Title: The Golem and the Jinni
Author: Helen Wecker
Published by: Harper
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Where I got the book: Public Library
Chava is a golem, made of clay and brought to life by a disgraced rabbi as a commission for a man who desires a wife. However when her master dies on the voyage from Poland to New York, Chava is suddenly alone in a strange city and fears being discovered and destroyed for her non-human nature.
Ahmad is a jinni, a creature of fire who was born in the Syrian desert centuries ago. However, he was trapped in a copper flask by a Bedouin wizard and has remained there for centuries until a tinsmith in Lower Manhattan accidentally releases him.
Coincidence causes Chava and Ahmed’s paths to meet one unlikely night on the streets of New York at the turn of the 20th Century. However an unlikely friendship develops between them. But a powerful threat follows them and threatens to destroy their newfound lives. Together they must make a choice, and try to protect their lives and those of their new friends.
This book was such a delight to read. I’d heard a number of good things about it, but having never read another book like it I wasn’t sure what to expect. And after going through a short phase where I was reading strange, alternate history speculative fiction set in Ancient Greece, I wasn’t sure if this would be too different from what I’d been reading and fail to capture my attention when I picked it up.
I was thankfully proven wrong.
The Golem and the Jinni is a beautiful character driven novel. Helen Wecker writes the streets of New York to life, building a wonderful story that centres primarily on two neighbourhoods. Although Chava and Ahmed are the main characters, the people they meet and interact with are just as important.You easily fall in love with the tinsmith, the café owner and her husband, the ice cream seller, the wealthy heiress, the baker and his employees, and the Rabbi.
I loved the amount of historical detail and character development Wecker paid to the Jewish and Syrian neighbourhoods that the story takes place in as her writing brings the streets to life. The Golem and the Jinni is a wonderful, feel-good read with a deep level of complexity and characterization. In between all the hard, military fantasy, sci-fi and literary fiction I’ve been reading, it was a delight to wander the streets of New York with Chava and Ahmed.
It’s hard to believe this is Wecker’s debut novel. Goodreads tells me there’s a sequel coming out in 2018 though and I can hardly wait for it.