Well, to tell you the truth, it was the first modern book with a ‘National Bestseller’ tag I have read. I was, and probably still am, very prejudiced against modern literature. It’s not about quality, but about scope of selling. People like entertaining, easy to read books: romance, fantasy, thrillers. The books that evoke, challenge, provoke and make us question our lives and choices are not the popular ones. Often they are hard to read and not that easy to understand, or their structure and wording are so complicated that the plot itself becomes very dim. Basically, challenging, good literature is not popular because it doesn’t let us relax. It doesn’t simply entertain us. It is painful.
That’s what I thought a good book was supposed to be. That is how I saw and still see literature. It should wake me or the hours of reading were wasted.
The only thing I never considered is that a good book doesn’t have to be complicated. There are many ways a book can influence us. It can make us read more about a subject, dive deep into history or philosophical matters. There are aslo books which can awaken our imagination, make us see things differently, challenge our creativity or just show us how beautiful simple things can be.
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.
Was The book of speculation any of those to me? Yes, and no. This book is definitely a story type book. There is not any interesting character development and mystery revealing. All the characters are quite flat; their motivation is so clear that I didn’t even wonder. Even when talking about his love, the main character, librarian Simon, uses such clichés as “I admire her legs. I do.”, “Her legs are better than when we were at high school” and a final “I fucked Frank’s daughter”. I feel your love, I really do. This is an author’s idea of how men think, and you can trace it through the whole book which makes the main ‘love story’ very dull and insipid.
Having all the time in the world makes getting things done impossible.
The intrigue of the mysterious book which Simon receives at the beginning disappears very fast and turns into a long and tedious journey into constant uncertainty, whining and self-pity. His attachment to the memories of his childhood, dead parents and their collapsing house may seem sweet at the beginning, but supported only by ‘romantic’ memories (such us mom who sees her kids once a month, dad who stared in a window for hours without acknowledging his kids presence) they just left me with an image of a weak guy who doesn’t want to grow up. Other characters in this story line don’t seem to be alive either. His girlfriend, Alice, is just a stereotype of how the author understands what men value in woman. She’s always there when character needs her and leaves when it’s convenient. His sister comes back home for no reason, and then leaves for no reason, and everything she does has no meaning or has nothing to do with developing her character.
But thankfully this book has two stories in it. One is happening to Simon in a real time. Another one tells the story of Simon’s ancestors and what happened to them three hundred years ago. In it, mermaids, taro cards, circus, the charm of old America and a wild boy who can become invisible create a magical but realistic atmosphere. The main character of this inner story is Amos, the wild boy, who grows up in the woods alone and can’t speak. One day he finds himself in the city where a circus gives its performance. The owner of the circus notices the boy’s ability to go invisible when he suddenly disappeared in the middle of the crowd, and he takes him to his circus. I won’t give up the plot, but this story line is much better written and it’s the only worthwhile part of the book. Here I started to understand that complexity in a novel is not the most important thing. But the mood of the book, its ability to awaken your imagination matters as much. Unfortunately, even this story is exciting only at the beginning. The author couldn’t gather all the storylines together nicely at the end, so the ending is a bit overextended. By the time all secrets were revealed I felt tired, bored and not interested anymore.
People spend their entire lives moving back and forth over the same water, moving but staying.
In conclusion, it’s frustrating that the author couldn’t make both storylines, present and past, equal in style and quality. The writing felt all the way like the work of a good student in a creative writing class who does everything right but always lacks something. Though it’s very easy to read and would work well as a light reading over the weekend.
All qoutes are from the book.