Summer vacation is a great time to indulge in some wonderful books. This summer I’ve been immersed in two new fairy tales for people who relish worlds where magical things happen: Cinnamon and Gunpowder, by Eli Brown, and The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker.
Both stories are highly original, witty and immersive. The writing style is lyrical in both novels, but the authors are writing for educated readers. Consider this passage:
It is no great secret that cooking is, in essence, seduction. As with amour, pleasure does not bloom in the body so much as in the mind.… The most rarefied tastes on the unprepared tongue may be ignored, or worse, misunderstood. How then is the mind prepared for delicacy?
—Cinnamon and Gunpowder, by Eli Brown © 2013.
I found The Golem and the Jinni to be especially atmospheric — much like Night Circus — in its re-creation of turn-of-the-century New York. You can almost feel the wintry cold or sodden, oppressive humidity of summer in the Lower East Side. Or hear the cacophony of recent immigrants struggling to find work and make a place for themselves in this new world.
That said, as a foodie, I found myself savoring the meals prepared by the master chef who was kidnapped by a pirate in Cinnamon and Gunpowder. He was struggling with a limited set of fresh ingredients, no decent stove and few cooking tools (given the limited galley resources of a pirate ship under sail). It’s an unusual take on the pirate-captures-innocent-victim story, with a romantic twist at the end.
These are delightful stories, and I highly recommend both books to people who relish adventure stories chock full of interesting characters. For summer reading, or any time of the year.