Candace's Reviews > The Parisian

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad
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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 even falls in love among the French, and which will prove to be the telling event of his life.

When the war is over and he returns to Nablus, Midhat understands that his study of medicine, or literature or philosophy will mean nothing in his next step of duty, taking over the family clothing business which is pretty much a market stall. He does not look back or yearn, instead he focuses on reconnecting with family and old friends, marrying, and living the new Palestine, reconfigured in a strange way after the defeat of the Ottoman empire.

The first part of "The Parisian" when Midhat is in Montpellier and Paris is pure gold as the bright, curious young man explores a new culture, new friends, new freedoms. When he returns to Nablus, he is no longer exploring, he is rediscovering. He is in a market stall in a small provincial town. He's a young Muslim man doing his duty, marrying a veiled girl and fathering children. He is focused on this and is not distracted, even when geopolitics can no longer be ignored. And he finds a letter. His world blows up.

Here' the novel gets tangled. There's a lot of Arabic, and a lot of politics. It's a good reminder of the background for today's middle eastern conflict, but the story is much more compelling when it focuses on the Kamals and their internal and external lives.

4.5 stars. I read with pleasure and skimmed the Arabic.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
February 26, 2019 – Shelved

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