The Golem and the Jinni

By Helene Wecker,

Book cover of The Golem and the Jinni

Book description

'One of only two novels I've ever loved whose main characters are not human' BARBARA KINGSOLVER

For fans of The Essex Serpent and The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock.

'By far my favourite book of of the year' Guardian

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life…

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Why read it?

9 authors picked The Golem and the Jinni as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The story of two mystical creatures stuck in 1899 New York who have to make their own way in the world.  Despite their different natures, they become unlikely friends and have to work together to survive. 

While I enjoyed the perspective of both supernatural beings in this book, I found the golem especially engaging. Through her eyes, the reader gets an amazingly detailed view of turn-of-the-century New York as well as the intricacies of human behavior. 

The jinni faces different challenges—he’s lost a chunk of his memory—but he also has to adapt to life among people. Wrapped in a rich…

From Alison's list on a mythical creature’s point of view.

The Golem and the Djinni is an exhilarating tale that captivates you, making you reluctant to part ways with its beloved characters. It's a literary adventure that enchants every time you dive into its pages.

As a historian, reading this book felt like stepping into a time machine, immersing myself in the vibrant tapestry of early 20th-century New York. The vivid imagery painted by the author transformed history into a living, breathing movie. Every word vividly depicted the evolving cityscape, its pulse echoing through the ages.

The seamless blend of history and intimate relationships entranced me. Wecker masterfully wove the…

This novel is a creative tour de force. I was wholly immersed in the worlds it created and bereft when I finished it. Thank goodness – and the brilliant Helene Wecker - for its sequel, The Hidden Palace – just as brilliant.
Not a promising premise – a female Golem made of clay, and a Djinni, all fire and elemental passion, encounter each other in 1899 New York. Chava, as she is named, and Ahmad, as he is known, find ways to live and work in immigrant communities, while bound to each other in secret, in ways even their unsuspecting…

I loved this book because it combined unexpected things. New York City in 1899 is full of immigrants from all over the world, living in communities that rub together in crowded, often impoverished situations. In that realistic setting the story places a female golem and a male jinni. Reading about two non-human creatures from Jewish and Arab cultures figuring out how to exist in the human world made me think about what it means to be human and how communities work. Plus there's interesting stuff about Kabbalistic magic, baking, and life in the desert.

From Audrey's list on giving reality a supernatural twist.

America in the late 19th and early 20th century was a fascinating place of both turmoil and opportunity. Wecker takes what is already an interesting historical era and makes it even more fun by asking, “what if two of the immigrants to this new land were supernatural?” 

The Golem, created by a rabbi for a man who died on the journey, tries to find a new life in the Jewish neighborhoods of New York, except that she doesn’t really fit in among normal humans. 

The Jinni also struggles to fit in, and you get a lot of his backstory where…

This historical novel intertwined with beautiful elements of fantasy, tells the story of Chava, a golem created by a Rabbi, and Ahmad, a Jinn born in the Syrian desert, both of whom find themselves in turn of the century New York. This book is gorgeously written and has such a marvelous foundation of characters and their relationships with one another that it has become one of my favorites. As Chava and Ahmad slowly become friends and form an unbreakable connection, we also get a deep dive into the chaotic beauty of immigrant neighborhoods in this period, and the people who…

This fascinating novel is about two supernatural beings from two separate cultures—a woman made of clay by a Polish rabbi and an ancient Syrian jinni recently released from captivity—who, rejected by their own kind, join together to try to find a life in early turn-of-the-20th-century America. This is a wonderfully written and complex work about two very complex individuals; I couldn’t stop reading it. The second book, The Hidden Palace, is equally compelling.

From Barbara's list on Jewish science fiction and fantasy.

I like books that take me to places and times I’ve never been, but I love books that also make me think—about familiar things in new ways, about the unfamiliar, about what it means to be human. The Golem and the Jinni does all that in spades while sharing the tale of Chava, a golem, and Ahmad, a jinn, both trying to find a place to belong. It’s a story that transports you and transforms you. You never want to put it down. You never want it to end. 

I adore books that combine literary style with the genre elements of fantasy, and Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni does it beautifully (as does her sequel, The Hidden Palace). The sense of time (1899), place (New York), and culture (Syrian and Jewish) add depth and substance to the relationship of two lost souls who find each other in a land that’s foreign to them both.

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