Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Saturday, January 11, 2014 with 1 comment

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

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. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

The Golem and the Jinni is their magical, unforgettable story; 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 threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

The Golem and the Jinni is Helene Wecker's debut novel, and what a debut it was! A magnificent fantasy with masterful storytelling, this book was the perfect pick for my first read of 2014 - and it was one of those books that I would happily read for the rest of my life, if only there were never an ending. In fact, I actually found myself wanting to slow down my reading, because I felt that this was a book to be savored slowly, rather than devoured quickly.

I loved learning about aspects of Jewish and Arabic folklore, and getting a slice-of-life image of what it was like to be an immigrant in 19th century New York City. I also enjoyed reading about the developing friendship between the golem, Chava, and the jinni, Ahmad. Both characters were very three-dimensional, and you could easily see how much they influenced each other as the story progressed - they actually made each other better people.

What I really must applaud the author on, however, is the way that she connected everything in the novel. There are many subplots to the main story, and they are all interwoven with each other in a seamless fashion. Normally when a book has so many characters with names that are foreign to me, I have a hard time keeping them all straight, but every character in this novel was so well-developed and so real to me that I remembered each and every one of them, even if they were only mentioned a few times throughout the novel. I had so much fun reading all of their stories, and seeing how they all connected with each other, that I was sad to see it end.

I found The Golem and the Jinni to be a very unique reading experience, and an excellent example of true storytelling at its best. If you have a love for the written language, rich history, and epic fantasy tales, then I highly recommend you give this book a try (there's a reason it made so many 'Best of 2013' lists!)


1 comment:

  1. I just finished this book today and I loved it! I usually don't like books that follow so many different story lines but I felt invested in everyone's lives that it felt real to me. I have to let this one settle in my brain for a little before I can write up a review haha


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