Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker @helenewecker

The Golem and the Jinni is one of the most unique books I've ever read.

The golem is created in the late 1800s to travel to New York to be a wife. While on the journey, the man dies, so the golem lands in New York harbor all alone, without any identification documents, and with the mind of a newborn. BTW, a golem is a creature made of dirt, but looks like a human and is tied to a master who she must obey no matter what. Our golem is rescued by a Jewish Rabbi, and takes the name Chava.

A jinni is a creature created of fire. Our jinni, Ahmad, is released from a bottle in New York after a thousand years of captivity. The person who releases the jinni is a tin smith named Arbeely. Ahmad doesn't remember how he became captive, and we get occasional flash backs that eventually fill in the blanks. And, he's still not really free. He cannot transform into his jinni (think genie) form and has an iron bracelet that cannot be removed.

The Golem and the Jinni become unlikely friends. But there's a lot more to the story. The Golem and the Jinni is full of colorful characters, each playing their parts to eventually weave this marvelous story to its conclusion. It's a delicious ride.

While certainly a fantasy novel, The Golem and the Jinni is also an excellent piece of historical fiction. The life in the Jewish settlement in New York in the early 1900s is depicted with detail and authenticity.

My only slight complaint is that the book is a bit long at 500 pages. Not that I got bored, but more like restless to find out what was going to happen. It kept my interest, even with the amount of detail that served to expand the number of pages. There are also a lot of characters, and some of their names change throughout history, so it takes some attention to keep track at times.

It's very difficult to explain the genre of The Golem and the Jinni.  It is such a mix and so wonderfully written that it defies classification, and it doesn't really matter that it does so. If you desire to be fully immersed in a historical setting and mesmerized by some unique fantasy, then I highly recommend The Golem and the Jinni.

Published by Harper, 2013
eBook, purchased
496 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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  1. I really enjoyed this one too! I would not have picked it up on my own so I'm glad it was chosen for my book club. I thought it was really cool to see the immigrant experience and see how similar the two cultures are.

  2. I usually like my historical fiction straight up, not mixed with fantasy elements, but this one sounds too interesting to pass up. Thanks for the review!

  3. For those seeking pure horror or overt swords and sorcery, I would look elsewhere. But for those seeking a very well written tale driven by its characters with exquisite detail and ample using of magical realism, The Golem and the Jinni is for you.
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  4. Thanks for linking me here on my review. I always love reading other reviews of books I've read. I totally agree. I really enjoyed the historical aspect and the characters. It did feel a little long though but for me, in the end it was worth the investment. Great review.
    Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally


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