Friday, January 31, 2014


Great read.  It was a good bit of fun and caught my attention quickly.  I found I wanted to get back to it and see what happened next.   The stories are all parallel in presentation and it is half the book before the two creatures meet.
While it is fantasy, the characters are developed as having real human characteristics and feel full to us.  In fantasy I've discarded, the characters are shallow and often multidimensional with the delight in them totally based on their super natural abilities.  Here they face their condition with the conflicted and complex sense of the problems in life as do all characters.
Attractive is the traditional use of old books as the source of magical knowledge that has been lost to mankind in general.  The rabbi's search through all the old libraries of other rabbi in his area is a great device.
Religion is very mixed in the book, being much a part of the fantasy world and yet absent of any real God.  All actions need to be made by the characters.  There is no intervention by God.

Helene Wecker -  There was some biographical information and it all made me really like this author. 
She went to Carlton college like Julie.
Her discussion of how she was motivated to write and book and especially what got her to write a book with fantasy since that was what she liked to read.

Elizabeth found this background information that overviews the afterlife beliefs of Jews and that is helpful in understanding this book.

This conflicts with the information build into the Rabbi detective books as he discounts afterlife.

They ride the elevated a lot in this novel.  Here is what it looked like in 1899


The Jinni is fascinated by fish.  He has never been underwater because that much water would kill him.  In the aquarium he visits the fish often.

p. 151  Chava was "a miracle of productivity"

p. 154  Aging is compared to a fabric.  No matter how well you take care of it, it gets frayed along the edges.

Souls exist within the frame of the novel.  So does reincarnation.  Of course, Chava most likely does not have a soul.

P.193    An oud is mentioned


and the Dabke


The structure of the novel is to allow the individual threads to progress quite a while parallel to each other and then to begin to overlap.  It is over 200 pages before the Jinni and the Golem meet each other.

I never got a real sense of the back story on the ice cream.  Why does the ice cream man end up being able to make a perfect ice cream?

SEX  This is another novel where sex is just not celebrated.  The Jinni has great sex, but it is not within a marriage and it results in terrible suffering or death.  The Golem has been created without sexual drive or interest or pleasure.  Strange when she has so many other emotional traits.
Irene dabbles in premarital sex and the results are terrible.
Too bad.

Policemen come and go, they die, and they don't matter as characters. 


There is a bit too much coincidence in all the finding and losing of magical papers and even the intersection of  characters.  NYC even in those days is huge.  The plot device of giving the bad rabbi a talent in tracking works well, but other times the characters just bump into one another.

p. 443 - odalisque
p. 462  virtiginouos - causing vertigo esp from great height.

apostate is the word used to describe Michael's religious position.  He is one who renounces religion.



near eidetic  memories - photographic memory.p27

jinniyeh - female Jinn  in context p.28
narghile - p68  A tobacco pipe that draws through water.  IMAGES OF NARGHILE


The head of John the Baptist may still be in the shrine mentioned on p 39.  Umayyad Mosque.  It was bombed.  Here too is where Christ is to come on the day of the second coming.

the Hebrew Sheltering House where Michael works is a real historical place


Included here are some late 1880 views of Central Park.  the author notes that it was indeed against the rules to walk on the grass in the beginning of the park, but those rules were relaxed as more and more people used the park.  In the beginning boys could not play baseball in the park without a permission note from their school teacher

"The creation of Central Park coincided with a boom in sports in general and baseball in particular. Because of this fact the majority of post Civil War ball clubs were populated by citizens possessed of (Gasp!) somewhat less than the best pedigree. So the park commissioners came to the peculiar conclusion that since the park could not accommodate all the local ball clubs on its new fields they would make it unavailable to everyone. Except local schoolboys that were able to produce a note from their teacher. (Really.)
In any case the park now boasts 26 ball fields in total which are all open to the general public. The only requirement now is that the note from your teacher has been replaced by obtaining a permit".