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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 (edició 2021)

de Helene Wecker (Autor)

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2341090,331 (4.25)11
Títol:The Hidden Palace: A Novel of the Golem and the Jinni
Autors:Helene Wecker (Autor)
Informació:Harper (2021), 480 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Etiquetes:No n'hi ha cap

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The Hidden Palace de Helene Wecker

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Chava Levy, a golem, and Ahmad al-Hadid, a jinni, continue living in secrecy in New York City, meeting each other at night to walk and argue. But as time goes on, Chava realizes that people will start to be suspicious of her as she never ages, and Ahmad keeps everyone at a distance, much to her chagrin.

When it comes down to it, it's very hard to say what this story is about, and I think that's also what left me feeling a bit dissatisfied. Reading it was enjoyable, but events just kind of meandered along as we follow not only Chava and Ahmad, but also Sophia Winston, the woman whom Ahmad had seduced and left cold (literally) in the first book, and the orphan girl Kreindel over the course of 15 or so years. It was frustrating to have a narrative pulling me in so many disparate directions at once, and I thought the way everything came together at the end was a little heavy handed. ( )
  bell7 | Oct 4, 2021 |
I thoroughly enjoyed The Golem and the Jinni—I gulped down the last few chapters sitting on the floor of a train station in France, anxious to get to the end before my platform was called—and this sequel is also a solid slice of escapist fantasy. It continues the story of Chava, the Golem, and Ahmad, the Jinni, in turn-of-the-century Manhattan, and imagines what might happen to two mythological creatures who find themselves living for years among humans.

Sadly, The Hidden Palace didn't quite entrance me as much as did the first book—it's less propulsive, a bit more episodic, and read as if Helene Wecker was using it in large part to set up stories to come. It's not a bad book, by any means, but I hope that all of the characters and plot lines introduced here will have a stronger pay-off in books to come. ( )
  siriaeve | Sep 11, 2021 |
Falling back into this world was like returning to old friends. Helene Wecker has created a world that is so magical, yet completely grounded in reality, and her characters live and breathe off the page. In the first novel, Ahmad and Chava are drawn to each other because of their lonliness - their "otherness", the feeling that nobody else can understand them. In The Hidden Palace, each meets another of their kind, and discovers that finding one "like" them isn't the cure they had hoped. So many characters from the first novel are back, and the addition of new faces and voices only enriches the narrative. I love this world. I would read 100 books with these characters, and I hope Wecker has plans for many more. ( )
  NeedMoreShelves | Sep 6, 2021 |
Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni is one of my favorite books. Set in 1899 New York City, the story serves up a unique blend of history and fantasy that focuses on the small-scale (yet often still high-stakes) rhythms of daily life. Wecker’s protagonists—the pair of magical beings featured in the novel’s title—aren’t human, but they’re forced to masquerade as immigrants, two more displaced visitors struggling with how to define and adapt their identities in a new land.

The sequel, The Hidden Palace, picks up soon after its predecessor left off. Having defeated the corrupt kabbalist Yehudah Schaalman (the closest thing the first book had to a villain), Chava, the golem, and Ahmad, the jinni, resume the new roles they’ve chosen for themselves. Chava continues working as a baker, Ahmad as a tinsmith. But where the previous entry in the series took place over the course of a year or so, The Hidden Palace spans a decade and a half. For a while, the mythical lovers’ new home seems to change faster than they do. New York alters and grows, “reveling in its constant newness, its own unending cycle of reinvention. Automobiles began to dot the streets … Telephones appeared, fascinating the Jinni, who couldn’t believe such a thing was possible without sorcery.”

The couple fights constantly, though, bickering in all-too-human fashion. The causes range from the duo’s fundamental differences—Chava is a construct of clay, Ahmad a creature of flame—to the constant strain of hiding and suppressing their true natures, to the grief brought on by losing some of the mortals who have become close to them. Eventually, the relationship ruptures, and Chava and Ahmad separate.

I didn’t love this part of the story. The romantic strife felt ordinary in the wrong way, even when it focused on the magical undercurrents. And the fantasy seemed a bit too familiar as well: instead of exploring other aspects of Jewish and Arabic mythology (a leviathan? A behemoth? A roc?), Wecker gives us new golems and jinnis to serve as rivals and mirrors.

But I’m glad she doubled down on the history. Because she does a superb job with it.

The Golem and the Jinni provided a nuanced view of the Jewish and Syrian communities in New York City. The Hidden Palace furthers this trend. The cultures we glimpse are richly textured, both multi-faceted and riven with internal conflicts. (For example, early on two minor Jewish characters face “each other balefully over the threshold” of a door, “each staring in clear distaste at the top of the other’s head: the one garbed in Orthodox hat and side-curls, and the other, in the Reform manner, as bare as a Gentile’s.”)

The book’s longer timeframe also allows Wecker to integrate notable events. Some are lesser-known, like the heatwave of 1901 that “fell upon the city like a hammer. Horses dropped dead in the streets. Ambulances raced from building to building, collecting the stricken. The city parks became haphazard dormitories as all searched for somewhere cool enough to sleep.” Famous tragedies like the sinking of the Titanic also intrude, as does World War I (seen here from a Jewish and Syrian perspective, as relatives in New York worry about their families across the ocean whose crops are being commandeered by soldiers).

Most of all, I appreciated the renewed look at the immigrant experience.

Chava and Ahmad didn’t choose to come to America—Chava was made for and brought by a master who later died; Ahmad was imprisoned in a flask that ended up in Little Syria (a Manhattan neighborhood) by chance. And when they arrive, they have no choice but to assimilate. The question is how much. What aspects of their previous personas can and should they retain? How much should they adjust to fit in? Where can they contribute?

The analogy isn’t perfect; the Golem and the Jinni aren’t just Americanizing—they’re anthropomorphizing too, becoming increasingly human whether they like it or not. But they grow to love the new cultures they’re exposed to, the architecture and idioms they encounter. And they help shape them.

It’s a worthy theme to return to.

So while The Hidden Palace doesn’t feel as fresh as the first entry in the series, and relies on too many chance encounters to move the plot, I still enjoyed myself. Wecker has established a strong template to work from. If she wants to use it to craft more stories in this mold, I’ll be happy to read them.

(For more reviews like this one, see ( )
  nickwisseman | Sep 2, 2021 |
Much of the praise I had for the first book in this series carries over to the second: Wecker writes well, employs good world building, and provides us with excellent character development. My chief complaint about the first novel (minor, as it was) was that the pacing was irregular. Tons of setup that crawled at a snail's pace for an action packed ending. This second novel fixes that, to some extent. The pacing was definitely more even. Still slow and deliberate, but she doles out crucial scenes and plot elements (and opportunities for character evolvement or devolvement, depending on the character) throughout. Also, some of the minor characters in the first novel get picked back up here and fleshed out nicely.

I would have given this solid 5 stars had the story compelled me along with a little more urgency. I enjoyed the story, enjoyed reading it, but I found myself all too often putting it aside for something else. These two books should not have taken me a month to read each, yet they did. I don't have a satisfactory solution to this problem. The books are good, bordering on great, just not much fun to read in parts. Regardless, this is at least a half-step up from the first book, and if there is a third en route (in perhaps another 8 years) I suspect she'll hit the bullseye and give me the 5-star book I'm hoping for.

I loved the ending, by the way. If anybody is contemplating putting it down mid-read because it's moving too slow, I whole-heartedly recommend getting to the end. It was deeply moving and satisfying. ( )
  invisiblelizard | Aug 13, 2021 |
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