Golem, by P. D. Alleva
Hey guys, welcome back.
How have you been?
Today, I’m excited to be reviewing Golem, a psychological horror novel by P. D. Alleva.
So, if you’ve got your favourite drink to hand and are all settled in, let’s begin.
Note: There may be some minor plot spoilers when discussing the characters of this novel.
Please be advised of this before continuing to read this review.
Set in New York, around the 1950s, Golem primarily follows the life of wealthy socialite, Alena Francon. Her story chronicles a peculiar meeting with a gypsy woman, after which Alena’s life changes forever. A statue she carves is brought to life, calling itself Golem. Alena hopes that he will be the perfect companion after losing her fiancé, as well as her child in the womb. However, from there, she starts to experience strange supernatural phenomenon, which leave her questioning her own sanity.
Who is Golem, really, and where did he come from?
For the purposes of this review, I’ll be looking at four main characters: Alena Francon, Detective John Ashton, Maleva the gypsy woman, and Golem.
Firstly, I’d like to look at Alena, a socialite and independent woman. As a conscientious artist, Alena has been known to create beautiful masterpieces. However, being compassionate and giving in nature, she has also been known to always put other’s needs ahead of her own, even at a detriment to herself. Over the course of the story, I watched her shy away from the pain she’d endured in life, deciding to become a recluse when she lost her baby, and subsequently her fiancé. I felt her sense of loss on a profound level, sympathising with her character’s distress. There were times when I felt she was naïve to the darker nature of humanity, where she was surprised by all that she encountered as they story developed. However, she more than made up for this as she developed a resilience through her pain and suffering, trying hard to do the right thing in the end.
Secondly, I’d like to discuss Detective John Ashton, who is assigned to investigate Alena after she is sectioned in a mental hospital for divulging the fantastical story of Golem. I found the detective to be a hardworking and sceptical man, initially seeing Alena’s story as the product of a deranged imagination. He works diligently to try and locate the DA’s daughter as he has been ordered to, with Alena offering her insights on the matter. John lives his life dealing only in hard facts and cold logic, never once considering that Alena might be telling the truth about Golem until much later in the story. Here, we see the detective torn between making the right choice and yielding to the power of a dark supernatural force, to prevent his loved ones from being made to suffer. In the end, his character demonstrates perfectly how humans are manipulated by forces greater than themselves, especially when they remain ignorant and unprepared against such evils.
Next, we have Maleva, the gypsy woman Alena first encounters at a stall in the city. Maleva was a mysterious character, whom we don’t learn much about until the later half of the story. She is shrouded in mysticism, her first appearance introducing a dark presence to the story, which cannot be logically explained. She proves to be the source of all of the supernatural turmoil in Alena’s life, with things intensifying after Alena’s brief interaction with her. Although Maleva is the cause of such tragedy befalling Alena initially, she is a more complex character than she is given credit for, fighting for years to try and keep the evil supernatural forces within her at bay. Finally, as any human being would, she succumbed to defeat and passed on her curse, however, she sticks close by Alena without her noticing, maintaining the courage to stand up to the darkness which lurks inside of Alena and Golem. I came to admire Maleva greatly, being privy to the knowledge that she has carried such darkness within her for centuries and yet remained strong, hoping to protect others from its wrath.
Finally, we come to Golem, the supernatural being whom this story is named after. As Alena’s creation, he initially comes across as docile and respectful of his creator, possessing a childlike innocence as well as a sense of ancient wisdom. Initially curious, he seeks out stimulation and excitement. However, there was also something off about him that I initially couldn’t put my finger on. It was as if something else were lurking just below the surface of his innocent façade, a fiercer side which was waiting for the opportunity to reveal itself. As the story continued, I began to notice that Golem had a cruel and manipulative side, something which became more apparent over time. He was highly charismatic, the centre of attention at any social event, something which he used to his advantage. Overall, I found Golem to be a complex and deceptive character, one which will haunt my nightmares with his extended sense of depravity and darkness.
There were many things which contributed to the greatness of this story, the most crucial of which I have detailed below.
- We immediately get a sense for who the lead characters are at their cores.
- The author has a wonderful way with words. Their prose flows seamlessly, making it all the more easy to binge read their work.
- The author is adept at using tension, upping the suspense at the opportune moment to create the most dramatic effect. For instance, at the opening of the Clairfield Hotel, when Golem smiles at the mayor, the look in his eyes hints at a more sinister intent on his part.
- The folklore and ideas explored were fascinating. The concept of dark entities being invited into one’s mind was terrifying. The black trapdoor in the eyes representing a window into and out of Xibalba was an ingenious touch, which left the hair on the back of my neck prickling.
- The ending surprised me. It wasn’t at all what I’d expected, but was well-executed, full of tension and mystery.
While reading Golem, I happened across four quotes which I feel represent the core themes of the story.
1) ‘Darkness is always attracted to the light it seeks to destroy.’
2) ‘No-one wants the truth. They desire lies. The truth forces them to look, to see with wider eyes. So much easier to dismiss the unknown than to think through it.’
3) ‘There’s always give and take with every balance.’
4) ‘Some lights, so bright, can never truly be extinguished.’
Overall, I found Golem to be a dark and sinister tale of evil, supernatural forces that are welcomed in by a corrupt elite. Themes included social status and reputation, mysticism, love and loss, and sacrifice.
My Rating: 5 stars.
Recommended to: lovers of psychological horror novels with their roots in the supernatural.
Please note: I’d recommend this book to those only over the age of 18 due to some of the more indecent scenes featured within the book.
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