‘The Golem and the Djinni’ by Helene Wrecker

GolemIn early twentieth century New York, a Golem wakes without a master and a Djinni is released from a bottle after years in captivity, bound in human form.

Created out of clay, the Golem has one single purpose, to protect her master and serve his needs. But when he dies crossing the Atlantic, she is left utterly alone and overwhelmed by the flood of human desires and emotions in the bustling city. Taken under the wing of a Jewish Rabbi who recognises her for what she is, the Golem struggles to overcome her instincts and to live a life disguised as a human within the tight Jewish community.

Elsewhere, in a Middle Eastern neighbourhood, a man repairing a metal flask is stunned by the appearance of the Djinni on his shop floor. The Djinni, having been trapped for thousands of years inside the flask and bound by iron cuffs that keep him assuming from his true form, is forced to take refuge as an apprentice at the metal shop in order to blend into his surroundings.

But even as they both adapt to their new lives, the Djinni never stops searching for a way to break his bonds and the Golem searches for answers and a way to be free to show her true self. Meeting by chance, they spend their nights wandering the city streets and parks, forming a friendship that helps them to get through the days they spend pretending to be human. Far away in Europe, a man sets out across the ocean. Dangerous and powerful, he threatens everything they have, but he might hold the key to setting them free.

Both the Golem and the Djinni are forced by circumstance to live a lie, but soon enough they come to understand more than they ever thought they would about human life, love and friendship. As they grow in their own separate ways, the novel takes us on a journey of self-discovery, experiencing the world through their eyes. The book is set almost entirely in multi-immigrant communities, tight knit areas with people who have maintained their cultures and traditions despite being far from home. But these strong ties can also act as a barrier to change, transpiring to make this book a story of acceptance in more ways than one.

It was beautifully written and full of brilliant descriptions of turn of the century New York. The characters really came to life and the central story was full of twists, turns, myths and legends that kept me hooked the whole way. The tone and feel of the book really reminded me of Alice Hoffman’s ‘The Museum of Extraordinary Things’, which I also loved.

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