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
Mentor Coach, Author, Coach Trainer
Exquisite writing and performance! This book has everything I want:
Enough (but not too many) rich characters with special skills
Explorations into the power of relationships and community
Insider perspectives into diverse cultures and religions
The complex flavor of New York City
I'm eagerly awaiting for your next book, Helene!
Fantastically macabre. A dark comedy that touched my heart. Oh how we wonder about the beholder's eyes and thoughts....and words spoken as we turn our backs. What can protect us from getting rip apart by that cruelty? Solitude? Magic? Violence? Kindness from others?
Welcome to New York all you misfits and strangers. Enjoy!
The book describes a 1899 world in which Golems and Jinnis actually exist. It does a good job at making that interesting and believable, and also paints a good picture of the historical time. It is quite poetic at times.
The main characters are a little shallow, a little flat (the Golem more than the Jinni). I expected to see some sort of spiritual quest, some development in which they learn how to cope with their own nature, some greater significance in their actions, but the story follows more like a sequence of haphazard events, although it does get a little better at the end.
At points the books is too long and slow. I love long books but in this one there were parts in which nothing much was actually happening, to the point that listening to it felt a bit like work.
The narrator performance is very good; he gave very distinct voices to each character and he had this unusual cadence that made his sentences very interesting.
I am still glad I read it but I was expecting a really top-notch book given all the raving reviews.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD:
Even though there is a suggestion all along that the Jinni and the Golem will fall in love, there is no romance chemistry in between them. The only thing they share is being mythical creatures in 1899 New York and they *do* have a lot of *friendship* chemistry, but the idea that they would fall in love was very unconvincing to me.
Fascinating. Well-wriiten. Satisfying.
Too many to list. The book is full of arcane information, good characters, and an excellent plot.
Adventure and suspense please!
I'm a fan of George Guidall as a narrator. This performance was even better than some of his others. The story was an engaging character study with a touch of magic. At its heart it is an unusual and believable love story.
I was skeptical about this book at first but wow I didn't need to be! It is a great story the kind I often look for with a nice dose of the fantastic mixed with a real life timeline. Grab yourself a copy I am sure you will enjoy it!
I enjoy literary fiction with character depth and psychological exploration. I am in my 50s, work in psychology, and love the outdoors.
This book was narrated well though the reader's voice, at times, seemed awfully slow. I found that the author got into too much extraneous detail which left me feeling bored and, sometimes, lost. The story includes many characters and it was difficult to track who was who. There were parts of this book that I enjoyed very much but then it would wander off into some long and tedious side-story during which time I would get lost and wonder what the heck and who the heck the author was writing about. This book is creative in its use of mystical creatures who live out human lives in the early 20th century of New York City. Overall, there were many good ideas here but the story did not hold my interest throughout and I found myself wishing it would come to an end.
Book of Days
The collision of characters at the end of the book. Brilliantly done.
A believable New York immigrant accent. His narration sounds as if different characters are played by different people.
I found myself as enthralled with this story and its characters as I have when reading some of the great literature classics. It's just that elegant. I can't believe this is a first novel. But then again how incredibly inspiring that it is.
I enjoyed the aspect of the Golem and the Jinni learning to live in the city, their entire line of development as characters and the background information on many side characters was very well done and made this book a nonstop read through... listen through?
For me, it was the proper pronunciation of names and places. Many times I have read a series only to get to see a movie or listen to an audio version and find out I had mispronounced many peoples name.
Attention to detail is a very big strong point of this authors style, so if you are looking for a book you could literally sink your teeth into, then try it!
"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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