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
The way the Golem and the Jinni complimented each other. They're conversations really illustrated how different their temperaments were and yet, there was a common thread between them that I think often exists with such odd pairs.
There were many fragmented moments that held great potential. However, there was no scene in particular that gripped me.
I think my favorite scene was when the Golem, the Jinni, and ice cream man Sala all end up on the front steps of Sophia Winston's house. Sophia, although bombarded by almost strangers, kept her cool and treated her guests with hospitality. I also appreciate that she used a situation that could have been quite destructive to her benefit and found a way to have her parents consent to her traveling the world.
In the city of New York, the magical world of the immigrant comes to life.
Before there were latex sex dolls there were female Golems. Fine, I'm stretching things, but what would happen if you found that you'd fallen in love with an animate piece of clay? Wecker not only brings to life her Golom, but immigrant society in 19th C. America; sort of a historical fantasy. An interesting story with a feminine perspective on love and loyalty. Guidall is one of the few male narrators who do women and dialects very well.
Even fiction and fantasy books should have enough believability to at least try to imagine. When you write about a type of being, some things are understood about those beings that is a basis to build on and work around or else why pick that particular type of being? To have a new golem, with no history, walking around Manhattan feeling sorry for a hungry child and stealing food to feed him is so far from what a golem is that it makes no sense to even choose that type of being. It is like saying that you're going to tell a story about a hummingbird, but this character lives at the bottom of the ocean and eats ford pickups for lunch. If you get too far from the core of what that being generally is described as, what's the point of picking that type of being?
She could have written the title characters as a tomato and a cucumber and it would have made as much sense. I like fiction and I like fantasy, but it's got to at least make a little sense somewhere in it to get me interested.
The golem and the jinni.
Both writer and narrator had me enthralled throughout the book. Fantasy creatures as "Everyman" added layers of meaning without ever taking me out of the story.
So satisfying in every way. A modern fairy tale, spun out so well it was hard to stop listening. Good narration too
I would listen to this book many many times and am sure I will. The performance is beyond stellar. The writing engaging and deep. The knowledge of the cultures involved fascinating and true to life, as I am also familiar with them, and intimately.... except I don't personally know any Djinn or Golems.
I don't do favorites easily, so I won't pick a favorite, as each is dark and light in turn, though I did love the old Rabbi and the crazy ice cream man... such pure souls.
My cousin ranted about this book until I bought it and now it's my turn. Rant rant rant... okay, now go experience this with my deepest blessing.
Even if you are not into the sci-fi/fantasy genre you can appreciate this story. It takes an interesting look into how immigrants in the past may have seen the world. It was an elegant mix of humor, sadness and hopes. I really enjoyed it.
History, historical fiction and mysteries are my faves, but a fan of all genres.
I liked it nonetheless, good story well told, would recommend to anyone that doesn't usually listen to fantasy. Has a nice mix of historical fiction with life in the early 1900's in NYC.
Wonderfully human characters and interesting story. Not what you'd expect.
Definitely the djinni
I think it is perfectly named.
I highly recommend it!
This was a challenging novel to make it through. Not only did the story jump around enough to be quite confusing, but nothing seemed to happen or even mean anything developmentally until the end of the second portion.
I felt like I was reading/listening to a novel written to make a minimum word count. Now that I have finished the novel, I feel as though at least half of it could be omitted and it would be a better work.
"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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