Book Review – “The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker

Full disclaimer: I listened to this book on an audiobook through the Libby app, powered by my local library. It took me exactly 3 weeks of an hour-plus commute to finish it.

And what a ride.

The story begins with the Golem in chapter one, and then switches to the point of view of the Jinni in chapter two. I assumed that was the way every chapter was going to go, switching back and forth between our two title characters. I am so happy to say that I was wrong.

There are so many threads to this story, so many narrators, and yet the author is able to give each of them a distinct voice and you can tell who is currently in the frame of the story-camera even if it’s another character talking. There are a few minor bit characters who have just a few lines here and there, but for the majority, it boils down to just a few. I’m not going to tell you everyone whose head we get into, but just know that it was an exciting ride and I am so happy I was able to experience this book.

I did guess one of the first big “twists,” so to speak, which happened before the end of chapter one, but I am delighted to say that, while there are one or two obvious plot lines, the majority of the book was a major surprise for me. There were a few emotional moments throughout, and I feel like if I had been reading the book myself, I would have had to put the book down and sit for a minute to absorb what had just happened.

With so many characters, I couldn’t figure out how on earth the Wecker was going to tie them all together, but she managed to do seamlessly. I wasn’t left with any doubts, and I wasn’t left with any sort of hanging plot threads. Everything is accounted for at the end, and there’s even a hint of something more, where Wecker leaves it open for a possible visit in the future.

The book is set in 19th-20th century New York (we’re talking 1899-1900), over the course of one year. Wecker does a fantastic job of showing her readers instead of telling them what’s going on in New York at the turn of the last century, and it never detracts from her novel’s main path.

The characters are dazzling, the setting is alive, and the plot is absolutely riveting. I could see it beginning to come together, and was still shocked when she managed to pull it off. It’s not a cheesy book, like I originally thought it would be when I saw it on the shelves when I worked at the bookstore all those years ago. It’s a well-written historical fantasy, with memorable characters and emotional moments that will make you want to reread it again and again. I’m contemplating buying myself a physical copy, because I enjoyed the audiobook so much.

If you’re a fan of history, New York, magical creatures, or long-reaching plots, this is a book I suggest you pick up. I know it’s a few years old (it was published in 2013), but if it’s something you skipped the first time around, I recommend you jump on the train a few years late. I myself had never heard anything about this book, and I am absolutely delighted to report that it was an experience I won’t forget.

Since I have a slightly shorter commute now (which will be cut again in the future when I move into my new apartment), I’m finding it harder to listen to the audiobooks because I just want to keep listening, to not let the story stop. It’s the whole “Just one more chapter!” mentality, and I’m so pleased to say that the narrator for the audiobook version of this novel was exceptional.

If you have any long trips coming up, any drives at all, or if your commute could use something a little more exciting, I recommend checking out the Libby app, which is run through your local library (so you will need a card!). It ties into the parent app, Overdrive, but has a much better user interface and experience.

The Golem and the Jinni is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and it may have become a favorite of mine. It might be a little slow at first, but I promise you it will pick up its pace soon enough.

Have you read this? Do you have anything to add, or something to ask? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, keep reading.

Word Count:

Blog: 6,490/10,000 || Thesis: 1,819/10,000

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