Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, 2014
Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.
Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.
Meeting by chance, the two creatures become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
Marvelous and compulsively listenable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
©2013 Helene Wecker (P)2013 HarperCollins Publishers
I am a sucker for books with multiple, converging story lines, and this tale was masterfully woven. The narrator was superb. His varying tones and accents made the characters that much richer.
I felt like this book took a long time building the characters. It was nice, to have such intense stories and know each one so well - but it took quite a while for things to "come to a boil" and the end....while alright, left me a bit unsatisfied. The author wrapped it up sufficiently, I suppose I just felt more invested in the characters by that time I was left feeling a little unrequited.
It was a great read though, probably won't do it again but I would read another if this were a series.
I've already listened to the audiobook twice, and I suspect that I will do so again. Wonderful, respectful fusion of cultures and treatment of points of view. Brava, Helene! Bravo, George!
Overall this is a great story and would recommend it! The performance had a good narrator, my problem with it is the story switches between characters often. and if you aren't 100% focused as you listen, its difficult to tell when it is switching scenes, especially in the first several chapters as the reader is still being introduced to characters and time frames.
Good story, just not one that is easily listened to while multi tasking.
If you can stand the wait for the end, it finally gets exciting for a few chapters. But someone should have wrangled this author into a fierce edit of her first half of the book. I thought the premise was good and the reviews and ratings by others got me excited. I do not know how, with such a premise, the author could have found such an incredibly boring way to tell the story - but she did! With that said, the ending was good. I almost didn't get there, though. I almost gave up. It did not hep that the narrator has an NPR storyteller voice that puts you to sleep.
It's among the top 50.
It was an unusual tale and, once it got to me, I couldn't put it down...that's a good sign.
I think the Golem was the most interesting. I also loved the rabbi.
Again, the Golem; because she (it) grew as a character throughout the sory. You rooted for her (it) and the ending was perfect.
More from this author. The Golem and the Jini could continue....maybe forever.
It was strange and exotic material, but accessible and easy to listen to as a novel.
The bloodbath at the end.
It's just a really good book. I've read hundreds of books, in several languages, spanning the entire history of written literature, and an entertaining fiction novel that is both original and thought-provoking is a rarity. This book is worth reading.
"Fascinating magical tale"
„The Golem and the Jinni“ is one of those rare books that completely draws you into its world. In her first published novel Helene Wecker creates a magical setting, beginning at the turn of the century in Poland and then she brings New York and its inhabitants to life. Combined with old Arabian and Jewish folk tales, she had me hooked until the last page was read – at the same time wishing for a magical book that would never end.
Two mystical beings live among humans, trying to survive without being notice, blend in but not lose themselves. Chava (= life) is a golem and was created by rabbi in Poland who liked meddling with the dark arts, is “curious and intelligent”, as her master had requested. Ahmad is a fire jinni who was trapped in an old copper flask, released by chance in New York but is still bound by an old spell.
Both do not really fit into human society and often feel lonely, especially at night when nearly everyone around them is asleep. Surrounding them is a colourful mix of all classes of New York’s society at that time.
Chava was created to serve, to please her master. Unfortunately he already died on the voyage to New York, or maybe fortunately for her? She herself is never certain, because her unusual intelligence and perceptiveness for human needs put her into a permanent vicious circle. There is one episode when she tries to find out what “money” is, as this must be more important to humans than everything else….
And this explains one of the reasons why I was so fascinated with this book. It is a moving tale of two outsiders who can never really fit in. Who look at our human society from a totally different angle. Who must make their way in a world totally foreign to them, even more than to all the other immigrants coming to New York. Both are very different from us humans and in some ways not so very different at all. They could live forever – but they want to do so? Chava yearns for a master, the jinni for freedom. She was made of clay, feels cold to the touch, he was created of fire and has a fierce temper, too.
The other figures show other facets of human life, a kind old rabbi, a vicious magus, a young woman from New York’s high society, a bedouin girl and her father… The tale of each figure is told with utmost sensitivity, letting all of them come to life and stay in my memory for a long time.
Some elements reminded me of the books by Deborah Harkness who also expertly lets her magical beings move in our human world, creating characters that seem like real persons after a few chapters.
“The Golem and the Jinni” is one of the best stories I have read in a long time, with magical and oh so human characters, letting me walk the streets of a long vanished New York and wishing them all the happiness in the world. A magical, moving, sometimes humours tale. I hope Helene Wecker will continue writing and look forward to reading her next novel.
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