This is my first blog post and my first book of 2014 and, do far, it’s a gorgeous and haunting book! It’s the story of two beings out of time: Chava, a Golem woken up in the middle of the Atlantic en route to America in the 1800s; and Ahmad, a Djinni trapped for perhaps a thousand years in a lamp and released in New York at the same time. There is a wealth of transformation so far with the novel as the useless becomes useful, the old becomes renovated, history becomes myth and I suspect that will be the metaphor at the heart of the book. Chava herself of made of clay and therefore malleable; Ahmad, as a djinn is a creature of winds and fire and therefore equally protean. Both Chava and Ahmad have, however, become fixed in human form which I suspect is more significant than a mere plot device! Even their names are imposed on them by others in an attempt to transform them.
Interwoven with these two eponymous stories are others: those of the craftsman who made the Golem, a doctor whose encounters with a djinn have affected him, the rabbi who took the Golem in. Admittedly I’m only 100 pages in but it really is a gorgeous novel!
If you enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, you might like the mythologies mixing in the melting pot of Nineteenth Century New York and the exploration of immigrant and outsider communities adjusting to a new life.
The mix of acutely felt and sensed historical fiction and the fairy tale or mythological elements might appeal if you enjoyed either Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus or Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.