The Golem and the Djinni

  I chose this from the rejected pile at my book club: one person’s rejection is another’s treasure :-). If you enjoy stories like Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’, where magical worlds intersect with our reality then I think you will enjoy this story – though it’s not in Gaiman’s league.

The story is set in the early part of the twentieth century and centres on the migrant communities as they land on Eliis Island and have to make a life in New York. The Golem of the title finds herself alone and master-less, struggling within hours of her arrival to manager her created purpose to please with the multitude of demands in New York. After she is taken in by a kindly Rabbi who recognises her for what she is and wonders how much she will be able to deal with free will. The Djinni is accidentally conjured from a lamp, a tiny cliche, but by the tin smith who is repairing it, not a princess or a magician. The Djinni demonstrates his own metal working skills and stays on in the Syrian community where he finds his new home.

Of course, the two magical creatures eventually meet and search ways to support each other in containing their special abilities in a new world where magic is left behind. It wouldn’t be a story if things went easily. There are complications of the heart, their cultures collide and their magical pasts follow them from the Middle East as sinister characters cast long shadows into the immigrant community of New York.

This is  a good story with lead characters you can engage with in New York of the last century. To be honest, I did find the story dragged in places and I felt I was waiting for the writer to get on with it! But it is worth pushing through these moments as it is unusual and, like the best fantasy fiction, asks as many questions about the real, modern world as about the parallel world of the story. Welcoming strangers, hospitality, inclusive beliefs and the very question what makes a human are all carefully interwoven with the narrative. It is a bit longer than a usual paperback at around 500 pages, still, a good holiday read and highly recommended.


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