Author: Helene Wecker
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.
Ahmad is a djinni, 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. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free--an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.
The Golem and the Djinni is their magical, unforgettable story; 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 threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice. Summary from Goodreads
I read The Golem and the Djinni for book club in March. I was a little behind due to other responsibilities, but I wanted to finish reading the book because I was quite intrigued by the story.
I ended up really enjoying the book. The story was very original, at least from other stories I’ve read or been privy to. I loved the historical fiction aspect of it and I loved the meshing of three different cultures–Judaism, Maronite, and Muslim. And, I loved the fantasy element involved with each culture. I didn’t know anything about golems going into the book and I only knew about the djinn in the sense of genies. So, it was fun to learn more about them.
I really liked the characters, especially Ahmad. I liked Chava too, and I was interested in her life, but I was more drawn to Ahmad. The story’s told in an interesting way. It’s mainly told from Chava’s and Ahmad’s points-of-view, but it does feature a few other characters’ points-of-view too. You get the story bit by bit from the different perspectives and have to piece it together. At times it was frustrating, but I really enjoyed getting to know the secondary characters better through this method. And, fortunately, all the stories weave together in the end.
I was a little disappointed in the ending. It felt a little anti-climactic, but I do like how things were resolved mostly, strangely. I just wanted more, especially in terms of Ahmad and Chava.
I thought The Golem and the Djinni was a good debut for Helene Wecker. I’ll keep an eye out for more books by her in the future.