"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened
and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you
and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse,
and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was."
Ernest Hemingway

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Golem and the Jinni

The Book
Image courtesy of
The Golem and the Jinni
Helene Wecker

Cover Synopsis
"Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic.  Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, borne in the ancient Syrian Desert.  Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.

"Struggling to make their way in 1899 New York, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their immigrant neighbors while masking their true selves.  Meeting by chance, they become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds.  But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

"Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale."

The language of Helene Wecker's novel was the first thing to catch my eye.  It has a storyteller's tone, if that makes sense:  it reads easily, smoothly, and it seems to pour from the page.  It's very easy to become engulfed the intertwining stories of the golem and the jinni as they struggle to adjust, acclimate and otherwise fit in.

I should point out, that Wecker is very clever in crafting her story.  The ways in which she skillfully weaves together the jinni's history and the golem's origin and the present is fascinating.  I mean, it's amazing how perfectly they overlap and how spectacularly well they seem to just grow into each other.

And I love Chava and Ahmad.

Oh, I adore Avram Meyer - and there's something about the villainous Yehudah Schaalman that's thrilling; however, I love Chava and Ahmad best.  I love that Chava is made of clay, that she can visualize other's desire and act upon them, that she is wildly powerful and yet incredibly kind.  I love that Ahmad is made of fire and wind, that he can craft beautiful works of art in molten metal, that he is wild and arrogant and struggling with a life he didn't foresee.

They're wonderful characters, and it's a lovely book to read.  While it may sometimes be difficult to pinpoint which direction the story will go, that's really half the fun.  I like the element of suspense seeded into the novel, the way it keeps you guessing for a few more pages.

Overall Impression
I enjoyed every morsel of The Golem and the Jinni.  It was, in fact, "compulsively readable."  It had a wonderful pace, an intriguing set of characters, a fantastic blend of history and folklore and myth, and it had a magnificent story to wrap it all together.

To tell the truth, it would be very easy for me to read it again.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Book Thief

Image courtesy of
The Book Thief
Markus Zusak

Cover Synopsis
"By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger finds her life changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow.  It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.  So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read.  Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

"But these are dangerous times.  When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish man in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down."

The Book Thief is heart-wrenching and endearing and beautiful.  It is an unusual book, considering Death acts as the narrator of Liesel Meminger's story, but it's laced with beautiful and intriguing language, a sort of synesthesia in which colors are linked with perceptions and experiences, meetings with the dearly departed.

Death makes a surprisingly good narrator.  He's very precise, very measured in recounting Liesel's story, but he's also thorough and thoughtful.  Although I found him - or it, or whatever it is that Death might be considered - slightly unnerving, I enjoyed every last morsel of his tale.

I will also note that The Book Thief works upon you slowly.  It builds slowly, it takes time to reach that all-important resolution; however, it gives you ample time to form attachments.  You won't even notice how important these characters are to you, how attached you've become to them, until, suddenly, tragedy strikes and it's quick, explosive, heart-rending - and it's like you've suffered along with Liesel, like you've endured this horrifying and tragic loss with her.

You experience it.  You feel it.

And, as much as those final pages hurt, as much as they will wound you in the reading, you'll be glad you finished and you'll be glad you picked it up.

Overall Impression
As part of the final blurb on the cover synopsis, I read this:  "In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time."

And, honestly, I couldn't agree more.  I was completely in love with every chapter, every page of Zusak's novel.

Don't get me wrong, The Book Thief left me in tears.  I mean, I completely lost it when I reached the conclusion, but I don't regret reading it and, truthfully, I feel as if I would have missed out on something truly wonderful if I had let it pass me by.

The Book Thief is an exceptional novel with wonderful characters, beautiful language, and a truly magnificent story.