The Golem and the Djinni Hardcover – 15 Aug 2013
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‘By far my favourite book of of the year … There isn't a wasted word, poorly considered paragraph or a single chapter in this high-concept fairytale that doesn't deliver some new enchantment’ Damien Walter, Guardian
‘The Golem and The Djinni has the detailed realism of historical fiction, the haunting feel of a folk tale, and is one of only two novels I've ever loved whose main characters are not human’ Barbara Kingsolver
‘The author makes you care enough about the humanity of these magical spirits to not only see them through to the end but also to regret that you’ve reached the last page’ New York Times
‘A continuous delight — provocative, atmospheric, and superbly paced’ Boston Globe
‘The Golem and The Djinni are among my favourite fictional people’ Washington Post
From the Back Cover
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 readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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).Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Literally could not get this book out of my hands. Best book i have read in a long timePublished 2 days ago by Jay hanlin
What if two mythical creatures from two middle-eastern traditions should meet? Where would such a meeting take place? Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mr Robert McMinn
Beautifully written, thoroughly enjoyable read. Only sorry it's the debut work of Helene Wecker and there are no others I can dive into right away. Read morePublished 1 month ago by cheryl
I ordered the ebook of The Golem and the Djinni purely because I was going to be in a city at the same time as Helene Wecker was doing a reading and thought I may be able to visit. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Alidea
Really loved this book. An enchanting and ultimately gripping story. Builds slowly but the author skilfully draw all strands together. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Katherine Keane
Was not sure at first if this would be my type of book but loved it so much ,this story has stayed with me and I thoroughly recommend itPublished 4 months ago by dan