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
This is a great story with intricately woven together characters and divergent storylines that all wend their way together in the end. Set in the perfect city, there's just as much magic in the meeting of immigrant cultures and social classes as there is in the mysticism and myth of the two titular characters. Guidall's narration and Weckers prose give the book an almost lilting poetic rhythm that I enjoyed. a must read/listen if you like Gaiman. Because of is detailed characters, it may start out a little slow for some, but it is so beautifully written and performed, that it's worth that little extra effort. This is one I'll listen to again and again.
Like many other reviewers I was quite impressed by the fact that this was the authors first novel. What a story! I agree also with many reviewers that it was too long. An editor needed to trim it by a third. All in all I would recommend it.
The story was well written and the performance was great. The story didn't waver throughout the whole book. It met my expectations.
Life is Good
The narrator was great. I enjoyed the story, liked the creativity but did not find myself trying to sneak a listen at every opportunity. The story did an excellent job at introducing a variety of characters and then bringing them all together.
The performance was great, very much enjoyed it and thought that he handled the many accents and tones quite well. I enjoyed the story less so. I was so bored with it after the first couple of hours that I really wanted to just stop and give it up. But I decided to give it more of a chance and kept listening. It did get better over time and by the end I did find myself caring about the characters and their predicaments, but only barely. I was quite happy when it was over, just to be done with it. But still, it was not a terrible story. It was well written for the most part, just way too slow for my tastes. Interesting ideas, fascinating setting, just poorly executed in my opinion.
Amazing characters! There were so me facets and they came together beautifully. I look forward to finding more of the authors writings.
I almost quit on this a few times. I found my mind wandering as the characters struggled with life's details rather than any semblance of a plot.
Very well written however. And the performance was excellent.
The story was awesome along with the narrator's performance.
All of the characters were developed extremely well throughout the book and the ending tied everything together spot on.
"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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