Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Golem And The Djinni Book Review

The Golem and the DjinniThe Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Golem and the Jinni is a haunting historical fantasy .
its not one story and not about two characters only , these are elegant, anachronistic stories of magic , too folklore-packed , alternating between different places and different times and eras and interlacing two different cultures , set against a narrative voice that's equally as magical , its slow , Carefully crafted and the book has this Arabian nights feel to it .
It took Helene wecker 7 years to write this book , this is why it was never rushed , always steady slow paced and heavy with its details , it felt too Rich , the Characters are compelling and layered .

the tale Opens at the turn of the century in 1899 , with the Golem chava ( meaning life ) , a creature from Jewish mysticism , from Kabbalah / Central European Judaism , its a human-like creature of clay whose purpose is to obey and protect its master .. being made by Yehudah Schaalman the disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic , and bound to some master who offers a ruptured appendix and dies in their way to NY .
The other is a jinni or djinni ( named Ahmad ) , a creature of Bedouin / Middle East / Islamic culture , a being of smokeless fire , once roaming the syrian deserts was trapped for a thousand years in a copper flask before Boutros arbeely , a tinsmith in Manhattan’s Little Syria releases him .

Ahmad is An ancient being , he moans the limits of his humanity. he wants to escape his bonds and find limitless freedom . while Chava She is fearful and tentative, always aware of revealing too much . Ahmad's age and experience ( at the time of his incarceration he was already several hundred years old) , his arrogance and matter-of-fact behavior , even the understanding of his nature and history , stand in stark contrast to Chava's newness .
besides , here there is one of the best supporting casts I have seen in a while , the detailed stories about the lives of fadwa al-hadid and her father abu-yusuf , the bedouin girl who lived a thousand years ago , the tragic story of doctor mahmoud saleh (ice-cream saleh) one story that i really warmed up toward , mechael levy , boutrous arbeely , anne and the Radzin's bakery ..

Though its a fat book that took me particularly long time to read , but i feel now that even with my focused reading i missed something , this book have the aura of a philosophical heft , of some too deep message and now i have this strong feeling that i didn't dig enough to find it ..
anyhow this novel absolutely didn't turn out what i expected it to be , When I picked it up , I expected it to be focused on Judaism and Islam . I was surprised to discover that the jinni in the novel isn't connected to Islam in the same way that the golem is connected to Judaism. Rather, he's more broadly connected to Arab culture , which is a mixture of Christians and Muslims .
Jewish readers might have more to connect with in here . The Jewish aspects of the book seemed more fully realized than the Syrian side, but perhaps this is due to the fact that the author herself is jewish , with more background about her own culture and religion .
but even so , Chava does not seem to consider herself Jewish , and seems to have no strong feelings about religion in general , Ahmad, meanwhile, finds the entire concept of religion ludicrous.
so , it isn't about religion as it is about cultures . I felt culturally enriched , i read much while reading this book , about things like the kabbalah , John the Baptist and things of this sort , the author compares a bit of folklore from two different cultures and looks at how they work in a new place . She offers consideration of deep human issues ,we can see this clearly in many of its quotes :

* "They'd Need No Reason!" Shouted Arbeely. "Why Can't You Understand ? Men Need No Reason To Cause Mischief , Only An Excuse!"

* “If the act of love is so dangerous, why do people risk so much for it?”

* “Faith is believing in something even without proof, because you know it in your heart to be true.”

* “Most idealists lived in their own impossible worlds, sealed away from reality ”

* “But some will be happy with whatever comes their way, and others won’t be satisfied with anything. And there’s always a few who are only looking to take advantage. ”

It was a bit hard to write a review for this book , i feel like there much more of it that i didnt mention
and i am not finding the coherent sentences for them ..

the end was okay , it was satisfying but held the burden of some type of subsided melancholy , also it was a bit open than it should be , and just it was one more unexpected thing in this book , i anticipated something more triumphant , or completely heartbreaking, and it just was sort of ... adrift in the middle .. something in between ..

I think Readers who appreciated rich details in history and folklore will enjoy this book .
and here check this video about it , its beautifully animated :

View all my reviews

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