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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 17 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 9 months ago by C. Green


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5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book, 6 Oct 2014
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The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker is a book I've extremely enjoyed. It took me a long time to read but that's a good thing: I got to enjoy it for longer! Set mostly in early 20th century New York, the plot focuses around Chava, a golem without a master, and Ahmad, a djinni who is released from a metal oil pot after several thousand years. It describes their struggles to live and fit in not only as non-humans in a human world but also within the cultural groups populating New York in that time period.

The book is vibrant and colourful. I loved that the chapters alternate between the back stories of some of the main characters and the present day. Going from Little Syria, to Jewish towns in Europe to the Arabian desert might sound a bit haphazard but the book flows beautifully and the variety of people, places and events keeps the reader's interest spectacularly.

This book also weaves themes of human poverty and struggles with magic and mythology into one single and beautiful literary blanket. There is a piece of plot or character in this book that everyone can enjoy and relate to in some way. The fantasy elements seem incredibly at home with discussions about running a business or someone becoming ill or dying. Nothing seems out of place.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fiction at all. There are more historical and fantasy elements than others but I really do think this is a book anyone could enjoy if they have the time to read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining read!, 14 Aug 2014
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I can't quite decide whether this first novel deserves five stars because the end is rather weak. However, I so much enjoyed the first three quarters of the book that I am going to recommend it highly. Based on an intriguing throw-back to New York in the late 19th century, the novel focuses on two mythical creatures: a golem, which is a Jewish creature fashioned from clay bound to its "master", and a djinni, which most of us would know better as a genie, although in the book the character is far more powerful than the traditional genie in a bottle of fairytale. Whilst very different life forms, both are bound to masters.
The novel tracks the progress of these two separate entities, who arrive in New York at the same time,but in very different neighbourhoods. The golem is discovered by a Rabbi and starts her existence in the Jewish community, having arrived in the city on a boat full of poor immigrants from Europe in search of a new life. The djinni is accidentally released from a copper flask in the Arab neighborhood of Little Syria - both have supernatural powers, can speak any language, do not need sleep or food yet they differ in temperament. The golem has been created with a modest and obedient nature while the djinni is pure fire trapped in a human body. Their stories unfold separately for the first half of the book but eventually they coincide. It is at this stage, though, that the authenticity of the book comes into question. Ms Wecker tries to develop a relationship between them which would not have existed in reality and the finale is a disappointing conclusion.
Having said that, I found the overall premise enchanting and loved the magical overtones set against a backdrop of slum life in immigrant New York.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book was fantastic!, 14 Aug 2014
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I have no knowledge of Jewish or Syrian folklore so I found those aspects of the story very interesting.

This book tells the story of a free spirited Djinni who becomes enslaved and trapped in a flask by a wizard and an obedient slave of a Golem set free when her master dies. Both "arrive" in New York, in a world and culture they do not understand, with their true natures limited by their circumstances. They are forced to lie to keep their true nature from the general populace which in itself causes them problems. Then the Golem and Djinni cross paths and they find solace in each other as each know what the other is feeling, although that doesn't mean they see everything eye to eye as after all, they have opposing natures. Then things turn disastrous and they find their lives are on the line.

I really enjoyed the writing in this book. It felt very exotic! And I really liked the characters, I had a really good sense of what they looked like and what they were like as people. I particularly liked the Djinni and the Golem but also the extended cast of characters were very likable too (except the baddie and I despised him as much as I loved the others which is I suppose what you want from a villain).

I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel by Helene Wecker and I will waiting with anticipation for her next release.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic storytelling, something quite different from your average book, 23 July 2014
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Fantastic storytelling, something quite different from your average book, very special. I loved the characters, their evolving relationship and the vivid sketches of New York. My only criticism is the ending, where I felt I lost some sympathy with the characters and where some of the fallout felt unnecessary. A bit convoluted compared to the rest of the book. However overall strongly recommended, go on and try it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A blend of realism and magic, exciting and bittersweet, 27 July 2014
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I loved this book. The way it is written is as if it is being narrated to you, only the characters are so engaging as well, it draws you into its world and won't let you out until you've finished reading.
I don't know if Wecker meant to, but although the characters are fantastical, they come across almost as if they are metaphors (is that the right word?) for immigrants or foreigners who have moved to New York and are struggling to fit in and find their place. It gives an insightful account of how New York must have been back then, how people lived, but it is also filled with enough magic and mystery to make it a brilliant fantasy fiction at the same time.
Wecker leaves a lot to the reader to decide at the ending - never quite writing out how the characters truly feel about each other, or what will happen in the future which keeps you captivated and thinking even after you have put the book down.
It draws you into different worlds, and all the stories are beautiful intertwined, each character so well thought out and beautifully portrayed, and small details which just make the while story wonderful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Little Clay and Fire, 3 July 2014
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J. Ang - See all my reviews
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This is a rather inventive novel, that combines the disparate supernatural folklore of a golem (a clay being magically formed to serve a master) and the more familiar jinni. That both these magical beings collide in New York at the end of the 19th century makes for an immediately arresting premise.

Wecker manages to make her ambitious fantastical novel work because she does her homework well, giving distinct histories and backgrounds to her two central characters, keeping close to the traits and qualities that these magical beings are traditionally known to possess, and then shrewdly giving them human form, as displaced immigrants with separate cultural backgrounds.

And lastly, she also assigns different genders to the golem and the jinni, which prepares the reader for an interesting and complicated relationship between them. The golem is fashioned as a woman by twisted Rabbi Schaalman with a dubious wizarding history for a rich but intolerable Prussian Jew from Danzig, Rotfeld, who desires the golem for a wife. When Rotfeld wakes her while on the voyage from Poland to NY, he unfortunately dies and she is left without a master/husband. Thankfully she meets the kindly Rabbi Meyer who sees her for what she is and rescues her from the streets and names her Chava. Meanwhile in another corner called Little Syria in the same city, a tinsmith Arbeely is repairing an innocuous-looking old flask, when out pops the jinni, who vaguely recalls the time before he was trapped in the flask in the Syrian desert about a thousand years ago. Soon he becomes a sort of apprentice and then partner with Arbeely at his shop and adopts the name of Ahmad. When Ahmad and Chava's paths cross, they also discover that they are linked by more than their outsiderness in this strange new world.

It is to Wecker's credit that both their stories are covered rather seamlessly in the inter-chapters, and the pace is kept right to the end. If I have a quibble with the narrative, it would be the sudden (and inappropriate) moments of lightness in the midst of life-threatening events and pivotal scenes. While at times illuminating Ahmad's lackadaisical nature or the stiff-upper-lipped demeanour of Chava, I felt the attempted irreverence made for uneasy humour, which is unlikely what the author intended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful book, 29 Jun 2014
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It's been ages since I discovered a new author and I'm so glad I did.

The plotting, the prose and the good old fashioned story telling are terrific. It's interesting on every level, from the mythological creatures to the workaday lives of the immigrants.
Have to say it puts me in mind of Neil Gaiman, but with a softer touch. I don't mean that as a slight to either author, they both produce brilliantly imaginative stories.

If this is Ms Wecker's 1st novel, I can't wait for her next one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A story old as time, 18 May 2014
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Great characters and storytelling. The Golem and the Djinni stand for anyone who has ever felt different from the crowd and had to hide their true selves, fearful of the consequences. Finding family and acceptance in small doses. Being the good boy or girl to validate your existence. Helene paints their world well. It is quite a long book but doesn't strain too much from this. There is the feel of a sequel in the ending.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good fantasy adventure, 17 May 2014
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BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
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A very enjoyable fantasy novel, set in New York at the turn of the 20th century. The title characters have very different natures, but both face the challenge of trying to pass themselves off as human in the baffling world of a big city. They are interesting and well drawn characters, and are surrounded by a very strong cast of human characters. It's a little slow and could have been a bit shorter, but picks up in the second half and becomes very gripping as all the apparently disparate strands of plot come together.

The blend of real world and make-believe works very well. As with 'Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell' (which this book reminded me of), the setting is familiar enough to draw readers in but different enough to add to the magic and make the mystical elements easier to buy into. It's written in a style that is easy to read and holds the attention, evoking a strong sense of place. The plot is original and has some unexpected twists and turns. It's not a sugary fairy tale, and there is genuine drama and tragedy along the way.

Free will is an important theme of the novel, and whether people have a 'true nature' that can be followed or defied. It's an issue that is explored without being fully answered - which is fine as it's not really an answerable question. Both the golem and djinni manage to adapt to some extent, but without ever entirely escaping their essential features. Wecker has the skill of making you like and sympathise with a character whilst also showing their flaws and less admirable behaviour.

The introduction of a sinister villain who adds a real sense of threat and urgency to proceedings is the catalyst for a gripping final section. The 'setting up' phase of the book is a little overlong - it's pleasurable enough to read as the writing is good, but the novel lacks direction and it's not clear for a long time where the story is going or indeed if it is going to go anywhere. However this is one of those novels where investment of reading time in the early stages does pay off, as nothing is irrelevant - the minor characters and storylines do all end up coming together. I'd have found those early chapters more satisfying if I'd known that.

I'd definitely recommend this to readers who enjoy fantasy and adventure stories, especially those who enjoyed 'Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell', or to adult readers who like Harry Potter or Diana Wynne Jones, as this is a more grown up version of those. I'll be reading the author's next novel with interest.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Golem and the Djinni, 27 April 2014
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Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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I always look out for books which incorporate flights of fancy in their makeup, and this one seemed to fit the bill.

In 1899 in New York, two disparate creatures arrive in the city. One, a golem created in Poland, whose master dies en route. She is taken in and cared for by Rabbi Meyer in the Jewish neighbourhood of New York. The other, a jinni whose life had been lived in the Syrian desert, released from an old copper flask by a tinsmith Boutros Arbeely; how he got there the jinni cannot recall.

This book follows a delightful story of these two very different beings trying to find and make their way in a new environment filled with very different people, each struggling to make sense of the world in which they unwittingly find themselves. Along the way we also meet other characters, each unique and troubled in their own ways; the Rabbi's newphew Michael, the tragic ice cream maker Saleh, and Yehudah Schaalman, driven to find what became of the golem he created. And around them all the city hums with its diverse immigrants and cultures.

This is a book filled with wonder and delight; the sounds, smells and tastes of late nineteenth century New York, the cultural diversity and the strangeness of it all to the immigrants; mingled with that the other world experience of the jinni and the newly born wonder of the golem. Slowly the story builds to a confrontation, a clash of civilisations - old, new, known and unknown as everybody tries to find their own peace and salvation in this strange new world.

It's hard to believe this is the author's first book - the writing is assured, the characterisation complete, the narrative well paced and flowing. A wonderful, enchanting read.
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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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