The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecke
Review: 4 out of 5 stars
At 675 pages, you might pass over this book, but pick it up anyway if you like speculative fiction, historical fiction, or just have a long plane ride and only want one book. The writing and plot makes it read like a much shorter book (think of it as a 450-page book instead). Book clubs especially should look into selecting this as themes here are complex and plentiful.
In the novel, a Golem and a Jinni find each other when they both end up in Manhattan, NY in 1899. Their lives becomes more and more intertwined as they learn how to live among humans.
Themes include immigration, isolation, humanness, religion, sexuality, gender roles, and the list goes on and on. All these themes are treated with a reverence and complexity that allows for a more meditation quality. Speculative fiction is at its best when it uses fantastic elements to bring to light human issues, and this book has this in spades. Wecker uses the nonhuman creatures to delve into cultural and religious issues that would feel pedestrian in human characters.
The plot is hardly traditional, but it does bring a mystery with flashbacks as well as solid character progression to keep the reader going. The language is easy and delightful, adding a flourish only in places where it’s needed. The characters are a bit hard to relate to, but they are written with depth and feel authentic enough.
I am deducting a point because of the length. While it reads quickly (and I seriously don’t want anyone to not get it for the length), it would have been that much better if it had been shorter. In the middle of the book, I fatigued of hearing the same character issues and complaints. It has one or two too many characters. And with no character that we easily relate with, the book has to rely on plot to keep us interested. I just feel that everything this book accomplished could have been done with fewer pages. The ending is also a little too neat, but I would forgive that if it hadn’t taken 200 pages to end.
Overall I recommend this book, especially if the genre appeals to the reader.
What to say to make people think you’ve read the book: I pretty sure that if Chava had my job, she would have killed everyone already.