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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 4 April 2017
The Golem and the Djinni, by Helene Wecker, is a blend of historical fiction and fantasy. The historical part is set in New York around the year 1900, at which time the city was divided into many segments according to the country of origin of various immigrant groups. The two which are most in view are the Syrian and Jewish areas, with occasional forays up into much more affluent zones.

The fantasy element - highlighted by the book title - comes in two parts. The golem, a manufactured creature derived from Jewish thought, is female in form, and was originally constructed to be wife to an Eastern European immigrant. He dies on board ship, leaving Chava to find her own way through life. Her impulse to obey the unspoken needs and wants of the people around are a constant source of difficulty, as she tries to reconcile conflicting demands.

The djinni represents the Syrian area - a creature of fire, and many centuries old, he was bound long ago into human form by the work of a magician. His struggle is to avoid boredom without being discovered, and also to find a way to unravel the binding.

Inevitably the two come into contact, and try to resolve the two problems at once. They are opposites in many ways - one built for obedience and conformity but having to make her own choices, and the other craving a wild and unrestrained life but having to manage limitation. Around that basic polarity a collection of interesting human characters orbit, and the exploration of cross-cultural New York is itself fascinating. One particular character - perhaps the only one with a malignant agenda, and at times a little cartòonish - comes to dominate the plot line in the later stages, as each of the others decides how to cope with his influence.

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable book, which could appeal to anyone who likes some fantasy stirred in with their history.
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on 20 June 2017
The wonderful thing about this book is the split stories. You start with the Golem and her creation, her journey to New York – but then the Djinni comes in, and his friend the tinsmith, and then we meet a rabbi and the staff of a bakery, and the story flits back to Syria and a girl herding goats, then forward again to the ice-cream man and Sophie, rich and bored and waiting to be married, all interwoven between the Golem and the Djinni. The way the individual stories tie into each other is brilliant – they do come together by the end of the book, but for most of it you’re reading these separate characters and their lives, without knowing exactly how they’re going to fit. It works so well for the story and plot, as you then understand all the people, you see their backgrounds and their characters, without having an info-dump – and by the time we get to the end, we feel that we know all of them. I especially loved that the Golem’s story is known from the beginning and that we see her growing and changing, and the Djinni’s story is found out over the course of the book; he’s fighting to rediscover his memories until everything comes together.

The plot isn’t predictable, either. It ambles along, weaving and turning, and I like that the Golem and the Djinni become friends when they meet – it’s a very unexpected friendship, and I do dearly love that the author hasn’t forced them together. They’re both very interesting characters, and it’s their characters that make the story, which makes for a lovely read. It’s not fast-paced, but it is tense (at the end, at any rate) – and the variation in the stories keeps you turning the pages.
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on 10 May 2014
I enjoyed 'The Golem and the Djinni' from start to finish. The story of Chava (The Golem) and Ahmad (The Djinni') both different beings who find themselves in strange surroundings, in this case, New York City in 1899.

Ahmad is stubborn, struggling with his connection to his old master who he does not remember as Ahmad was a free djinni until he ventured into the human world too closely, the price he paid is a band of iron around his right wrist which can not be removed and the only way to get freedom is by destroying himself.

Chava accepts the world around with a quiet diligence, created by a disgraced rabbi and sold to a master who unfortunately dies during the voyage from Poland to America. Chava finds herself alone until she befriends Rabbi Meyer who helps her to deal with her new life as Chava tries to find her own identity. As the story progresses Chava and Ahmad find each other and they begin a friendship and as their story continues they find that they are more connected than they realise.

What I love about this story was the vitality of New York shown in the pages, how wonderful written Chava, Ahmad and the other characters are. This story explores so many subjects, magic, spirituality, religion which made interesting reading.

A spectacular debut by Helene Wecker and I highly recommend it.
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on 1 April 2017
Wow...just finished and am still reeling. What an amazing novel - original, exotic and compelling, I loved it. Heartily recommended if you're bored of your usual literary fare and looking for something different.
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on 14 August 2015
Great read. Couldn't put it down. Such an interesting and different story and fascinating characters. I was drawn right into the world and lives of the characters. I love reading something just a little bit different and this certainly was.
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on 17 April 2017
This is an original tale where myth meets reality. Despite the other-worldliness of the principal characters, the author succeeded in making me believe it all. After the first few chapters I had trouble making myself put the book down! Thoroughly recommended read.
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on 21 August 2014
What an unusual book, yet I loved it! Couldn't wait to get to the end but so sad that it's finished. Will Ahmed return safely to Chava? Is there any kind of future for them? Will the djinn keep the flask safe?
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on 25 January 2015
I really enjoyed this book, it is compelling all the way through, really interesting & exotic. It really sparked my imagination, I wish more books were like this.
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on 26 May 2017
I don't usually read fantasy books but this one intrigued me and I'm so glad I chose it. Very well written and thoroughly absorbing from start to finish. I didn't really want it to end.
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on 19 June 2017
Really absorbing read. Excellent detail and flawed but likeable characters. I enjoyed the journey with them. Highly recommend this book.
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