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Helene Wecker has written an interesting and entertaining first novel. Her main characters are a Golem, Chava, and a Jinni, Ahmad, who are magical beings that look human but are not. The Golem is of Jewish origin and she is recognized for what she is by an old rabbi, who takes her in and continues to help her until he dies. The Jinni is from the ancient Bedouin lands of Syria. When he is unknowingly released from a battered copper container, he immediately accepts a position to do metalwork with a local tinsmith, Boutrous Arbeely. It is 1899 and these two magical creatures are living as immigrants in New York City. Like other immigrants they have to figure out how to survive through regular jobs and by making friends but discovery and violent response to them as monsters is a big danger. For Chava, a special risk lies in going amok in defense of threats to herself or her friends. For Ahmad, his penchant for seducing young women gets him in trouble. They are both trying to fit in and as they navigate their new lives they learn to control their true natures but ultimately nothing seems to give them contentment. Both are lonely and neither is truly happy.
Though the Golem and the Jinni find themselves on opposite ends, once they meet they come to realize they have more in common than might at first be apparent. Since neither sleeps they choose to discover the wonders of the city by night. They realize that because of their strange situations they can talk to each other in ways they can never disclose to others. Through their friendship Ahmad begins to provoke Chava by challenging her submissive nature. He stokes her curiosity but her reaction to his efforts results in disagreements between the two so that they argue often. Their back-and-forth banter is endearing and most entertaining. I couldn't help laughing after their 'hat conversation'. Despite their quarrels Ahmed continues to prod at Chava, daring her to explore and experience her desires and the larger world. Her nature is to serve and please people but Ahmed encourages Chava to be ‘free’.
In the meantime pieces of Ahmad’s lost memories begin to take shape and so he remembers the sins of his ancient past as well as the reason there is a bewitched band of iron around his wrist. The past comes to haunt both our main characters and for both, the biggest threat comes in the form of Chava’s powerful creator, a disgraced rabbi who practices the dark art of Kabbalistic magic and who comes to America caring only about finding the secret of eternal life.
This tale is enchanted with legend, lore and magic. Wecker’s cast of characters are well formed and each plays a unique and crucial part in this story. The action builds slowly and flows effortlessly from past to present and from character to character until suddenly you find yourself propelled into a whirlwind of an ending, which when it hits, it's non-stop until the end. You will find yourself rooting for Chava and Ahmed when inevitably they are forced to confront the evil that men do.
I found this book quite captivating and interesting. It gave a different take to the Genie in a bottle story and I had never really heard of a golem before. It was a bit slow paced in some places, however found it thoroughly enjoyable!
The tone of the narration had a very storylike quality to it, which fit it perfectly. It added to a good story with interesting characters.
I really enjoyed Yehuda Schaalman. Complex, and manages to be humorous, pitiable, and scary at different points.
Some immigrants came here from a different world. Some came here from a MUCH different world.
Like many others, I'm typically not that into fantasy (Harry Potter books aside). But I downloaded this one based on all the positive reviews. And wow and I glad I did. I love a book with interesting relationships that is not shallow that doesn't leave me completely depressed, and often that's a very hard thing to find. But it's exactly what I got in this story. The story and characters were wonderful. Although it's fantasy (obviously) it doesn't feel that way. You just get to experience the wonderful relationships that develop between the characters in a way that you can relate to. The characters in the story are real and sympathetic, and I found myself attached to them easily.
I'm glad I got this as an audiobook, because the performance was great, and it kept me going when I might have put down a printed copy. This is an epic novel centered around many characters, so the first several hours were spent introducing and setting up these characters. I am not sure I would have been able to read through this long set up, but listening to it, I enjoyed it (I might have enjoyed reading it too, I'm not sure).
All in all, I loved it.
I enjoyed the interaction of the characters in the story.
The development of the The Golem and The Jinni's characters. The author managed to draw you into their lives and made you genuinely care about what happened to them.
Excellent narrator. He managed the different accents wonderfully and you never became confused about which character perspective he was narrating.
I didn't have any extreme reactions to the book but it did manage to draw me into the plot line and the characters.
Beyond the main characters being a golem and a jinni, this is not a fantasy book. Yes, the main characters have some supernatural abilities but these are more personality characteristics than a major part of the story. This is a wonderful story about immigrants to America during the height of Ellis Island. A lot of care and detail was taken to ensure that the reader had an understanding of the Syrian and Jewish neighborhoods. Once I recognized that this was not a fantasy book, I was able to enjoy immersing myself into the culture of the neighborhoods and the development of the characters.
I just finished reading and listening to The Golem and the Jinni. What an inventive, beautifully written and compelling novel! I loved every minute of it. All the characters came to life as completely believable people. And the juxtaposition of the personalities of Amad and Chava was so interesting. I just did not want this book to end. I'm making it my selection for our book club in 2014 and have recommended it to everyone I know who loves to read a great story.
The Audible.com edition with George Guidell narrating was perfect. That was for listening in my car. Continuing to read the Kindle edition when at home was great, too. The Golem and the Jinni is now at the top of my list of all time favorite books
I am an avid "reader"- I prefer to listen to books rather than read them due to the added dimension added by the narrator.
fantasy, brilliance, intrigue
I loved everything about this story. The character development was very good. I don't think I could have had the reaction to this book without George Guidall's incredible narration. I've heard him before and marvel at his talent with voices and intonation.
This book ties together a thousand years and whips back and forth between characters and events... looking inside the mind of the protagonists and actually allowing the reader to contemplate the meaning of life and the lives of the characters in the context of a wildly entertaining twist and turn intrigue. Loved the ending but not giving it away.
Everything. This man is brilliant and I will choose my books backwards in order to listen to his wonderful voice.
Run don't walk to download this book... I had to sit in the car and be late for appointments so that I could hear what was going to happen! The sign of an excellent audiobook. I will probably listen to it a second time to get all the characters and events straight.
This multifaceted story combines myth, religion, magic, clashing cultures, and a deep understanding of human nature – all set in the turn of the 20th century New York.
The characters are solid and interesting (though I’ll admit I didn’t quite fall in love with any of them), each with their individual nature and small peculiarities; and their conflicts – minor and major - come very naturally from who they are.
I usually have a good sense of where the story is going, but with this story I was delighted to find I had no idea what’s going to happen next, or how everything is going to resolve itself in the end. I thoroughly enjoyed the audio performance, too!
At last, something completely new. Beautifully told and beautifully written. I enjoyed this book very much and found it hard to put down.
This is a wonderful book. It's well written, well narrated and pulls you right in. This book is so thorough in all its descriptions that you feel like you are sucked back in time. You can easily imagine being in the dessert, Syria, a boat treaking to America and the little villages of New York. I was shocked how much I came to care for the golem. I wish this were a series, but I can't see anywhere that it's going to be.