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 setting, character development, human insights, and narrator all made this book a wonderful listen. There was a gentle, penetrating quality which made this book particularly enjoyable after listing to other fantasy novels which contained a lot of violence. A remarkable first novel.
You know when you listen to a book and the colors seem richer? Almost like you accidentally walked into a Van Gogh painting, and now all the characters and images are super-vivid? That was my experience with this book. I have to admit that I am a pushover for things that verge into magical realism, so combine that with the historical fiction AND traditional folklore, and this book had me from the outset. But I'd argue that even if someone was not a fan of those things, the natural fluidity of the storytelling would seduce them deep into this novel.
I loved the audio-experience of this book, in particular, because Guidall's voice "fit" the expressive characters so beautifully.
This is one of the best books of the summer. When I read the publisher's description I thought this would be a work of fantasy involving time and the possibility of peace between Muslims and Jews. I was delighted to find instead a deep story about people, just people. It was not a reference to politics or war or the problems of the Middle East. It was a study on the question of what it means to be human, about freedom and redemption that comes from choosing to do the right thing, and most of all, love. The descriptions of the immigrant communities and geography of Manhattan in the late 1800's were wonderful and deeply satisfying. The characters and dialogue captivating and true. George Guidall's narration was, as usual, excellent.
Is this what literature is supposed to be like? I think so. Wonderful.
It doesn't get any better than this. A very good story perfectly narrated by George Guidall.
The book grips you from the very beginning and won't let go before the end.
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.
It was original and very well written. A story that draws you in and keeps you until the very last page- wishing it wouldn't end. I love books like that- it doesn't happen often enough!
I kept wondering how the author came up with the idea for this story - it's so unique. She does a good job of keeping you guessing. Also of making you really care about the characters and what happens to them. It's a fantastical story, obviously, but done in a way so that it never seems silly or too far-fetched.
I haven't heard any other George Guidall's performances, but he was fantastic! Very distinct voices for each character that fit them very well- even with accents and female voices. There was never any confusion about who was speaking, which can happen if the performer is not very good.
This novel easily ranks among the top 5% of audio books. George Guidall is undeniably the best male narrator. He savors words and breaths life into phrases. His timing and rhythm is impeccable. (I buy some audio books just to hear Guidall's wonderful voice.)
But, the story and plot is equally entrancing. It is an original novel, with unique characters, colorful history, and interesting introduction to Jewish mysticism and Bedouin myths. The characters are believable and develop well throughout the story. Do pay attention to the little details. They matter.
Someone who loves to read and takes so much time to read he feels guilty. Oh, wait, maybe that's because I was raised Catholic.
I wish it hadn't ended. Great narration and a mystical story exploring ancient mythologies. Enjoyed it thoroughly.
avid reader and writer of speculative fiction...
The narrator's voice was soothing, but still lively. Definitely lent to the magical, ethereal atmospheric quality that (I believe) the author was trying to capture.
The story is about a golem and a jinni, who are both magical creatures, living amongst normal, familiar, non-magical people in early 20th century NYC. I expected the focus of the writer to be in explaining the worlds of the magical beings. Instead, through the eyes of the golem and jinni, what is explained to you is the inner workings of immigrant culture in the early 20th century... which is a subject I'm already pretty well-versed in. It is well written, but it never really pulled me in and made me want to keep going. I expected a little more magic, and a little less everyday life.
His embodiment of different characters was great-- somehow, without over the top impressions, raising the tone of his voice to a squeak to impersonate women, etc, he lent a different voice to each character in a way that made it very easy to follow what was going on, even if I wasn't entirely focused on listening.
No... moved a bit too slow, didn't seem to have a driving force in the story, probably because of the split protagonist.
The narrators voice was really pleasant... unfortunately the lack of spark in the story meant that, more than once, his narration lulled me to sleep...
Some books may be better written and genres differ. So I rate on how mush I enjoyed a book, I am not a book critic.
Yes, not what I thought it would be, BETTER. This is not a fast pace, action packed fantasy, but still not a dull moment. It is a human drama where the 2 main characters are a Jinni form a bottle and a Golem made from clay. They are physical strong, but to survive they have to become human. Learning how, in the Jewish society of early 20th century, NY.
Not like anything I have read. Both characters have a richly told fantasy story and special powers, but they have to survive in a strict Jewish community, where their strengths might get them killed.
I appreciated how both learned to fit into human society. Through their struggle to survive in our world, you see the flaws and endearments of the humans helping them.
It is like a Rembrandt painting. Beautiful. George Guidall made this book outstanding. Read in a soft calm voice, still there was not one dull moment.
If I read the reviews, I would have thought this a dull story, I would have missed a book with rich characters, well researched history as well as a fantasy twist I have not read before. This is a story told well, not a mindless action thrill ride.
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