Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Dept. of Speculation
Dept. of Speculation 
Jenny Offill
Alfred A. Knopf

First lines:
Antelopes have 10x vision, you said. It was the beginning or close to it. That means that on a clear night they can see the rings of Saturn.

Quick non-spoilery summary:
Dept. of Speculation tells the story of a marriage from the perspective of the wife in short scenes, some barely longer than a tweet. They are single, they meet, they fall in love, they move in together, they move, they have a child. All of their married life is encapsulated in the book in condensed form. Life in vignette.

My thoughts:
I loved this book. It was smart and witty and full of real feeling. In the beginning I kept texting my friend pictures of some of my favorite passages. The part of about new parenthood in particular is very funny. Then my texts tapered off, as I got to some less funny parts, but no less real. Sometimes I wondered how Offill had gotten in my head. The main character's struggles with the everyday-ness of life felt like mine.  
It is interesting how Offill weaves little bits of trivia throughout the text. On the surface they seem like non sequiturs, but yet they fit the narrative. The trivia becomes less frequent as the story progresses. 
In the end, it felt depressing, and it lost a little of its luster for me because of that.
"People keep telling me to do yoga, I tried it once at the place down the street. The only part I liked was the part at the end when the teacher covered you with a blanket and you got to pretend you were dead for ten minutes." (37) [on new parenthood]
If you like Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, also try The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. If you have an elementary-age child, Offill's picture books are also worth a look. We particularly enjoyed 11 Experiments That Failed.


  1. I want to read this book so bad! I will have to break down and get a copy soon. It just sounds so great.

    Love the quote.

  2. I just picked this up from the library yesterday... can't wait to get started!

  3. I'm definitely going to have to give this another look. Great review!