The Golem and the JinniThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

a pretty good but frustrating book.

the plot: golem and jinni set loose in 1899 New York City. almost as good as godzilla, you might think, except that these two are pretty bent on remaining undiscovered. sigh. early kaiju it’s not.

ok so i’m probably the only reader who thinks: kaiju! with glee in reference to this book. but hey. i yam what i yam.

anyway back to the book.

so female golem and male jinni, one setting foot in the city after her master dies on the boat over, and the jinni accidentally set loose from a stoppered flask. of course it’s a love story! how could it be anything else? and as love stories go, it’s actually not a bad one at all. the jinni is a really compelling bad-boy lover, and the golem, well, she’s a bit of a limp dishrag but not without her issues, too.

i guess it’s the golem who got to me the most. she’s forever struggling with her golem nature: the need to serve. that’s what golems are–clay creatures brought to life to serve a master. so ya, i can see where, in theory, she’d live to serve. but i have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea that Woman is Born to Serve. it pisses me off. and she’s forever trying to give up what free will she possesses, or kill herself, rather than really engaging with the notion of free will and what it might mean to her.

the jinni i like a lot better. he’s funny, for one thing. he’s careless, too, of other people in ways that are supposed to be immoral. but my thinking is: he’s a fucking jinni, he’s not a human. why is he being judged as a human?

on the whole i think i would have been more intrigued by this book if the author had run with the idea of the two pursuing their own definitions of their essential natures. i mean, can you imagine them out in the desert somewhere in 1899? they could have had a blast! but instead they dial back their superpowers to socially acceptable limits for humans and the times and everything else. the jinni ends the book desirous of having his metalworking job back.

so, in the end, it’s a paean to socially acceptable norms. pity. i would have much rather read to find out what golem and jinni norms might have been.

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