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[J] The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker #AtoZchallenge

I am hooked onto fantasy fiction and seeing the word Djinni in this title made me buy this book. BTW I have used the J for Djinni as the writer has been a little creative, IMO, with the spelling 😉 I came across the spelling Jinni in other versions of this book on other websites.

Title: The Golem and the Djinni

Author:  Helene Wecker

Genre: Fiction

Publication: Harper Collins

Helen Wecker is an American writer who lives near San Fransisco and this is her debut novel which was published in 2013 by Harper Collins. She has promised a sequel in 2018, titled the Iron Season and other books by her are The Divestment and some short stories in the collection titled The Djinn falls in love.

#atozchallenge-books-TBR-author-genre-fiction

Synopsis:

Otto Rotfeld resides in the Polish town of Konin and desires to set out on one of the ships bound to America to try out his luck there. He feels he needs a wife; rather a submissive wife who would be at his beck and call without any talk back. He had heard of the an old man living deep in the forests who dabbled in the mysterious arts and could probably help him. Yehudah Schaalman is a practicing Kabbalistic and agrees to make him a Golem; a creature made out of mud who is bound to the will of its creator/owner by a spell word. A golem would unquestionably follow its master, possesses incredible strength and never tire or need to sleep. It can also divine people’s feelings and hear their thoughts.

“Sometimes men want what they don’t have because they don’t have it. Even if everyone offered to share, they would only want the share that wasn’t theirs.”
― Helene WeckerThe Golem and the Jinni

Otto gets onto the ship with the golem in a trunk in the hold; still not awakened by the spell. He intended to do that once he reached New York but during the voyage he falls ill. He decides to whisper the spell so that the Golem could take care of him but unfortunately he dies before he can instruct her much. The golem is thought to be the widow of the deceased man, by everyone on the ship and accorded the due respect.

She gets off in New York but is unsure what to do next when she meets a kind-hearted Rabbi who guesses at what she is. Afraid for her and of her, he nevertheless takes her under his wing and finds her boarding and lodging and a job. He names her Chava and starts teaching her how to behave as a human.

“You must learn how to act according to what people say and do, not what they wish or fear.”
― Helene WeckerThe Golem and the Jinni

She initially finds work as a seamistress and later joins a bakery where her prowess as a baker draw out people from far to taste the goodies. Chava takes to roaming around at night, though she is careful as she is a woman and it would look extremely suspicious for her to be walking alone at night. She loves her nightly prowls as she no longer needs to pretend or be on her guard constatnly as there are hardly people around.

Ahmed is a Djinni, trapped in a copper flask by a wicked sorcerer centuries ago and is released by accident when a tin maker is given the flask to repair. He opens it to work on it and Ahmed pops out, much to his bewilderment. The Djinni cannot recall how he was imprisoned or when and feels powerless to do much. So he takes on human form and apprentices under the tinsmith whose business now starts to flourish. Ahmed is a skilled worker and tireless as he seems to work without taking a break.

“He’d lived so long in anticipation of his own death that to contemplate his future was like standing at the edge of a cliff, staring into a vertiginous rush of open sky.”
― Helene WeckerThe Golem and the Jinni

But the Djinni is restless with impatience over his mystery and takes to prowling the rooftops in NewYork, learning about its nightly secrets. He discovers smoking and ensures that he always carries some. But folks are often confused why is it that he never bothers to carry matches with him 😉

This is how these two mythical creatures meet one night and thus forges a bond of friendship, perhaps out of their uniqueness of not being human. An unlikely romance in the offing or so the writer has us believe.

“On a cloudless night, inky dark, with only a rind of a moon above, the Golem and the Jinni went walking together along the Prince Street rooftops.”
― Helene WeckerThe Golem and the Jinni

The story continues with Ahmed traveling to Arabia to search his truth where he learns how Chava is connected to him and what he must do to free himself. Truth turns out to be stranger than fiction and Ahmed has to battle not just his enemies but his inner demons too, to hope to be reunited with Chava.

Lasting Impression on me:

I am hoping that by now the synopsis has you in grips and you have picked up the book to read. If not let me assure you that this is a story within a story kinda book where each character is connected to the other forming a six or is it seven degrees of separation. Helen Wecker has been clever in her weaving of the story where ancient cultures meet history to take us on a magical love story. BTW this is the ultimate modern Romeo Juliet tale for me – yup peeps my verdict is that it’s a love story of another kind.

If the act of love is so dangerous, why do people risk so much for it?”
― Helene WeckerThe Golem and the Jinni

Whats not to love about this book? A kabbalistic ritual to create a mud creature who follows your will! A djinni trapped in a flask who can travel like a wisp of smoke but doesn’t remember how he was lured inside a flask. A kind-hearted Rabbi, an industrious but simple tinsmith and some more characters who on the surface live apart. But each is a thread in the tale, connected to each other by the weave of destiny.

And when the two magical creatures cross paths, love blossoms – who could have imagined that? I didint. I loved the way the two are such a contrast to each other. Submissive, meek and unquestioning Chava who goes about her work with her head bent. Impatient, full of energy and difficult to subdue Ahmed, who questions every authority and chaff at his bondage.

Wecker draws out her character with so much love and detail, one wonders if perhaps they live in her attic where she observes them daily. The folk-lore enmeshed with the modern world, lets the make-believe come alive. I particularly love the setting of her story as this is a modern age yet not so modern that it’s stopped believing in magic.

The feel of an immigrants life as it tries to fit in an alien world is pretty realistically drawn in this book. And there is a liberal sprinkling of human stories that bring a lump to your throat. So much loneliness out there in the world and how it tends to draw strangers closer.

There are tonnes of surprises in the story by way of characters and how they are connected to each other. You don’t see it coming but boy when it comes, you are flabbergasted at first and then enchanted to know what will happen next.

My Rating:

You guessed it – a 5 *****!!! I would recommend this book to people looking for fantasy and romance rolled into one kinda hook! When I finished the book, I had hoped for a sequel to follow; its been 5 years and nothing so far…. Sigh!!

* This post contains affiliate links and if you click to buy from here, I will earn some referral fee amount *


Do you like the Arabian tales? Are you fascinated with tales of magic and folklore?

P.S: 

I am on a no-book-buying pact as I am pretty much broke; not to mention that I am running out of space as well!! But incase anyone wants to trade their books or send me gifts, please do check out my Wishlist on Amazon & Want to read on Goodreads.


Coming up tomorrow is [K] for The Kinetic mind of Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

For the uninitiated, AtoZ challenge is a blogging challenge wherein one has to write on every alphabet from A to Z and post on all days of April, except Sundays. Usually its better to devise a theme as it makes it easy to write the posts. Plus readers have a reason to stay hooked too.

The A to Z Challenge is created by  Arlee Bird of Tossing it Out
and co-hosted by

Alex J. Cavanaugh of Alex J. Cavanaugh

Jeremy Hawkins of Hollywood Nuts

Heather M. Gardner of  The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Zalka Csenge Virág of The Multicolored Diary

John Holton of The Sound of One Hand Typing

J Lenni Dorner of  Blog of J. Lenni Dorner

Some of my previous  posts you might be interested in catching up on

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27 thoughts on “[J] The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker #AtoZchallenge

  1. Hari OM
    Well… the English spelling of the Arabic Djinni is Genie – ‘dj’ is the more accepted transliteration now is there is the more tongued utterance than is given with just the ‘j’… but that’s me getting into linguistics and semantics and not addressing your telling of a book which clearly cast a spell upon you! It is not one I would chose myself, but I do see how the analogy of love across difference has appeal. YAM xx

    1. Yes thats true and I did fudge around for this alphabet – guilty!!!!! I am in love with this book and am just waiting for the sequel – will be re-reading it as soon as the sequel comes out to refreshen it all! xoxo

  2. Wow.. i didn’t know about Golems, but Djinns are a favorite fantasy, ever since the cartoon and Disney animation of Arabian Nights(Aladin)…

    This sounds so interesting. A story within a story. Such mythical/ fantasy creatures in human world must make a rather interesting read.

    Such story within a story, and 6 degrees separation- i had read in “The Thirteenth Tale” i don’t remember it much but it was about twins, one of them dead, but very much alive for the other twin. Mystery and suspence. Thriller .

    1. Oh yes the Thirteenth tale was an awesome read too but never made it to me list here; maybe another series soon enough – its a book I liked a lot!

      Try this one; I am sure you will be transported back to the Arabian tales; there is something so romantic and mischevious about a Genie tale!

      BTW I loved the Disney one – I loved the Genie more than Aladdin 😉

  3. I had not heard of this but you’ve really got my interest piqued with this. This series itself has given me a new reading list to check out. Need to choose now after saving from this list!

    1. I have a feeling I will be lynched by many of my readers when this challenge is over 😉

      I am thrilled and humbled to know my reviews and selections are being loved to this extent; thank you so much for the kind words Doc!!

  4. Have heard a lot of stories about dj or jinnis growing up, they are mystical creatures who always fascinate kids. I have read William Dalrymple’s city of djinns which is a fascinating read. But, didn’t know what golem was until I read your synopsis. I am convinced with each passing day that you and I inhabit different planets because I call myself an avid reader, but I haven’t even heard of these books that you have read and felt strongly about. 🙂 Keep writing and enlightening me!

    1. Ha ha ha!! I am quite surprised too that peeps are finding my book selection eclectic flattered too 😉

      Stay tuned for some lovely one up ahead which are forever on my re-read lists; 1-2 will shock you too!!!

  5. This is such a unique story with some amazing characters. This is going in my TBR list right away. Gosh! My TBR pile is overflowing, thanks to you, Shalini. I am not complaining though 😀

    1. As long as I am not beaten up later, I am happy to know the TBRs are overflowing 😉 You must read this and share with me what you thought about it. I have been meaning to re-read it – its sooooo romantic!! 🙂

  6. Oh my! I’m blown away by the synopsis and I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of this book this now. This directly goes to my TBR and also to my cart in the near future 🙂

    Thank you!

    1. Happy happy to know you liked it Soumya – would be eager to read your review of it too! I cant wait for the sequel as I want to know what Ahmed finds out and will he and Chava be together and how!!! 🙂

    1. Wah thats called decisiveness and am sooooo happy to know my review convinced you for it! You made my day Varad 🙂 Thank you!

    1. Me too Ramya – fantasy fiction is huge with me and even now I am reading a book on Djinn tales from around the world and contributed by several well known writers – its a great book so far!

    1. Oh wow I need to hear more about books from you then Pooja; someday we will have that conversation for sure! 🙂

  7. Okay so I’m back after making rounds of my Amazon Wishlist and Goodreads To Read list. This sounds absolutely fabulous and to think I’d never heard of it! What an imaginative concept. Authors are such clever people.

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