(I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher)
THE BOOK OF SPECULATION has a lot of my favorite elements: family drama and secrets, rare books, magical realism, librarians. The book offers the perfects setup for a reader like me. Librarian Simon Watson is casting about for something to do after an unexpected layoff. One day, an old book arrives from a rare book dealer who believes that the book may have connections to Simon's family. As Simon sits in his crumbling house, he begins to delve into the mysteries of the book. It appears to be the logbook of a traveling circus from the late 1700s and Simon begins to recognize some of the names. The book may hold answers to the family curse that has taken a woman from each generation by drowning. On the exact same date.
Many times this book reminded me of THE PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks. The chronicle of this traveling circus becomes the history of several families and the book carries the imprint of its journey within the pages. I loved the circus setting and how many physical objects within the story such as the book and Simon's house become characters themselves. There are several touches of magic throughout the book which add to its charm. I loved the family history that appeared throughout the book but I was not fond of Simon or his sister. They seemed to be the weakest characters for me and I often found myself feeling irritated when they appeared. The intricacies of the family history and how the various characters are related also felt a bit forced and convoluted at times. Overall, though, I enjoyed how the story went backwards and forwards through time and how some secrets came to light and others never did. Much like all family histories.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. An enjoyable read. The circus setting is charming and the secrets of this family will keep you guessing and wondering about the roles of fate and self-determination.