Book Review: The Golem And The Djinni - Helene Wecker

Image Source

Title: The Golem And The Djinni
Author: Helene Wecker
Publisher: The Borough Press (15 August 2013)
Genre: Fantasy/Myth/Legends & Sagas
Price: Rs. 230 on Amazon for the Kindle edition
Pages: 675

Honestly, I wasn't a fan of the fantasy genre. Exactly why I stayed away from the Harry Potter series while growing up. I was very happy with my Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steel and Jeffery Archer books and thought that I would not enjoy fantasy fiction. A couple of years ago, coaxed by friends, I read the Harry Potter series with absolutely no expectations. But, I fell in love with it. While it was more to do with the author's imagination and writing prowess and less to do with the genre, I still felt that fantasy was interesting.

I myself am someone with a wild imagination, so I found myself being drawn to it. Then, 'The Night Circus' happened. That was more in the sphere of phantasmajorical fiction, and that story blew my mind! It remains one of my most favorite books till date. When my favorite book buddy and fellow blogger Shalini recommended 'The Golem And The Djinni' in the same genre, I was intrigued. I bought a Kindle version of the book last year, but only sat down to read it recently.

'The Golem And The Djinni' is the story of Chava and Ahmad. Who they are, we'll soon find out.

Far away in Poland, Otto Rotfeld seeks a companion, a wife who would listen to him and obey him unconditionally. He reaches out to a kabbalist, Yehudah Schaalman, to build him a wife. Schaalman creates a Golem, a creature made of clay, in the shape of a woman and gives Rotfeld the instructions to breathe life into the Golem. He also gives him the instructions to destroy it. Rotfeld awakens his wife on a sea voyage to New York and dies soon after. The Golem is usually bound to a master and now she's left alone in the world, which is an unfamiliar environment for her. She struggles to get by in NewYork. She looks like a human and normal people cannot tell the difference. However, a rabbi sees her and recognizes her as a Golem and takes her in to help her figure out her new life. He teaches her tips and tricks to pass off as a human and finds her a job in a bakery. He names her Chava.

Meanwhile, in New York's Little Syria, tinsmith Arbeely is asked to fix an old copper flask that is handed down a family for generations. In the process he accidentally frees a Djinni, a creature made of fire, who has been trapped in the flask for centuries. The Djinni is in a human form with an iron cuff on his wrist, that binds him to the real world. When Arbeely notices that he has no memory of how he was imprisoned and is powerless, he takes him in as an apprentice at the tin shop. The Djinni can melt and mold metal just by using his hands, hence Arbeely tries his best to keep him hidden in the shop. While deciding on a name for the Djinni, they both agree on Ahmad.

The story traverses their journey and how they try to fit in the world of real people. Although they have different views on being inhuman while living in a human world, Chava and Ahmad meet and become friends. They are aware of each other's truth and that is what binds them closer. When Joseph Schal comes to New York, he poses a treat for both the Golem and the Djinni. His only goal, to enslave both of them. Will he succeed? Also, who is Joesph Schal? And how is he connected to both Chava and Ahmad?

If I have to describe this book in one word, it would be - brilliant. Also, magical. The imagination that has gone into this story and the beautiful characters that come out of it is applaud worthy. Your heart goes out to both the Golem and the Djinni, as they navigate life under challenging constraints and are forced to suppress their true natures. They meet many people during the course of their life. A couple who own and run a coffee-house, an ice cream vendor, a sheltering house owner, a rich heiress, a desperate pregnant woman, a young orphan; all these characters add another dimension to the story and help take it forward until the end. The climax had me holding my breath wondering what is going to happen. The story then concluded in a most justified way.

It would be really hard for someone to not like this book. There is a sense of magic, a sense of pixie dust, a sense of Sufism throughout the book. Every character is so endearing that you only wish the best for them. The writing is neat and sharp and easy to read. The story is paced well and wraps up without any loose ends. This is not a love story. It is a story of love, kindness, desires, relationships and humanity with two non-human creatures at the center. Could there be anything more beautiful than this?

The author just announced a sequel to the book called 'The Iron Season' and I cannot wait for it to be released.


Verdict: A must read. Just go for it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

4 comments:

  1. I absolutely loved this book too! It’s beautiful and magical and oh so endearing. I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ditto! I hope it is good as the first one, if not better.

      Delete
  2. I am thrilled beyond words to see how much you have loved this book. I just had to read the review for myself to know it for real. Happy to see you praising Night circus too as thats one of my fav fantasy reads too. I wonder if I dare suggest Barteimus to you next? Jonathan Stroud's little impish imp is a hilarious read with loads of thrills that this imp gets into while searching for an amulet and other weird stuff that needs to do for evil warlocks. Its a trilogy but each book reads as one - Would definitely want you to try one out :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll forever be indebted to you for this :)

      Barteimus sounds interesting. Now that you recommend it, I'll give it a try :)

      Delete

Care to leave a word or two? Thanks for dropping by :)