Tuesday, June 04, 2013

review: the golem and the jinni

It's been awhile since I've updated you on what I'm reading. Partly because there have been a few mneh type books lately, the ones that don't really warrant much discussion in my mind. Books that are fine to read, and if someone handed you one and you had nothing else you would read it, but if you'd paid money for it you wish you could go back to the bookstore and get your fifteen dollars back. How much time should I really spend talking about that?

I've also gotten sucked down the trap of looking at too many of everyone else's crafting blogs and trying to figure out the math in their quilt designs. And reading quilting magazines and saying ooooh I want to make that. And contemplating spending $100 on fabric that I probably won't get around to using for a year, but it's pretty and I know just where I'd use it. Then there's the non fiction I'm reading, and I tend to take my time with that.

There has been some real reading lately, though, and some fiction. As it stands, I'd like my fifteen dollars back. There's nothing wrong, per se, with Helene Wecker's part-historical, part-fantasy work the Golem and the Jinni but there's also no magic (except for the magic she writes about, but I don't know that that counts). I finished the book feeling underwhelmed and a little bit frustrated. Then I went into Indigo and they had a shelf saying "If you liked the Golem and the Jinni you'll also like ... " and listed four books I've also read that are a million times better. This book didn't deserve the extra push in my mind.

What was so annoying was that this book, the ideas here? They had potential. I picked it up because it sounded interesting, I liked the idea of mythical creatures from two different historical contexts meeting each other. I liked the idea of the whole thing taking place in last century New York. There was good stuff in the making here, it just didn't come together.

Wecker simply tried to accomplish too much here. She made this rich, beautiful portrayal of historical New York that was truly well done. It was also, I think, her undoing. So much of the energy went to the research and recreation of her setting that there was no magic left to drive her ambitious plot along. Perhaps the very inhumanity of her main characters made them difficult to relate too, and I can respect that, but her supporting cast? The humans in her story? Too many of them felt like sketches and as if they were there are part of the plot, not there for themselves.

There was also a lot of philosophizing in the fiction, which I normally enjoy. And it was ok, but not spectacular. As a whole I felt like the story was driven to its conclusion because the writer had planned out and determined that this would be how the story went, rather than any internal push within the world.

I feel grumpy writing this though. If you're wondering why, just check out the reviews on Goodreads which are uniformly much more positive than mine. I don't know what they were finding here that I missed, but to me the magic was lacking.

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