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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly atmospheric...
To be honest this wasn't a book that immediately appealed to me. I am a fan of both fantasy and science fiction, and yet the sub-genre of magic reality books tends to leave me cold. I am however rather glad I picked it up.

The plot involves the arrival of two supernatural but human seeming beings (the golem and the djinni,) and their struggles to fit into...
Published 18 months ago by Mr. Robert Kelly

versus
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't Hook Me
The reviews I find most difficult to write are those for things that I neither greatly liked or utterly detested. Trying to say something useful or interesting about a thing that left you feeling utterly ambivalent can be a real struggle. Unfortunately, in the case of 'The Golem and the Djinni', I am having just such a struggle.

Neither a terrible book or a...
Published 10 months ago by C. Green


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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly atmospheric..., 17 Jun 2013
By 
Mr. Robert Kelly "robert_kelly" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Golem and the Djinni (Hardcover)
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To be honest this wasn't a book that immediately appealed to me. I am a fan of both fantasy and science fiction, and yet the sub-genre of magic reality books tends to leave me cold. I am however rather glad I picked it up.

The plot involves the arrival of two supernatural but human seeming beings (the golem and the djinni,) and their struggles to fit into society without revealing their true natures. The story is well written and plotted episodically with the narrative moving between the different characters.

For me the star of the show is turn of the century New York. Lovingly brought to life. It's almost as if you can hear the babble of multiple languages and feel the crowds moving past you whilst you read.

I find it hard to believe that this is the author's first book to be published, as the writing here seems much more accomplished than is the case with certain writers who have many more credits to their name. All I can say is that this book deserves to be a hit. Only time will tell if it is one.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastical, imaginative narrative exploring the nature of freedom of choice in nineteenth century New York, 28 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Golem and the Djinni (Hardcover)
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I must admit to gobbling up Helene Wecker's delicious, sprawling-yet-tightly plotted account of the meeting of two mythological creatures from two different cultural and religious traditions - The Golem from Kabbalah/Central European Judaism , the Djinn from Bedouin/Middle East/Islamic as if it were the fabulously tasting confection it is, and I were a sweet toothed literary addict starved of my life-line supply of a tall deep tale excellently told.

The reading far into the night, the laying aside of tasks which needed to be done, the rushing away from social encounters to indulge my fierce craving to read on and on and on, is finally over, the book finished Blast. Blast! BLAST! It's her first novel too - there are no earlier ones to discover hidden in the confection box

Wecker tells a tall, yet beautifully grounded in reality tale of the Golem, a creature fashioned by man, not by God, from clay (like Adam) but to serve his or her master like a slave. Golems are allowed no desire but that of their master. Hugely powerful, enslaved though they are, if angered, they are an unstoppable force, a Frankenstein's monster indeed. This particular Golem is female, and is also constructed with intelligence and curiosity - and an overwhelming sense of empathy, so she is pulled hither and thither by the different, competing wants and desires of people's thoughts.

Set against this proper creature of earth, learning to restrain the voices in her head, the competing empathic sense towards the denizens of her environment, is the fiery untamed voice of freedom to indulge desire, with no responsibility, with no sense of the wrong done to other, as represented by an ancient Djinni (the genie figure of Aladdin's Lamp is one such creature). Our Djinni, like the Golem, has also been enslaved. He was his own creature, bound by magic, she was created by magic, and is learning to impose a certain freedom of choice in seeking to tame her own destructive side, in learning how to turn down the clamouring, conflicting needs and wants of the people she comes across. Her compassion is her cross to bear, as much as her potential for destruction. The Djinni's journey is to learn to accept that merely indulging one's own whim, may also cause devastation.

Our two protagonists are embedding in a rich immigrant community - Jews from Europe, Maronite and Eastern Orthodox Christians from Syria, interspersed with the Djinn's 1000 year old history in the desert, and Islamic culture

How Wecker weaves all this together, as intricately, beautifully and satisfyingly as the Golem's bakery skills or the Djinni's artistic metal-work creations; it is a wonderful thing to read. There is a dark, believable story, there are metaphysical concepts about how free any of us are - bound by our own nature, how much of our choices do we really make, where does the ultimate responsibility lie? And if we do an evil or a thoughtless act, because of our natures, how much of all the events that transpire are our fault, how much do other peoples' choices also contribute to where responsibility lies?

I can't praise this highly enough. It is a gorgeous, page turning, remarkably easy read, which is at the same time 'about stuff' - as indeed myths often are, with their meaning, like icebergs, lying below the surface and waiting to ambush us - another 'subtext' in this book, is how we view 'other' - set amongst a largely multi-immigrant community, the Golem and the Djinni also shows us the narrowness and closed-mindedness of each of us to the outsider

And how I wish I had not yet read it, and had this wondrous journey to begin! O still-to-read-this person - how I envy you!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Djinn and It, 13 Jun 2013
By 
Rotgut "rotgut" (Warrington UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Golem and the Djinni (Hardcover)
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This enjoyable fantasy novel, set in New York City at the end of the Nineteenth Century centres on the immigrant communities settling in to the New World, and especially on two very unusual migrants who have more difficulties than most in fitting in to the American life.

The set up, a Golem (settled in the Jewish community, of course) and a Genie (not living the Muslim community, as perhaps might be expected, but with a Syrian Christian) are thrown into the world of 1899 New York and are forced to adapt to a society and way of life they are unprepared for.

It is not true, or fair, to say that the slow description of how these mythical creatures gradually learn how to interact with the mortals around them interupts the story of the Golem and Genie finding out the secrets of their origins. In fact, this slow description, with thumbnail sketches of the human inhabitants of the immigrant ghettos, makes up the bulk of this novel. The relationships of the two main characters, particularly with each other, are the author's main subject.

When the twin storylines of the Golem and Genie's past converge, this plot is clever and interesting, an involving fantasy tale that also uses the other, minor characters established so well by the author.

Some thoughtful philosophising (eg p 192) is rather dismissive of religion in general and, considering the reaction to , say, "The Satanic Verses", perhaps explains why the Djinni didn't fall into a Muslim household. This area is not over-emphasised in any way but does add interest.

The denouement is well done and ties all the elements, the mundane human characters' lives and the two monstrous heroes' storylines together.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 23 May 2013
By 
Chantal Lyons "C.S. Lyons" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Golem and the Djinni (Hardcover)
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The name 'Djinni' drew me instantly to this book, being a huge fan of the Bartimaeus books (even though my enthusiasm was initially tempered by the dubious comparison to 'A Discovery Of Witches' which was, quite frankly, awful). At first glance the title of this book might suggest another of those 'fusion' stories, where different traditions and myths of fantasy are thrown together for the sake of shallow originality. But not so with 'The Golem and the Djinni'.

The story intrigues from the first page, the prose rich and immersive without becoming florid. At first the narrative is streamlined, focused on the paths of the two titular characters, but gradually more and more people enter into the fold (I hesitate to call them 'sub-plots', for they all weave a spiderweb in the end). One of the best strengths of this book is that it is so difficult to predict its end or even what'll happen on the next page, allowing the reader to fall completely into the story and let it take them where it will. The one twist is equally surprising and satisfying, and helps to make the story's antagonist a much more fascinating character. In fact, the antagonist is another strength of the book, at times seemingly about to redeem themselves, then revealing another layer of motivation beneath.

A special mention has to be given to the story's setting, in 1899 New York. Its everyday life, both for its Jewish and native residents, is clearly well-researched and beautifully-evoked. I don't know why the author chose New York, but it only serves to immerse the reader deeper.

'The Golem and the Djinni' was, for me, not one of those fast-paced novels that consumes your life till you've finished it. It was not painful to put down to return to later; but it was extremely enjoyable to read, and quite simply, I can't think of anything that was wrong with it. The only thing I would criticise would be the blurb - I think this is one of those rare novels that shouldn't have a blurb, beyond explaining the initial situations/backgrounds of the Golem and the Djinni.

An impressive debut that deserves a full five stars.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tales of Immigrants to New York., 11 Jun 2013
By 
Bruce "from Brighton" (UK - England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Golem and the Djinni (Hardcover)
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As the 19th Century turns into the 20th, we follow the passage of immigrants from the old world to the new. Jewish immigrants come from Europe to form commmunities in New York and in parallel we see Syrian immigrants bringing the traditions and cultures of the Bedouin tribes to America.

In themselves, these stories of hardship and struggle are interesting enough to make for a satsifying narrative and the growing communities are vividly depicted with detailed descriptions. However, these threads are tied together by the story of the fantastical elements from these cultures - which can be seen literally as a fantasy novel, or as an allegory for the way that these two groups of people come to terms with living in this new environment.

The back cover mentions Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - but while both are long and detailed fantasies; this book is as far away from that as you can get. Here we are amongst the lively immigrant communities and this is very much a New World story - much more like Neil Gaiman's American Gods. As in that book - the religion and mysticism of the immigrants travel with them.

This gives the author wonderful opportunities to discuss abstract philosphical and moral questions about the nature of existence. Does every being have free will, are they simply the product of their environment or do they have innate qualities? Does the Golem have a soul, does she deserve to be treated as an individual - these questions are universal in their application, but here become bound up with the main characters, with whom we most closely identify.

The Djinni exemplifies mankind's search for meaning in life - all the gifts he possesses mean nothing if he cannot give meaning to what he does. While the Golem is satisfied with honest labour and fitting into a community - the Djinni looks for ultimate meaning in Art and Love, searching for fulfillment as he wanders the city streets. Through his travels we get to build up a picture of New York, which is affectionate, even when describing the worst deprivations.

We get a sense of the different cultures - how they adapt and how they maintain continuity - overall, how they survive. It is only the wealthy and our two main protagonists who have the luxury of questioning everything and this makes for the main drive in the narrative. It's mostly slow progress, but it never drags, as the writing is so evocative and the clash of cultures so interesting. Eventually the pace quickens and there is an exciting climax - but what stays with you, is the image of the city and the meeting of religions and metaphysics.

The writing is very assured and it is hard to believe this is a first novel - it is full of so much experience and shared knowledge. The characters are interesting as they are, but the fantasy elements add to the overall appeal; as these are cultures rarely explored for this aspect. An excellent read and highly recommended - it is long, but rewards your perseverance with numerous ideas and satisfying plotting. I will be looking forward to more from this author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding in execution and epic in scope: a beautiful book to savour, 25 Aug 2014
By 
Mrs. B. S. Kemp "Beth Kemp" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This novel combines two different folklore traditions into a narrative about immigration and finding one's place. Through exploring the very different experiences of a masterless golem and a djinni bound in human form, this lyrical and intelligent novel questions what it means to be human. Set in New York in 1899, Helene Wecker uses the two folkloric creatures to probe questions of fitting in and relating to others.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and recommend it to readers of fantasy but also those who enjoy contemporary literary novels. Comparisons to Susanna Clarke's fabulous Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell are justified (although this is both shorter in length and perhaps smaller in scope).

The writing is superb. The story is narrated in the third person, which allows us access to various characters' perspectives. Although both title characters do have negative qualities (from a human perspective), and both make mistakes, they both have our sympathies for at least part of the narrative, thanks to this close access to them. The narrative also sweeps through time and space, encompassing various characters' past experiences, enabling us to see where people have come from.

The plot itself centres on the Golem and Djinni's attempts to live without drawing undue attention to themselves - or going mad from the pressures upon them. Imagine if you didn't need to sleep? How would you fill the nighttimes? Details such as this are what drive the plot to its eventual crisis point. There are parts where the pace is a little slow, but the gorgeous writing and skilful character development make up for this. Overall, this is definitely a book to lose yourself in.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, magical novel!, 30 Aug 2013
By 
Helen S - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Golem and the Djinni (Hardcover)
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Meet Chava. She's a golem, a woman made of clay, created by a Rabbi in Poland and brought to life on a ship sailing to America. When her master dies during the voyage, the Golem, only a few days old, finds herself alone in a strange and unfamiliar land.

Ahmad is a djinni, a magical being made of flame, born in the Syrian desert in the seventh century and trapped inside a copper flask by a wizard. Now, many centuries later, the Djinni is released from the flask by a New York tinsmith, but discovers that he is bound to human form by an iron band around his wrist.

As the Golem and the Djinni try to adapt to their new surroundings and struggle to find a place for themselves in New York society, the two are eventually drawn together and their separate storylines begin to merge together in some unexpected ways.

The Golem and the Djinni have many things in common, the most obvious being that they are two non-human creatures trying to survive in the human world. They share a vulnerability and a childlike wonder at the people and things around them, which is what makes them both such endearing characters. But coming from such different cultures, they soon discover that they also have very different natures. Chava, as a golem, is designed to serve a master and satisfy the desires of others, while Ahmad has been imprisoned against his wishes and is desperate to regain his independence. The question of free will is something that comes up in their conversations often. Are the Golem and the Djinni responsible for their own actions or do their natures make them behave in a certain way? How much free will does either of them actually have? And what are the things that make a person human?

I found the relationship between the Golem and the Djinni very moving to read about and I think the reason for that was because it was not written as a typical 'love at first sight' romance. At first their relationship is based on curiosity and a longing to be able to discuss things with another outsider. A friendship gradually starts to form but it's not until they find themselves threatened by a mutual enemy that the Golem and the Djinni realise how much they care about each other. I really liked the fact that the author took her time to introduce us to the characters and allowed their story to develop slowly so that the pace never felt too rushed.

Another thing I loved was the choice of setting - New York in 1899. As the Golem and the Djinni are mythical creatures they could probably have been placed into any setting and their story would still have been interesting, but choosing this specific time and place was particularly fascinating because of the insights we are given into the various immigrant communities of turn of the century New York. Through the Golem we get to know some of the city's Jewish population and through the Djinni we meet the inhabitants of 'Little Syria', as well as learning about the Djinni's previous life among the Bedouin desert tribes. There are lots of great characters in each of these communities: the old Rabbi who befriends Chava and the tinsmith who befriends Ahmad, the ice cream seller who suffers from a strange affliction that prevents him from looking people in the eye, and the beautiful young girl who receives some late night visits from the Djinni.

As a first novel, The Golem and the Djinni was a very ambitious one but everything worked perfectly. There were so many things about this book that impressed me - the beautiful writing, the clever plot, the blending of fantasy with historical fiction, and most of all, the wonderful characterisation of both Chava and Ahmad. One of the best books I've read this year!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read in 2013, 22 Dec 2013
When I know I'm deliberately slowing my reading speed to avoid the evil moment of reaching the end of the book then I know it's a winner. Beautiful story, beautifully written.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It would make a cracking film, too., 5 Nov 2014
By 
Ms P. E. Vernon "Verns" (Weston-Super-Mare, England) - See all my reviews
Oh, I did enjoy this book! I'm a sucker for the 'if you enjoyed that book, you'll enjoy this' kind of blurb on a book-cover, and I'm usually disappointed, but not this time. It bravely proclaims, 'Fans of The Night Circus will love this'. I'm a fan of The Night Circus, and I loved this book, so YAY! for the book blurb.

The Golem and the Djinni is a fairy-tale - with that title it would have to be, I suppose - and like all good tales involving supernatural creatures, their trials and tribulations tell us something about the human condition. In this case (I think), it is the endless puzzle about which is the most powerful influence - nature or nurture?

The golem is a mystical creature made of clay, whose sole purpose is to serve his or her master and do their bidding. So what happens when a golem's master dies soon after it (she) is created and she is left stranded in a strange city? How does she survive with so little experience of life and without guidance? Can she exercise free will and learn to live her life in a way she chooses, or does the spell baked into her clay dictate that she can only truly be happy if she follows her nature and finds a master?

As for the djinni (or genie, as I suppose we know the word), he has been trapped in a metal flask for a thousand years and is released by chance into that same unknown city. He cannot remember anything of the millennium he has spent in the flask, nor of how he was captured, but he remembers his former life very well, and we learn that he led a solitary and sybaritic existence, taking what he wanted and caring little for the consequences on lesser beings. He is still trapped to a certain extent, so can he adjust to life in 1890s New York? Can he learn to consider others' feelings? Or is his yearning for freedom, and for all the power and glory that he once had, too strong?

If I were being picky, I'd say that you do have to take on trust that a woman made of clay could pass for a human even to the extent of consummating a marriage with a human being. There are also some humungous coincidences to swallow. But, taking all that into consideration, it's a cracking book, with some great characters, a real sense of time and place and a truly dramatic showdown. I think it would make a great film... Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Golem and the Djinni, 8 Oct 2014
By 
Macey89 - See all my reviews
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In early twentieth century New York, a Golem wakes without a master and a Djinni is released from a bottle after years in captivity, bound in human form.

Created out of clay, the Golem has one single purpose, to protect her master and serve his needs. But when he dies crossing the Atlantic, she is left utterly alone and overwhelmed by the flood of human desires and emotions in the bustling city. Taken under the wing of a Jewish Rabbi who recognises her for what she is, the Golem struggles to overcome her instincts and to live a life disguised as a human within the tight Jewish community.

Elsewhere, in a Middle Eastern neighbourhood, a man repairing a metal flask is stunned by the appearance of the Djinni on his shop floor. The Djinni, having been trapped for thousands of years inside the flask and bound by iron cuffs that keep him assuming from his true form, is forced to take refuge as an apprentice at the metal shop in order to blend into his surroundings.

But even as they both adapt to their new lives, the Djinni never stops searching for a way to break his bonds and the Golem searches for answers and a way to be free to show her true self. Meeting by chance, they spend their nights wandering the city streets and parks, forming a friendship that helps them to get through the days they spend pretending to be human. Far away in Europe, a man sets out across the ocean. Dangerous and powerful, he threatens everything they have, but he might hold the key to setting them free.

Both the Golem and the Djinni are forced by circumstance to live a lie, but soon enough they come to understand more than they ever thought they would about human life, love and friendship. As they grow in their own separate ways, the novel takes us on a journey of self-discovery, experiencing the world through their eyes. The book is set almost entirely in multi-immigrant communities, tight knit areas with people who have maintained their cultures and traditions despite being far from home. But these strong ties can also act as a barrier to change, transpiring to make this book a story of acceptance in more ways than one.

It was beautifully written and full of brilliant descriptions of turn of the century New York. The characters really came to life and the central story was full of twists, turns, myths and legends that kept me hooked the whole way. The tone and feel of the book really reminded me of Alice Hoffman’s ‘The Museum of Extraordinary Things’, which I also loved.
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The Golem and the Djinni
The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker (Hardcover - 15 Aug 2013)
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