Title: The Golem and the Jinni
Author: Helene Wecker
Genre: Fiction / fantasy
Rating: 4.5 / 5
This is a great story well told.
When I looked at the back cover and saw a blurb from Deborah Harkness, author of the loathed All Souls Trilogy, I was already about 50 pages into the book and liking it, and good thing too, because if I had been looking at the book on the library shelf and trying to decide based on that, I very well may have put it back. Then again, the other blurb was from Tom Reiss, who wrote The Black Count, which is a book I really liked. This book was really nothing like either of those authors’ work, though.
The book starts off with a creepy dude buying a custom golem–an superhumanly strong (and usually eventually violent) being made from clay to do a master’s bidding–for a wife from an even creepier dude. However, her master, Creepy Dude I, dies on a ship en route to NYC within an hour of breathing life into her, leaving her alone, masterless and confused. Also near the beginning, we are introduced to a Syrian immigrant metalworker who, the moment he tries to fix a copper flask, is surprised to come face to face with a naked guy–the jinni! And then these two folkloric creatures try to navigate the Big Apple. Lots of plot ensues.
It’s a pretty simple story, especially for a book of nearly 500 pages, and especially when there is not a whole lot in the way of character development or depth to the story. There weren’t a whole lot of themes that were explored, no excavating of the human psyche or ruminations on character, time, ambition, or anything like that. And often that grates on me in a book, but not here. If only all of those books could be this good! I do wish the author had left the ending a little more open–my only real complaint is that it was maybe tied up in too neat a package. But there is a time and a place for that, and I will keep this in mind as a good comfort read for rainy nights.
What this book contains is just straightforward storytelling, but it’s the high quality kind, the kind that gave me a 5 star reading experience. I read it in two days and let me tell you, it was prettyyy engrossing. I had a hard time putting it down and it was super readable. The writing wasn’t gorgeous but it was good at evoking the scenery: it was well suited to the story it was telling, and it was easy to digest so I could really fly through the pages. It was the perfect simple story, charming and riveting. A satisfying experience that I would recommend to most readers.