A good book that I failed to connect with completely and an audiobook that didn’t work for me.
Recommendation: Check this book out if you enjoy your fantasy with a historical fiction slant. I recommend the physical book as I felt the audiobook was slow. If you do listen to this novel, playing the book at a higher speed than 1x is a requirement. If you liked Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, you’ll enjoy this. Solid used and library pick up.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker is a fantasy book in our world where the folklore from Jewish and Syrian myths are true. The novel is told in the third person from about 10 points of view. The story is about two beings, not connected to each other until later, a golem and a jinni, that come to find themselves in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. The golem and the jinni experience the issues that are associated with being a non-human living in a human world while dealing with the human experience.
The best part of this book is easily the world building and setting. I absolutely loved turn of the century New York City. The city was split into different nationalities and it was an exciting time to live in New York City. Wecker does a great job of bringing the city to life and the correct feel of that era. Before this book I didn’t know any details about the mysticism involved in this book but I enjoyed learning about them while reading. Learning more about Jewish and Syrian folklore was just fantastic. I loved the history aspect of this book and sociology part of it all. If you like real world, mysticism folklore, you’ll really like this book.
The two main characters, Chava the golem, and Ahmad the jinni are fantastic. We saw their struggle of trying to hide who they are but also trying to live life. Chava is a freshly made new golem, so she knows next to nothing about humanity. Ahmad was a jinni centuries ago in the Syrian desert so he is struggling with culture shock after being imprisoned for 500 years. Reading about these two learning about humanity was the highlight of these characters. When the two characters finally meet, the book becomes so much better. This happens around the half way point but I wish it was sooner.
Helene Wecker can write really well and this is a slow burn type of book that you should ponder on while you are reading it. Just make sure you are in the mood for a slow moving historical fiction book that is light on fantasy and action and more about human experience. This is a book you want to read when you are in the mood for it and not forced.
I liked this book but I had a lot of issues with listening to this on audiobook. The narrator, George Guidall spoke really slowly for my tastes. I listened to most of this on a device where I could not change the speed and while I was exercising. This slow narration plus the fast paced activity just did not work. I found myself getting bored, my mind drifting, and I couldn’t wait for it to end.
I felt that this book was about 100 pages too long. There were points of view in this story that I just did not care for. I wanted a more straight forward book about the golem and the jinni but I got a lot of side characters that told this more epic story that just didn’t interest me. I liked how Wecker worked all these characters together at the end but I still struggled mightily during the slow parts with point of view characters that were side characters.
I fully understand that my enjoyment of this book is not because of the book being bad but that I consumed this story in the wrong way. For that reason, I ended up giving this novel a 3 star rating. I did like this but I was so happy for the book to finally be finished. I may try the print version in the future. Not my favorite but if you like this more literary and historical fiction fantasy it could be something you’d love.
15/25 Possible Score
Plot – 2(O.K)
Characters – 3(Good)
World Building/Setting – 4(Strong)
Writing Style – 3(Good)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 3(Good)