The Parisian (Hammad)

The Parisian 
Isabella Hammad, 2019
576 pp.

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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1991-92
Where—London, England, UK
Education—B.A., Oxford University; M.F.A., New York University
Awards—Plimpton Prize
Currently—lives in New York, New York

Isabella Hammad was born in London, and she obtained her undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature from Oxford University. In 2012 she was awarded a Kennedy Scholarship to Harvard, and in 2013 she received the Harper Wood Creative Writing Studentship from Cambridge University.

During her MFA in Fiction at New York University she was a Stein Fellow, and she was the 2016-2017 Axinn Foundation NYU Writer-in-Residence.

Her writing has been published in Conjunctions 66: Affinity (2016) and The Paris Review (2018), for which her short story "Mr Can’aan" won the 2018 Plimpton Prize. The Parisian her first novel was published in 2019. (From the author's literary agency.)

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

Reminiscent of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient and Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong, 27-year-old Isabella Hammad’s epic debut novel surpasses both in its scope.
New York

Stunning…a lush rendering of Palestinian life a century ago under the British mandate and a sumptuous epic about the enduring nature of love.

(Starred review) 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.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review) Against a backdrop of Arab nationalism and unrest caused by shifting political control of the region and waves of Jewish immigration, this finely plotted, big-hearted novel explores the origin of Mideast tensions that continue to this day. A compelling first novel. —Barbara Love, formerly with Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.
Library Journal

(Starred review) An assured debut…. Hammad sometimes drifts into the didactic in outlining an exceedingly complex history, but she does so with a poet's eye for detail…. Closely observed and elegantly written: an overstuffed story that embraces decades and a large cast of characters without longueurs.
Kirkus Reviews

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