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The Hidden Palace: A Novel of the Golem and…
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The Hidden Palace: A Novel of the Golem and the Jinni (edição 2021)

por Helene Wecker (Autor)

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Título:The Hidden Palace: A Novel of the Golem and the Jinni
Autores:Helene Wecker (Autor)
Informação:Harper (2021), 480 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca

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The Hidden Palace por Helene Wecker

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Note: Some spoilers for the previous book. No spoilers for this sequel.

This book, melding magical realism with historical fiction, continues the story that began with the 2013 novel, The Golem and The Jinni. I reread that book before taking on the sequel, and although it probably wasn’t necessary, I am glad I did so, having forgotten many small details.

The story takes place for the most part in Manhattan, a place which the author clearly knows thoroughly - even in its historic aspects - and loves. It is set at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Most of the characters are the same as in the previous novel, although there are a few important additions.

It's an immigrant story in a way, about two very different beings who ended up in the melting pot of New York in 1899. One is a golem, and one a jinni.

In Jewish folklore, a golem is a human-like figure made out of clay and brought to life by esoteric magic known only to a select few adept at Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah. Golems – unnaturally strong and unquestionably obedient to their creators - were said to have been created from time to time in olden days to help defend Jews from anti-Semitic attacks.

In Wecker’s first book, a Prussian man who could not find a wife went to an old man with reputed occult knowledge to request that a golem be made for him to serve as a wife. He packed up the golem and set out for New York. He died en route, however, and the golem was left to fend for herself. Rabbi Avram Meyer, a kindly rabbi, saw the golem, recognized what she was, and took her in to protect her, naming her Chava.

Meanwhile, a parallel story concerned the unexpected release of a jinni from an old copper flask in a tinsmith shop in New York's Little Syria. Jinnis (or genies) are the products of Middle Eastern and Muslim mythology, and are said to be spirits made of fire. Many, however, can make themselves look like humans. Boutros Arbeely, the tinsmith who inadvertently released the jinni, who was in the guise of a handsome young man, vowed to protect him much as the rabbi did with Chava, and named him Ahmad.

It is only a matter of time before this woman of earth and man of fire meet, and realize they have more in common than might at first be apparent. As they navigated through their unexpected lives in America, they also get to know each other, helping each other to understand what it means to be human, and maybe even what it means to love.

The sequel begins a year later, with Chava working at a bakery and Ahmad working at the tinsmith’s. Neither Ahmad nor Chava sleep, so they use their time in the evenings to walk together through the streets and on the rooftops of Manhattan. They have a close relationship, although one characterized by a great deal of philosophical disagreement. They are very different in some ways. The jinni muses that Chava had a prudish streak, was serious-minded, and rarely laughed. He thought “She would make a terrible jinniyeh.”

Ahmad is so good at using his inner fire to shape metals that the small tinsmith shop in Little Syria in Manhattan is now Arbeely & Ahmad, All Metals.

Ahmad lives like a human now, having given up not only the jinn language but jinn ways:

“He followed rules and conventions, as far as he deemed himself reasonably able. He guarded his speech, and checked his desires, and tried, at all times, to remember that his actions had consequences.” Chava too, was making her way as a human as well as she could. Both have to be very careful however not to reveal their great strength and their inhuman characteristics. In fact, when people at the bakery notice that Chava never seems to age, she knows she has to leave even though she loves the job. She enrolls in school for “Domestic Sciences” to become a teacher.

Sophia Winston, a young girl with whom the jinni had a brief relationship, is now off traveling through the Middle East try to find a cure for her constant lack of warmth since her affair with Ahmad.

Rabbi Meyer has died, and Rabbi Lev Altschul took over his collection of mystical books. He becomes obsessed with making a golem himself, eventually letting his young daughter Kreindel help him. The two are alone; the Rabbi’s wife died years earlier. The outcome of his efforts play a significant role in the story.

Complicating matters, Yehudah Schaalman, the villainous man who created Chava, has come to New York to find the golem and find the key, if he could, to eternal life. He has no moral compass, and perfectly willing to do all the damage necessary to attain his goal.

As the story progresses and the years pass, we see all the characters gradually come together in a momentous denouement, taking place sixteen years after the golem and the jinni first arrived in Manhattan.

Evaluation: I loved this sequel, and enjoyed following the clever threads woven by the author to flesh out other lives and make them intersect with those of Chava and Ahmad. It is not at all clear if they will survive, and in what state, and how the others will fare in their wake. Altogether a satisfying story! ( )
  nbmars | Mar 27, 2021 |
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