Summary and book reviews of The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

The Parisian

by Isabella Hammad

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad X
The Parisian by Isabella Hammad
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  • Published:
    Apr 2019, 576 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg
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Book Summary

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 Midhat returns to Nablus to find it under British rule, and the entire region erupting with nationalist fervor, he must find a way to cope with his conflicting loyalties and the expectations of his community. The story of Midhat's life develops alongside the idea of a nation, as he and those close to him confront what it means to strive for independence in a world that seems on the verge of falling apart.

Against a landscape of political change that continues to define the Middle East, The Parisian explores questions of power and identity, enduring love, and the uncanny ability of the past to disrupt the present. Lush and immersive, and devastating in its power, The Parisian is an elegant, richly-imagined debut from a dazzling new voice in fiction.

There was one other Arab onboard the ship to Marseille. His name was Faruq al-Azmeh, and the day after leaving port in Alexandria he approached Midhat at breakfast, with a plate of toast in one hand and a string of amber prayer beads in the other. He sat, tugged at the cuffs of his shirt, and started to describe without any introduction how he was returning from Damascus to resume his teaching post in the language department of the Sorbonne. He had left Paris at the outbreak of war but after the Miracle of the Marne was determined to return. He had grey eyes and a slightly rectangular head.

"Baris." He sighed. "It is where my life is."

To young Midhat Kamal, this statement was highly suggestive. In his mind a gallery of lamps directly illuminated a dance hall full of women. He looked closely at Faruq's clothes. He wore a pale blue three-piece suit, and an indigo tie with a silver tiepin in the shape of a bird. A cane of some dark unpainted wood leaned against the table.

"I am going ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Thought-provoking, beautifully rendered, and rife with emotion, The Parisian is a gorgeous, lengthy read. Hammad has achieved something quite impressive with this glowing debut.   (Reviewed by Natalie Vaynberg).

Full Review Members Only (350 words).

Media Reviews

Guardian (UK)
A hugely accomplished historical sweep of a book… a novel of immense skill and confidence.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. An assured debut novel… closely observed and elegantly written.

Publishers Weekly
In her exceptional debut, Hammad taps into the satisfying slow-burn style of classic literature with a storyline that captures both the heart and the mind…This is an immensely rewarding novel that readers will sink into and savor.

Author Blurb Jonathan Safran Foer
The Parisian is a gripping historical novel, a poignant romance, and a revelatory family epoch. Above all, it is a generous gift. There is a kind of joy that can hold not only pleasure, but struggle, and even sadness. This novel tells that kind of joyful story, and evokes that kind of joy in the reader.

Author Blurb Zadie Smith
The Parisian is a sublime reading experience: delicate, restrained, surpassingly intelligent, uncommonly poised and truly beautiful. It is realism in the tradition of Flaubert and Stendhal – everything that happens feels not so much imagined as ordained. That this remarkable historical epic should be the debut of a writer in her mid-twenties seems impossible, yet it's true. Isabella Hammad is an enormous talent and her book is a wonder.

Author Blurb Bret Anthony Johnston
The Parisian is extraordinary - wise, ambitious, and lavishly rewarding. With luminous prose and rare compassion, Isabella Hammad offers her readers an absorbing story of war and identity, of love and independence, of hope and history. It's an astonishing novel, heralding the arrival of a major talent.

Author Blurb Nathan Englander
The Parisian is a lushly imagined, beautifully written, expansive powerhouse of a debut. Isabella Hammad is a great new voice.

Author Blurb Irenosen Okojie
An exquisite, intricate and wise novel. I was utterly gripped from the first page until the last. This sweeping, historical epic marks the arrival of a wonderfully gifted author. Isabella Hammad is a marvel and The Parisian is an unforgettable read.

Author Blurb Bradford Morrow
With masterful lyricism and unflinching insight, The Parisian captures the personal passion and political violence of a nascent nation's struggle for independence. Hammad has written a profound and intoxicating epic, brimming with unexpected, vivid imagery and unforgettable characters. Hers is a fresh voice of the first order.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Story of the Samaritans

GerizimMany people are familiar with the phrase "good Samaritan" from the parable in the Bible from which the phrase is derived, but who are the Samaritans? What was their place in history?

In her sprawling historical novel, The Parisian, Isabella Hammad draws attention to this ancient religion. She teases their story, but leaves you wanting more, so here it is.

The story of the Samaritans reaches back to the early days of the kingdom of Israel. Under King Solomon, all of Israel was united, but after his death the nation broke apart into two distinct groups—a new, smaller kingdom of Israel in the north with its capital in Samaria, and the kingdom of Judah in the south.

SynagogueWhen the Assyrians invaded the region in 721 B.C., the Jews in ...

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Readalikes

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