Skip to main content


Literary Friday: The Golem and the Jinni and Blackbird House

Friday, August 2, 2013

Good evening, Lovelies!  Sorry I'm late with Literary Friday, but this is the first chance I've had to sit in front of a computer in days!  I appreciate your comments, and I'm sorry I didn't reply to many of them. I did read them all, and I want you to know how much you're appreciated.  I'm hoping I'll be back to blogging next week!  *fingers crossed*

Recently I read The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker and Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman.

Blackbird House is a neat collection of stories surrounding a Revolutionary War era farmhouse on the farthest tip of Cape Cod.  Each chapter reveals vignettes about the families who call the farm home.  Some of the stories are tragic, but each has a magical thread that binds them together.  I've always enjoyed books with a home as a main character, so I liked this one very much.

A few of my favorite characters from the narratives are:  Lysander, a fisherman who was attacked by a monster halibut and coughs-up halibut teeth occasionally;  Violet, a reader who is betrayed by one man only to be cherished by another; Coral, the original occupant of the farmhouse who had the good sense to plant a field of sweet peas; and Dorey, a Holocaust survivor with impressive skills.  The home's owners over the years are each drawn to the enchanting farmhouse for various reasons, and many see ghosts and the white blackbird that haunt it.  The story comes full circle when Emma, a pediatric cancer survivor, meets a ten year old blond boy hauntingly similar to Coral's son who is lost at sea.  Lyrical and enchanting, Blackbird House is a fun book to savor.  I read one chapter a night for several days.

Sweet Peas

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker is the best book I've read so far this year.  I love books about mythical creatures, and the combination of a golem and a jinni (two very different creatures from two warring cultures) was just too tempting to put back on the shelf.  

Helene Wecker's website is great, and here is a bit of the mythology concerning golems and jinnis:

In Jewish myth and folklore, a golem is a human-like figure that is brought to life by powerful magic. They are powerful but simple-minded, and must obey their masters in all things. According to Jewish law, a golem’s life is valued at less than a human’s, for only God, not Man, can give a creature a soul. Golems are usually made from clay, though they can also be made of wood or even ash.

In Middle Eastern and Muslim mythology, a jinni (also djinni or genie) is a spirit made of smokeless flame. A jinni (or, to use the plural, jinn) is usually invisible to humans, but can be seen when it wants to be.
Jinn are mentioned often in the Q’uran. In Muslim belief, God created the jinn from fire, as humans were created from earth and angels from light. 

Chava, the golem, meets the jinni Ahmad by accident in 1899 New York City. Both are hiding their true natures from their communities, yet neither can hide their "otherness" from each other.  Chava is made by one of the most insidious villains I've read lately for an immigrant, and her purpose is to serve as the immigrant's wife.  Brought to life in the hold of the ship en route to America by Kabbalistic dark magic, Chava is left masterless upon arrival in New York because her master dies on the ship.  She is soon befriended by a kind and elderly rabbi who helps her assimilate into the neighborhood. Ahmad is released from his copper flask prison by a master tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan Syrian neighborhood. Some of my favorite characters reside here, and although Ahmad is imprisoned in human form, he begins to strive for the best of human characteristics.  Chava's humanity seems imminent until the book's climax reveals her true purpose.  The plot is expertly told in both real time and flashback.  I pride myself on deciphering plots, but this one left me shocked.  Turn of the century New York City, especially the Lower East Side, is written so well by Wecker that I felt like I had traveled back in time.  I appreciate her scholarship on the topic.  This is her first novel, and I look forward to following her career and reading her next book!

Helene Wecker discusses how/why she wrote The Golem and the Jinni.

Again, I apologize for posting so late!  I hope you'll share your summer reading with me!
Until next time...
Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. I read Blackbird House quite a while ago and liked it quite well. I loaned it to a friend and she hated it. Amazing how differently we react to books. xo Diana

  2. Ricki Jill, I'm ordering Blackbird House. It sounds like my kind of book. Thanks for the recommendation. ~ Sarah

  3. Hmm, I wonder which of these books I'd like more. I too love books where a house is one of the main characters but the other sounds intriguing, especially since the ending was a surprise to you.

    Ahem, I always know how a book is going to end! Know how? Because I am one of those strange people who always reads the first chapter then the last chapter and then goes back to the third chapter. That is the only way I won't rush through the book to find out how it ends but can instead read it with enjoyment of the writing. Am I the only one who does that?

  4. I wish I could say I was reading something wonderful, but I just read a mystery- quickie reading between projects. I have a stack of books next to my bed and a long list on my Nook. I need to take more time to read.

    Thanks for good ideas.

  5. reading days are in the winter IF I can stay awake by my cozy fire..usually in hibernation mode! Interesting choices to try for sure. Love the sweet peas!

  6. You're the second person to mention The Golem and The Jinni to me in one week! I'm definitely reading this one, asap. :D

  7. I agree, The Blackbird House was wonderful.

  8. Hi! I just wanted to stop by and say thank you for leaving a comment at Turning Pages!

    Sign up for the End of Summer Read-A-Thon!


Comments are friendly!


I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

Follow me on Instagram