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The Parisian

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  227 ratings  ·  83 reviews
A masterful debut novel by Plimpton Prize winner Isabella Hammad, The Parisian illuminates a pivotal period of Palestinian history through the journey and romances of one young man, from his studies in France during World War I to his return to Palestine at the dawn of its battle for independence.

Midhat Kamal is the son of a wealthy textile merchant from Nablus, a town in
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Grove Press
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3.67  · 
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 ·  227 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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Isabella Hammad writes of a period of history that frames and depicts one of the most intransigent conflicts of our contemporary world, she covers the can of worms that is the geopolitical nightmare of the incendiary and complex nature of Middle Eastern politics and conflict(s). She does it by giving it a humanity through her characters, specifically a young idealistic Palestinian, Midhat Kamal, from a comfortable background ordered by his father to study medicine in France, from WWI to the peri ...more
Adam Dalva
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book - was really swept away by it - and will say more once it comes out! It does a lot of really good things (transporting historical fiction that is relevant to now, interpersonal drama that kept me hooked) and is simultaneously unusually ambitious.

The early 20th century timeframe is lush and fascinating, and Midhat Kamal, a dreamer between worlds (France, and love; Nablus, and community) is a terrific lead. One to watch out for.
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"When I look at my life...I see a whole list of mistakes. Lovely beautiful mistakes. I wouldn't change them". Midhat Kamal reflects on a life lived, beginning in Nablus, a village north of Jerusalem. (On today's West Bank) In 1914, the Ottoman Empire was declining and World War I was on the horizon. In order to avoid conscription in the Turkish Army, Midhat's father, a rich textile merchant, sent him to Montpellier to study medicine. Midhat appeared uneasy but followed his father's dictates. Arr ...more
Vivek Tejuja
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hands Down, The Parisian is one of the best books I've read this year and its only mid-March. But I can say this with utmost assurance. I do not normally read historical novels but The Parisian is an exception I am glad I made. It would have been a lost opportunity had I decided not to read this book. Plus this book is not only historical, but also psychological in nature, which makes you want to read it even more.

This is a debut and I couldn't believe it. Hammad writes with such assurance and e
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A masterful debut novel by Plimpton Prize winner Isabella Hammad, The Parisian illuminates a pivotal period of Palestinian history through the journey and romances of one young man, from his studies in France during World War I to his return to Palestine at the dawn of its battle for independence.

Midhat Kamal is the son of a wealthy textile merchant from Nablus, a town in Ottoman Palestine. A dreamer, a romantic, an aesthete, in 1914 he leaves to study medicine in France, and falls in love. When
Bryn Hammond
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imagined-fiction
It's a while since I've been so impressed by a historical novel. But then I love a strongly psychological historical. Midhat seemed as fully realised as a 19th century novel's central figure -- I thought of what Iris Murdoch wrote about how the 19thC explored real people in a way the 20th century eschewed. We have not lost the art. The above was particularly true of the first section set in Montpellier. After this, back in Syria, the historical range of the novel did at times crowd out that inti ...more
Gumble's Yard
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Midhat was only half-listening, because he was thinking about the way his own charade might be told after he was dead, when he no longer held the reins on his memories, and they galloped off into the motley thoughts and imaginations of others.

Unlike Midhat – we know the answer to this question.

His great-grandaughter Isabella, bought up on family stories of her great-grandfather Midhat (who returned to the Palestinian town of Nablus after a period studying in France during World War I, affecte
Roman Clodia
Sometimes it just seems like you've been reading a completely different book from fellow reviewers - this is the case for me here. It's certainly ambitious to attempt to tell the story of the troubled foundations of the Middle East from the First World War through to the mid-1930s or so, taking in the high-handed behaviour of colonial powers (Britain, France), nationalist movements and the promise of a Jewish homeland in Palestine - but I struggled to engage with this as a novel.

The five-page ch
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Stories of longing were the only stories.”

This impressive debut opens at the time of the First World War. Midhat Kamal is a young Palestinian from Nablus, despatched by his patriarchal father to study medicine in Montpellier. There, he stays at the home of a professor at the college, Docteur Molineu, who extends the warmest of welcomes. Midhat falls desperately in love with Molineu’s daughter Jeannette. But when Midhat discovers what he considers to be a dreadful personal betrayal, his life cha
Apr 13, 2019 marked it as did-not-finish
I was becoming thoroughly absorbed in this beautifully-written story, transported to the past while remaining firmly in the present, when my ARC expired :(
Kathleen Gray
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A huge immersive experience- a book to get lost in. Midhat Kamal is the Parisian but he's more than that. He's the history of Palestine between 1914 and just before WWII. Moving between France and the Middle East, he exemplifies the ebb and flow for so many during that time frame, and today as well. There are lots of characters, there are some densely written descriptive passages, but once you sink into this, it will reward you with a good story that's also informative. Thanks to the publisher f ...more
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This sprawling saga tells the story of Midhat Kamal as he leaves his native Nablus (now in the Israeli-occupied West Bank) in 1914, just before the outbreak of war, to study medicine in France. After a stay in Montpellier he spends time in Paris – hence his nickname – before returning to Nablus to take over the family business. Torn between East and West, he feels at home nowhere and seems to remain at one remove from the political turmoil all around him in the years between the two world wars. ...more
In her debut novel, Isabella Hammad uses richly-textured prose to invoke the turbulence of the Middle East right after World War I. I have recently read Kurt Seyit and Sura by Nermin Bezmen andThe Carpet Weaver of Usak by Kathryn Gauci, both of which deal roughly with the Middle East pre-, during and post the War to End All Wars.

The nineteen-year-old protagonist, Midhat Kamal, arrives in Montpellier, France, to study medicine. He stays with the a professor of social anthropology at the universit
Rick Slane
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Palestinian gets some education in France before returning to Nablus. Action takes place during
World War I and before World War II.
Melissa Dee
I know I'm an outlier here, but I did not find “The Parisian” as engrossing as other reviewers. I found it hard to connect with the vast cast of characters. As the scene and time-frame shifted, I lost track and focus.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The Parisian" is set in an interesting period, in France right before the outbreak of World War I, and Palestine after the old Ottoman Empire has been carved up by the victors.

It's a lovely piece of historical fiction set in a time and place that your don't frequently read about. Midhat Kamal is sent to France to study medicine by his autocratic, absent father. He goes, because it is his duty, and makes the most of it, throwing himself into his studies and making friends among the French. He e
Charlotte Burt
3.5 stars
This is a beautifully written historical novel but the cast of thousands detracted from what it could have been.
Ombledroom είναι η θεία Κούλα
Υπέροχο - ντελικάτο και λεπτοδουλεμένο. Καλογραμμένο, εξαιρετικά δομημένο, ζωντανό, με καλοφτιαγμένη και εύπεπτη παράθεση των ιστορικών γεγονότων και με λεπτομερείς, πλούσια τεκμηριωμένες ιστορίες όλων των χαρακτήρων, με έκανε να πάω όπου πήγαινε, και να γνωρίσω (και σίγουρα θα θυμάμαι) όλους τους ανθρώπους που σύστησε. Πραγματικά υπέροχη γραφή - και είναι μόλις το πρώτο της βιβλίο!
Μια σκληρή ιστορία αγάπης και απομυθοποίησης σε ένα σκληρό ιστορικό πλαίσιο - η ιστορία του Midhat ξεκινάει το 191
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Midhat Kamal moves to France to pursue his studying dreams. Although the love of his life will be there, circumstances will lead him away. Relocating in Paris, Midhat will find himself following the life his family has expected of him. One that shapes him into a "proper Parisian". But, in a shifting, post-world-war-one era, is he really happy about his life choices? Or is he about to discover that things are in a constant state of change?

The Parisian is a bittersweet historical fiction novel rev
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Super long! Not necessarily a bad thing, but it did take me forever to get through. If you don’t like slow burn stories, then this might not be the book for you because it’s a very subtle book that relies on slow pacing. Again, not a criticism, but I can see how some people would get bored with that and not enjoy this book. Aside from that, Isabella Hammad has crafted a wildly beautiful novel that straddles historical fiction and literary fiction all at the same time. Her characters are interest ...more
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I loved reading this novel. Isabella Hammad captured my interest with her story of Midhat Kamal whose life unfolds amid the changing conditions of his city, Nablus--in Palestine--from 1914 through the 1930s. Midhat struggles between wanting a different life in Paris, or somewhere else in the world, and his family ties. He is an observer of life who is always outside of the conflicts around him. Any conflicts Midhat feels are within himself. As he outwardly conforms to traditional family values, ...more
Lady Fancifull
A subject matter which interested me, a style which did not work for me

I requested this book with high hopes : it interests me to read books whose subject matter is outside my own personal background and experience. Unfortunately, where the subject is complex, and where perhaps there are (as there are here) complex issues, philosophies and discussion points which the writer wants the reader to be engaged by, and ponder, it is crucial that the writer can avoid the kind of ‘talking heads’ scenario
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
The Parisian seemed promising but fell short. The story was boring and lost me. I couldn't get interested enough to really care about it. Unfortunately, this story was not for me. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
You know that feeling you get when you near the end of a book and your heart breaks a little because you don’t want it to end? I only just finished The Parisian, but I already feel a bit lost, suspended in time, missing the characters, and the country I grew to love all over again through Isabella Hammad’s beautiful prose.

It’s funny, because during the first fifth of the book or so there were areas where I struggled, and wondered if I should just leave it and move on to something else. The thing
Michael Cayley
The novel starts with Midhat, a Palestinian, going to Paris to study medicine around the time of the start of the First World War. We see there both inter-cultural misunderstanding and attempts to bridge the differences between cultures. Midhat returns to Palestine and settles down to a fairly conventional Middle Eastern life, until things happen that disrupt the rhythm of his life. This is a tale where geopolitics play a large part, with European powers taking decisions that affect long-standin ...more
A.J. Sefton
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An epic tale of a young Palestinian man who decides to train to become a doctor during the First World War. His training takes place in France where he stays with a family who introduce him to the social elite at dinner parties. He develops friendships and a romantic relationship, but his Middle East roots provoke certain negative attitudes.

The story covers a huge chunk of his life at a time of instability in the world. There are the crumbling Ottoman and British Empires, the fight for Palestin
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gripping, devastating reading experience. For the prose-obsessed: Hammad's sentences ring clear as bells. Pick up for an exercise in lexical beauty, if nothing else.

Yes, the scope of this novel––emotionally, geographically––is doubtless ambitious, but THE PARISIAN absolutely delivers. You will come away with a taste of sand in your mouth.

Dialogue that often reminds of Gaddis, and an overall clarity and precision that, these days, seems oft jettisoned in favor of convoluted and self-aggrandiz
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I was lucky enough to read this as a manuscript, and I was completely swept away. If you love historical fiction, this is a book you'll want to keep an eye on in the upcoming year.
Tricky call, this one. It’s a beautifully written (for the most part) historical epic about the life of Midhat Kamal (who happens to be Hammad’s great-grandfather). In 1915, he is sent by his father from Nablus, in Palestine, to study medicine in France; a private humiliation changes his life and has reverberations twenty years later, as Palestine begins its struggle for independence. It’s ambitious and Hammad’s gift for imagery is often truly arresting, but it’s also far too long—as Charles Fin ...more
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Play Book Tag: The Parisian - Isabella Hammad - 3 Stars 1 16 Mar 25, 2019 10:18AM  

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Hammad was born in London. She is the winner of the 2018 Plimpton Prize for Fiction. The Parisian is her first novel.
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“You are not the first to make this error,” said Antoine. He adopted a pastoral air and interlaced his fingers: “But you know that a place cannot be virtuous. An idea may be virtuous. Not a place.” 0 likes
“You know this sense that everyone around you is arguing,” he said. “When you are writing you are writing to one another, even to people who are dead. Even to people who are not alive yet.” “Well now,” said Antoine, “this is really the dream of the university!” 0 likes
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