Mr B's review
An epic work of twentieth-century historical fiction, written in poised, stylish prose that dazzles with its rich detail. We follow the idealistic Midhat from his experience as a young medical student and Palestinian Muslim in France during the First World War, where he begins an ill-fated love affair that haunts the rest of his life, before witnessing how his destiny and that of his family plays out against the turbulent political backdrop of colonial interference in Palestine during the inter-war years, where hearts are broken and illusions lost. A completely immersive novel (and not just because of its length!).
‘A sublime reading experience: delicate, restrained, surpassingly intelligent, uncommonly poised and truly beautiful’ Zadie Smith
Midhat Kamal – dreamer, romantic, aesthete – leaves Palestine in 1914 to study medicine in France, under the tutelage of Dr Molineu. He falls deeply in love with Jeannette, the doctor’s daughter. But Midhat soon discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong.
Through Midhat’s eyes we see the tangled politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era – the Palestinian struggle for independence, the strife of the early twentieth century, and the looming shadow of the Second World War. Lush and immersive, and devastating in its power, The Parisian is an elegant, richly-imagined debut from a dazzling new voice in fiction.
The Parisian has an up-close immediacy and stylistic panache that are all the more impressive coming from a London-born writer still in her 20s… There are intimidating 19th-century precedents – Tolstoy, Turgenev, Stendhal… Isabella Hammad has crafted an exquisite novel that, like Midhat himself, delves back into the confusing past while remaining wholly anchored in the precarious present. * New York Times Book Review * One of the most ambitious first novels to have appeared in years… Written in soulful, searching prose, it’s a jam-packed epic… Hammad is a natural social novelist with an ear for lively dialogue as well as an ability to illuminate psychological interiority… Hammad is a writer of startling talent – and The Parisian has the rhythm of life. * Observer * A stunning 576-page debut, both a lush rendering of Palestinian life a century ago under the British Mandate and a sumptuous epic about the enduring nature of love… a small, beautiful, human story blazing against the enormity of the sociopolitical one… a novel you sink into. * Vogue * Breathtaking… Isabella Hammad establishes herself here as a literary force to be reckoned with. The Parisian is, in many ways, an extraordinary achievement. * Irish Times * Isabella Hammad’s remarkably accomplished debut novel very quickly snares the reader’s attention… Hammad is a natural storyteller… The writing is deeply humane, its wide vision combined with poised restraint… A story of cultures in simultaneous conflict and concord, The Parisian teems with riches – love, war, betrayal and madness – and marks the arrival of a bright new talent. * Guardian *
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