I really really loved this book, and I loved the narration of this book. There was really no point in the book where I knew what was going to happen, but that was okay because the author did not leave me sitting on pins and needles waiting for the end to occur. Each part of the book was a joy to listen to, whether or not the part was relevant to the ultimate conclusion. The details were so plainly and beautifully given, without being gratuitous or rambling.
I am so impressed with this author. Quite unbelievable that this was her first book. The overall tone and feel to her book reminded me of "The Book Thief" which was equally wonderful, and likewise was the author's first book.
It has been since "The Book Thief" that I listened to a story so poignantly written and so convincingly told.
Really fantastic! I cannot wait to her next book comes out.
This was fascinating to me on various levels, you got to learn about
- Golem's and Genies
- explore how they felt suddenly turning up in 19th C New York.
- what 19th C New York was like with all the new immigrants
- myths and legends in Jewish Kaballa culture (golems) and Bedouin culture, (genies)
It was really well written, well read, absorbing, believable and a good pace
We got to explore each character and how they felt about what was happening now and how they got to this stage in their lives.
Lots of mystery and intrigue -- refreshingly unpredictable
I'd heard a lot of very good things about this one, and it mostly held up to them. It's the latest in a line of recent "fantasy for grown-ups" books, and it falls between Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore -- to pick a couple at the extremes of quality. This has all the ambition of the books of its sort -- a clever setting with the addition of some thoughts on the nature of immigrant life almost a century ago -- and it's solidly written. Parts go on a bit long, and it doesn't resolve itself with quite the satisfaction of the best in the genre, but it's still fun. It falls short of The Midnight Circus, say, but so do most books. I'd like to have seen it move more quickly once it established its characters (and there's an overly neat coming together of seemingly separate threads) but I do recommend it.
The narrator really brought the characters to life. His accents were great, and this helped to provide you with an immersion experience. This is an atmospheric, period piece so this was important.
I found it similar to the book Chocolat, which also involved fantasitical, magical and mystical happenings.
This is the first time I've listened to this narrator, but it definitely won't be my last time. He is very, very good, and his character accents are spot on.
The Jinni would be an interesting dinner companion. Although he seems self-centered and gruff, I believe the culture of the Jin made him the way he is. He proved himself to be selfless and caring at the end of the book, and exhibited many redeeming qualities.
I got a bit confused about 3/4 of the way through though, where the story lines of several of the characters past and current converged. The pace of the story seemed kind of rushed at this point too, which made it difficult to follow. At this point this action picked up dramatically, and I was having trouble remembering who people were, their relationships, and how their past histories came to play in current events.
Overall, I found it to very entertaining story.
When reviewing books I try to be fair; I appreciate that not everyone will be looking for the same things in a book.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker is the story of, well, a golem and a jinni who find themselves in turn of the century New York. Recently awoken/liberated respectively they must find their feet in and adapt to the New World while avoiding threats which could destroy them.
First of all, I would like to say just how much I loved this story. I loved the characters, the narrative, the setting. What I found rather interesting was the fact that, had the golem and the jinni been just ordinary immigrants instead of supernatural creatures, 80% of the story could have remained unchanged. It is much more a story of new immigrants to the States adapting to their new lives and country and friendships formed than a fantastical tale of the supernatural. That is not to say that the element of the fantastical did not add an extra layer of depth to the tale, but it is well grounded in reality.
What I liked
The characters. All the characters were beautifully written, from our two protagonists down to “Ice Cream Salah.” Due to circumstances beyond their control, the golem and the jinni find themselves alone in turn of the century New York and have to fit in with the local community to survive. Their personalities match what you might expect from immigrants from Poland and Syria. Our golem is obedient, modest, faithful and curious. This is presumably what is considered culturally normal for a young Polish woman of the time, based on the desires of her first master.
The jinn on the other hand comes across as a rather chauvinistic, arrogant man who is used to a far higher status that that which he finds as a lowly Syrian immigrant in New York.
This characterisation colours their actions and their thoughts, which is why the novel could easily work as the tale of two immigrants. They even have the golem go through Ellis Island to cement further the immigrant theme.
I also enjoyed the developing relationship between the golem and jinni and the way that all the characters are interconnected.
The narrative. The narrative is rather slow paced, concentrating on character and setting development. Although this is primarily an immigrant story, that’s not to say I didn’t really enjoy the fantasy element. Even Sophia’s arc, while it contains an element of the supernatural, can be likened a similar, more realistic situation, and her reactions are very believable.
The setting. Wecker describes turn of the century New York and the various subcultures (Syrian, Yiddish) living there wonderfully. I felt as if I were walking the streets with the golem and the jinni.
The foreshadowing. This is most notable in the case of the golem. Right from the beginning of the book the reader is made aware of the threats of and to our golem. The fact that the instrument of the golem’s destruction is out there in the world adds a nice layer of narrative tension to the novel. The idea of the golem herself’s being dangerous is nicely handled. When it is first brought up, it creates a very interesting dichotomy. From what we know of the golem at that time, she seems the very opposite of dangerous. She is shy, obedient and desperate to please – the very essence of non-threatening. It does lead the reader to question why her creator believes her to be so dangerous.
The narration. The narration is handled by George Guidall and it was very enjoyable. His slow, easy way of talking made me feel as if he were reading me a bedtime story.
What I didn’t like
There was nothing I didn’t enjoy about The Golem and the Jinni. It’s definitely worth picking up.
I gave The Golem and the Jinni five stars out of five
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
Verisimilitude. When writing a combination of historical fiction and fantasy, verisimilitude is the key, for both author and audience alike. In this debut novel by Helene Wecker, we are treated to the ethnic neighborhoods of 1899 New York City in a way that makes them feel as close and as familiar as our own homes. The streets are populated with a variety of characters who do so much more than play on the stereotypes. Each one stands on its own as a vibrant individual with a story to tell. And in the middle of all of it... a golem and a jinni, two creatures of myth and legend drawn from the respective folklores of the people who inhabit these neighborhoods, and both with their respective flaws and foibles as they try to get by in a world that would not accept nor understand them. It's a new twist on the classic "stranger in a strange land" tale.
I first heard about this book on the This Is Audible podcast. I was intrigued by what I heard in the interview, but I let it marinate for a bit before finally putting forth my credit. This is quite easily one of the best credits I've ever spent. The story is a slow build, but a no point does it hold back. Wecker is a masterful storyteller, and she knows how to make you want to come back to learn more about her creations. These characters live, as much as you or I or anyone else we might know. The subtle twists and turns are tied together about as perfectly as one could wish, and the end is - to my mind - quite satisfying to the story arcs presented. I'm looking forward to more works of this caliber from Helene Wecker. Her name will not be one I forget.
George Guidall's narration is wonderful. He adds that little something extra that brings these characters to life, making them that much more endearing... as though they needed any help on that front. His vocals as he changes characters are believable to the point where it's sometimes easy to forget he's only one man. This is the first narration of his I've heard, and it worked so very well for this story.
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.
Smart, unexpected, astute
The scene in dance hall was brilliant: incisively drawn, it evoked the movement and joy of the two main characters in magical words.
It is as though he is reading a folk tale and it is a perfect style for this story--the dramatic pauses and voices he lends to the characters are extremely effective, though I would also be happy to read it in print, too.
I was transfixed by Ice Cream Saleh, with his history as a physician and transformation to an ice cream vendor in New York, then the recovery of his sight through his exorcism. As with nearly all the characters, his is finely wrought, and Ms. Wecker deftly portrays just the right amount of detail so the reader can ably fill in the shadows.
Just a great listen--I highly recommend it.
I really enjoyed this book and it was the perfect easy listen during a hectic holiday, but despite the marvellous performance George Guidall I found the storyline a bit young. By this I mean that it was soft and never really challenging, there were no real surprises around the corner and the grand finale was quite predictable. Still I recommend the book. I enjoyed the plot and the characters and sometimes it's nice to read a straightforward tale.
Definitely in the top ten!
Loved them all but the jinni was someone I identified with in some ways so was my favorite.
I love a skilled voice actor that can capture the mood and emotion of a book like this and really engage me in the book even now some time later I can recall the jinni and his often bemused and sometimes baffled tone while addressing the many strange customs of the new world he finds himself in.
The jinni for sure, if you could get him to tell you tales of hundreds of years living in a world of spirits and elemental creatures that would be awesome!
This was probably not a book I would have bought on the publishers description alone but the personal reviews were so positive that I took a chance and was very happy that I did. I have already recommended this to several of my friends as a story this well told crosses genres in its ability to grab hold of a reader and keep them there.