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
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.
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 Wecker,
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 Wecker,
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 Wecker,
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 Wecker,
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 Wecker,
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.
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!!
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Do you like the Arabian tales? Are you fascinated with tales of magic and folklore?
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
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