the key.” pg 18 ebook.
The history recorded in the old book is revealed to the reader through a series of flashbacks. That bothered some of my friends on Goodreads but the circus folk stories are my favorite parts of this book.
The characterizations are ok, nothing extraordinary.
My favorite minor character, Benno, could have used more fleshing out: “After a time Benno climbed down from the wagon. “You are my friend and you are kind,” he said quietly. “More than is good. I was taught to watch for gentle souls, as they’ve not the wit to look after themselves.” pg 124, ebook.
Thanks for reading!