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
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.
Incredible! One to add to my list of ALL TIME favorites! Brilliant! The acting was flawless! Every character came to life with ease. I was transformed into another place and time from the first chapter and all the way through. A classic
As a native Arabic speaker, I appreciate the honest effort that was put into researching this delicate piece of work, it made me forgive the few unintentional errors the author made. I could hear the echoes of the Arabian nights fairy tales in the author's story yet she managed to give it a modern voice, I could almost imagine her painstakingly weaving her tale through times and places. It made for an amazing story of unforgettable characters. As soon as I finished it I felt like starting over...
This has to be one of my favorite stories. It pulls two divergent characters together in a way that is both interesting and fun to read.
I really think each character contributed to the depth of the story and altering or removing anyone would have had disastrous effects on the whole plot. Everyone was well thought out and had a lot of depth.
For me that would really be hard to say, each character was special.
The Golem and the Jinni combines an entertaining story about magical creatures with real people. The story shows the good and the bad in each character. It is a study of love and life and death in the city and in the desert.
writer, singer, bon vivant
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. As a writer, I have to marvel at the depth of the characterization and the easy beauty of the writing. The story carried me along joyfully through each side story and gratifyingly brought all the threads together at the end. I deeply love this book.
I'm so happy I found this book bit so sad that I finished it. Ughh! The story was so engaging, blending both historically realistic NYC setting and Syria from a millennium ago and magical elements of the Golem's creation and Jinni's existence. I think I'm addicted. As I have experience with both Eastern European Jewry and friends of Syrian branch of Catholicism, I definitely saw that the author was faithful to both.
I was also very pleased with the narrator - he managed the clipped tones of the Jinni and tenor of the Golem to perfection, not to mention the myriad of other characters with their distinct voices. Will seek out more work by both, the author and narrator.
"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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