Review – The Hidden Palace

Helene Wecker
Satisfying Product of 2020
(CWs Below)

So I’ve finally gotten around to sorting out the Libby app for my county’s library system and WOW was I missing out. I’ve moved from a smaller town to one of the country’s largest and the differences in terms of available resources are mindblowing. Unless you are looking for a job. Then this new town is awful. Super hard to find anything, even fast food jobs. But I digress….Anyway, let’s talk books! I have been having a grand old time digging through what’s available.

I was rooting around in the virtual stacks and saw The Hidden Palace, a book I’d literally forgotten about. This is a sequel of sorts to The Golem and the Jinni, a book I remember loving, but it was pre-Pandemic, you know, and I’d forgotten a lot of the details. Luckily Helene Wecker is pretty good about weaving in background as this new story needs it, so you can really dip into this newer book as a standalone, I think.

Image of the cover of The Hidden Palace - A Tale of the Golem and the Jinni. The cover shows a black and white scene of what I believe is Penn Station, tinted with a copper patina.

Once again, Wecker weaves Arabic and Jewish stories and world views. There are many points of view in this book (were there so many character viewpoints in the previous title?), and I was a little worried about that at the beginning – it can be a bit distracting. Perhaps the first third of the book is dedicated to a slow-burning setup, but its a richly drawn world and I didn’t find myself minding. Once the plot starts connecting dots everything moves rapidly closer, drawing to a fairly satisfying conclusion. Not (to my mind) perfectly landed – there are a few threads that don’t really get woven back in perfectly – but nicely done, regardless. No spoilers, tho. Feel free to drop me a line if you want those.

This book was a treat to read. A lot has happened since I read its predecessor, and I feel like the follow up is a little less deeply drawn and thought out, but it’s not a first book, and, interestingly, I found out after the fact that it was written during the lockdown parts of 2020. Knowing that and looking back, I can see overarching themes of isolation and loneliness in this story, echoed again and again throughout the character arcs.

Life is going to keep me from writing a more in-depth review this week. If you have questions, drop me a comment or an email, and I’ll be happy to answer them, to the best of my ability. My main takeaway – The Hidden Palace is a satisfying historical fiction, chock full of magical realism. I recommend it!

CW – intimated child abuse, partner violence; some moments of violent fighting, death

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