The premise of the story in perfect, Chava is a golem created to become the wife of a creepy little man who dies soon after he brings her to life So now we have Chava, a masterless golem, a creature of clay, newly arrived in turn of the century New York.
Ahmad was trapped in a bottle for over a thousand years by a wizard, and imagine his surprise to find himself in an unheard of continent, when a tinsmith repairing his bottle awakes him from his sleep.
The plot goes on its expected turns, both Chava and Ahmad, similar but so different, go about their lives trying to learn what it is to be human, so they can mask what they truly are.
I have no complaints about the story I really, really liked it It kept me reading There was no point where I went, I ll take a break from this I genuinely liked the characters, they were flawed, and yes, they annoyed me often, but that was part of their charm.
So why am I only giving this 3.
5 stars instead of 5 Because I m a dreadful, greedy reader.
It s true.
It just felt jarring to have whole chapters about a jinn in a glass and gold filigree palace in the desert, hiding so he can listen to the talks of the men in the caravans, stowing away into human dreams Or chapters of a golem marvelling at human idiosyncrasies, feeling the call of fresh green growing things and none of it be poetic at all Not even remotely beautiful now and then The language was always so straight forward Granted, there is nothing wrong with that, if I go through it, there is nothing wrong I can point about it, it s good, it s practical It s not what I wanted.
I ve read this whole book and I couldn t find a single quote from it I d want to share with someone Oh, I d recommend the book, but there was nothing in it that just sparked, that made me go, Oh, that was beautiful It is a very entertaining story, but it never feels like storytelling, there is never a sense of wonder reading it, and that s saying something when the two main characters are creatures of myth As always, give it a try It s good I can tell it s good.
It just isn t for me This is one of my favorite books of the year I didn t know a ton about it going in, other than the gorgeous cover, and I m very glad I didn t It is a historical urban fantasy of sorts, about a Golem and a Djinn separately stranded in turn of the century New York city The two character s storylines intertwine beautifully, with themes of identity, religion and friendship weaving in and out of a wonderfully detailed world If you liked The Night Circus, or Dr Strange and Mr Norrell, you ll really love this book Chava Is A Golem, A Creature Made Of Clay, Brought To Life By A Disgraced Rabbi Who Dabbles In Dark Kabbalistic Magic, Created To Be The Wife Of A Man Who Dies At Sea On The Voyage From Poland Chava Is Unmoored And Adrift As The Ship Arrives In New York Harbor In Ahmad Is A Jinni, A Being Of Fire Born In The Ancient Syrian Desert, Trapped In An Old Copper Flask, And Released In New York City, Though Still Not Entirely Free Ahmad And Chava Become Unlikely Friends And Soul Mates With A Mystical Connection Marvelous And Compulsively Readable, Helene Wecker S Debut Novel The Golem and the Jinni Weaves Strands Of Yiddish And Middle Eastern Literature, Historical Fiction And Magical Fable, Into A Wondrously Inventive And Unforgettable Tale Oh man, the book was a little long but it was so worth it The pacing was excellent and I really enjoyed the unique story line and the way everything comes together in the end There is nothing better to me than a well executed story line where everything seems to have a purpose and ties into the larger arc of what s happening Also I really enjoyed the way that Chava and Ahmed s relationship is developed because it never felt like the rest of what was going on every becomes secondary to it which happens in a lot of books I do appreciate romance novels but it gets tiring to see relationships portrayed in such an idealized way all the time The idea of their individual identities was so interesting too and the whole dynamic of them trying to figure out to fit in with everyone around them just really appealed to me I don t think my reviews ever make any sense to anyone because my head is always cluttered right after reading books but if I wait to write reviews I ll never get to doing them honestly This book is definitely one of my new favorites and I would totally recommend it to anyone that enjoys mystical plots.
all of us are lonely at some point or another, no matter how any people surround us and then, we meet someone who seems to understand she smiles, and for a moment the loneliness disappearsa woman made of clay and a man made of fire she is steadfast and constant, where he is capricious and free spirited and yet, they both find themselves thrown into a world not of their choosing, bound by plans greater than themselves if you ever needed proof that opposites attract its this story i adore the friendship that grew between these two individuals, who seem to have nothing in common on the surface, but are able to connect in such meaningful ways this story is magic with such a quaint feel the setting of 1899 new york is such a delight i love the multicultural atmosphere of the different neighbourhoods and variety of characters i sometimes forgot i was reading a magical realism book because the historical fiction aspect of this novel is just so vibrant and yes, the pacing is slow but it reminds me of the thawing of winter tedious, and we are sometimes impatient because of it but when those first signs of spring bloom, we appreciate having to wait and this story is very much like that this is a real hidden treasure of a book 4 stars This is a very good book It s a gentle book, concerned with people, spiced by having both of the main point of view characters being supernatural creatures, namely a newly created golem and an ancient jinni Both of these arrive in turn of the 19th 20th century New York and have to find their feet in the appropriate diaspora i.
e Jewish and Syrian The two cultures, as realised within New York at a time when Lady Liberty s arms really were wide open to immigrants, are expertly and accurately drawn as far as I can tell , and I enjoyed reading about them.
The words that spring to mind when I think of the book are charming and intriguing.
There s no real conflict for most of the book, and no real danger We are just concerned about The Golem and the Jinni settling in successfully into their new lives, but it s a fun read and they are engaging characters.
However, a slow burn backstory does develop through the reveal of the jinni s backstory and the continuing machinations of the golem s creator.
When eventually these two threads come together there s a sudden flush of excitement and danger, and I was left looking at the rapidly thinning bundle of remaining pages and wondering how everything could be resolved so quickly.
The ending was clever and exciting, but somehow I was moved by the build up and felt slightly underwhelmed by the end Although it was good I did wonder view spoiler why Sophia s lingering illness which seems to be the result of carrying and miscarrying the jinni s baby was left unresolved hide spoiler I m really quite amazed at the things this novel does right It s a detailed and grand scaled historical romance as well as being a delightful hop in magical realism, but I couldn t help make direct connections to Jonathan Strange Mr Norrell.
But not because many of the ideas are the same They aren t What is the same is the length and the attention to historicism and the depth of the real history and especially the depth of the magic The length of the novel and beautiful prose also has a lot to do with it, as well.
It s basically an immigrant story that becomes an empowerment story with a strong thread of very understated romance The large set of characters never overwhelms the main two The woman of Earth and the man of Fire are both magical creatures that find their way at the turn of the last century s New York City It s really quite delightful.
She was created out of clay and designed with intelligence and curiosity, but she was also designed to be subservient and modest with an evil strain built in to all golems that make them wish to utterly destroy their creators once they get a taste for blood He was a wild spirit of fire before he was enslaved and was forced to live in stasis for a thousand years until luck would have him freed and at loose ends in cold winters that he is unable to escape from.
How beautiful is that It sounds like the setup for a grand romance But it isn t Not really Theirs is a relationship based on trust and deep friendship, and even when that trust is broken, they forgive and return to each other.
There s even an evil wizard that returns through each life with not just a complicated background but also a complicated inner life I can t quite call him irredeemable He does good and and makes beauty He made the golem, after all But his nature leads him down very dark pathways, too.
So was this a character novel or a plot driven one Both And wonderfully so I got engrossed in everything The journey was a pure delight I totally recommend for anyone who wants a classy and gorgeous historical romance full of deep magic and iconic archetypal characters that are beautifully drawn.
This is the story of a golem and a jinni, how they discover who they are, their strengths, their weaknesses, and how, even though they re composed of completely different elements, they may just be the best friend for each other in a human world where they will never truly belong.
As I was reading The Golem and the Jinni, enjoying their adventures and waiting to see how they would discover their origins, I didn t consider for a moment the idea that the tale could be a metaphor for something else.
When I read the QA with the author at the end of the book, I was really kicking myself Of course, it made total sense as a metaphor for cultural differences And, when I thought about it that way, I liked the story even.
On the other hand, this tale can be completely enjoyed and interpreted as a historical fiction fairytale and, if you re not in the mood to think any deeper than that, it doesn t matter, because it s still awesome So, it s a win win book for the deep thinkers and the no thinkers The Golem and the Jinni is not a fast read Wecker really builds the characters and gives the back story for everybody who comes across the page.
At first I was like, Do we really need to know the ice cream guy s life story and I was getting frustrated with the pacing of it But, as her characters came together and their lives began to intertwine, I began to appreciate the true artistry of the novel.
It is like an orchestral fugue in which the instruments play their themes one by one at the beginning, which is beautiful, but when the tones combine, it lifts the piece to a whole other place That is The Golem and the Jinni Give it the time and space to build the characters and you will be blown away by the ending At least, I was.
Wecker has a talent for creating multi layered characters Though the golem is only a few hours old, the author manages to instill in her a childlike curiosity mixed with the timelessness of a magical creature.
In this passage, the golem is seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first timeThe deck was crowded with people, and at first the Golem didn t see what they were waving at But then, there she was a gray green woman standing in the middle of the water, holding a tablet and bearing aloft a torch Her gaze was unblinking, and she stood so still was it another golem And those on deck were waving and shouting at her with jubilation, crying even as they smiled This, too, the Golem thought, was a constructed woman Whatever she meant to the others, she was loved and respected for it For the first time the Golem felt something like hope.
pg 17 ebook She also describes scenes just beautifully In this passage, the Jinni sees New York harborThe Jinni leaned against the railing, transfixed by the view He was a creature of the desert, and never in his life had he come so close to this much water It lapped at the stone below his feet, reaching now higher, now lower Muted colors floated on its surface, and afternoon sunlight reflecting in the ever changing dips of the waves Still it was hard to believe that this was not some expert illusion, intended to befuddle him At any moment he expected the city and water to dissolve, to be replaced by the familiar steppes and plateaus of the Syrian Desert, his home for close to two hundred yearspg 23 ebookI loved the little, let s call them wisdom nuggets, that Wecker sprinkled throughout the story LikeA man might desire something for a moment, while a larger part of him rejects it You ll need to learn to judge people by their actions, not their thoughtspg 40 ebook OrMen need no reason to cause mischief, only an excusepg 172 ebook.
I also connected with this passage where the Jinni is thinking about the power of namesTo him the new name suggested that the changes he d undergone were so drastic, so pervasive, that he was no longer the same being at all He tried not to dwell on such dark thoughts, and instead concentrated on speaking politely, and maintaining his story but every so often, as he listened to the chatter of yet visitors, he spoke his true name to himself in the back of his mind, and took comfort in the soundpg 68 ebook.
I recommend The Golem and the Jinni for folks who enjoy historical fiction blended with fantasy, folks who love deep characters, and for anyone who loves to read beautiful prose This book has all of that.
All of us are lonely at some point or another, no matter how many people surround us And then, we meet someone who seems to understand She smiles, and for a moment the loneliness disappears.
Unsure what to think as I finally took the plunge into this 19th Century New York tale of friendship, different cultures and, of course, magic, I found myself completely transported to another world.
I understand why readers often call The Golem and the Jinni fantasy it certainly has the depth, epic scope and density of a fantasy novel, and yet, I m inclined to call it a combination of historical fiction and magical realism But, whatever the genre, it s a beautifully written story of finding one s place in a strange world, all wrapped up with a fascinating combination of Jewish and Arabian folklore.
The story follows two characters Chava a golem, created by dark magics paid for by her master, who longed for a wife When her master dies on the Atlantic crossing from Europe to New York, Chava must navigate this new world alone, hide who she is, and figure out both how to live, and just exactly what she wants from life.
The other character is a Jinni called Ahmad He lived in the Syrian desert until he was trapped in a flask by a wizard Over a thousand years later, he emerges in New York when a tinsmith releases him from his prison With the tinsmith s help and kindness, he too must figure out this new, strange world and find a place in it.
Though from very different backgrounds and cultures, these two foreigners paths are destined to cross United by their shared statuses as outsiders, a strange friendship develops, and they try to adjust to 19th Century New York City together.
It s a very whimsical, magical book, filled with delicious description sometimes quite literally, as Chava works in a bakery The plot and writing are dense, occasionally becoming overlong in certain parts, but not so much that I minded It has a truly magical opening that draws you in, as well as two interesting main characters which than makes up for the slight drag of some chapters.
Sometimes, it is just so fascinating to be these two outsiders looking in at humanity It is, at its most basic level, a tale of immigrants adjusting to a new land, but we also have the additional factor of it being two supernatural beings adjusting to humanity Questions are raised about the human need for religion, free will vs slavery, and why humans will sacrifice so much for sexual desire.
It is simultaneously a look at 19th century American culture through the eyes of foreign immigrants, and a look at humanity through the eyes of foreign beings Both clever and magical.
Blog Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube Pinterest Just this once, I wish I could say The Golem and the Jinni is awesome Trust me and just leave it at that Not only because it is, but also because Helene Wecker s debut novel is a hard book to put into words, full of wonder and meaning, and an experience I don t think any review can fully do justice to Still, even though I ll probably miss things, here goesChava is a golem Ahmad is a jinni This is not a story of their chance encounter and subsequent whirlwind romance among century ago New York s immigrant community No, this is one of those books The ones that ponder the meaning of life and examine what it means to be human, to have free will and faith and hope, using the eyes of the least human among us to do so It s a mix of historical fiction and Gilded Age myth, Jewish mysticism and Arab folklore, combining elements of Frankenstein and Aladdin in a seamless narrative that s both timeless and modern, insightful yet moving.
I ll admit, I didn t think The Golem and the Jinni would be that book when I first started Helene Wecker s writing style leans toward fairy tale than historical, almost as if there s a surreal quality that makes her book difficult to place in its nineteenth century setting early on, but, as I would later realize, also lends an idealistic, romantic air to a city and a story that very well needed it It s fantastical when the story needed to feel exotic, restrained when the tone had to be subdued, but always personal and touching That said, sadly the first chapter is probably also the weakest, explaining Chava s origins in that no nonsense, fairy tale way that leaves very little to the imagination, compounded by a story that s slow, very slow, if affectionately crafted Yet, as the narrative unfolds, as Chava loses her husband to appendicitis and finds herself, alone and masterless, in the urban jungle that is New York City even then, it s obvious that Wecker quickly turns those weaknesses into elements of strength Chava, desperately trying to pass as human for her own survival, is taken in by the elderly Rabbi Meyer, and although he s not unkindly towards the golem, the uncertainty, both for him and for her, of whether she can go against her violent nature hangs in the air And it s Chava, created to serve the needs of humans yet trying to understand how to behave like one, who forms half the story There are deep, profound moments about private thoughts and human nature, and whimsical moments with Chava testing the limits of her body, even eating food and trying to figure out where it goes, and the entire effect is that this wonderfully complex, incredibly compelling character slowly emerges, trying to pass for human out of necessity, yes, but also showing what it means to be one, maybe even a bit about the meaning of existence itself Needless to say, I celebrated her triumphs, felt for her losses, understood her apprehensions, and hoped for her survival, all as she s trying to find her way in the world.
The other half of the story is Ahmad, a creature very different from, potentially even the opposite, of Chava Chava is of the earth Ahmad is a being of fire Chava is days old, innocent to the world Ahmad is centuries old, jaded by his imprisonment Chava doesn t understand what it means to be human Ahmad has the wrong ideas Yet even before they meet, Wecker has created the perfect foil for the golem, a jinni who s not less than human, but , someone as wild and eternal as the desert air bound by flesh and blood, now a fraction of who he was In contrast to the golem s uncertainty, his is a restless anxiety that chafes at the limits of human freedom, yet I felt his despair at the constraints of humanity as much as I felt Chava s fear of the limitlessness of humanity And in a way, their intertwining stories form a reminder, I think, to the rest of us that, like Chava and Ahmad, we re all trying to find ourselves between these two extremes.
Lest I forget, there is actually a plot Chava and Ahmad don t spend the entire book wandering the streets of New York, discussing the human condition while forming the unlikeliest of friendships, even if I guess my review does give that impression Sure, a lot of it is about fitting in, being human, some of it a celebration of the immigrant experience through culture, faith, community, even the hope of Lady Liberty followed by the realities of working class New York, but connecting Chava and Ahmad s story is also one Yehudah Schaalman, evil Kabbalist The suspense of Schaalman s machinations adds a bit of urgency to a story that otherwise really doesn t have any, well beyond flashbacks from Ahmad s point of view slowly revealing his past while forming parallels with his present, but it s Schaalman, mostly in the background, ominous and foreboding, who brings Chava and Ahmad s story ultimately to its conclusion I m not entirely satisfied with the somewhat rushed ending, particularly with Sophia Winston s role though I do see how it mirrors Fadwa s, a character from Ahmad s past and I feel Schaalman as the villain is a weaker aspect of the book than the exploration of human nature, but the epilogue ends on such a bittersweet yet hopeful note I still deeply respect what Helene Wecker has done.
In a word, The Golem and the Jinni is a masterful look at the meaning of life through the eyes of two supernatural beings living in nineteenth century New York Just by their everyday attempts to understand themselves, Chava and Ahmad, their story, says a lot about all of us.