Title: The Parisian
Author: Isabella Hammad
Genres: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: April 11th 2019
Source: Netgalley/ Jonathan Cape
My Rating: ★★★✬☆ 3 and a half stars
As the First World War shatters families, destroys friendships and kills lovers, a young Palestinian dreamer sets out to find himself.
Midhat Kamal picks his way across a fractured world, from the shifting politics of the Middle East to the dinner tables of Montpellier and a newly tumultuous Paris. He discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong.
This was the first physical arc which I had successfully requested from the publishers, and I had really high hopes for it, but unfortunately, it didn’t deliver for me.
This book starts so well but ultimately by the time I reached the end of this very large book, I had stopped caring. It is beautifully written and the first section in France was very engaging. Midhat Kamel is sent to France to study medicine in order to escape any possibility of being drafted into the Turkish army. He lives with a French family and not surprisingly he becomes enchanted with the daughter.
After the war, he returns back to his home city of Nablus in what is now in the west bank and then the story which had concentrated almost entirely on Midhat starts to fracture and it becomes a far more wide-reaching story, this is where I think this book fails. I found I had to keep referring to the lengthy cast list at the beginning of the book to figure out who was who. There is also a detailed timeline in the back of the book which was essential in figuring out what was happening in their world on a political level.
in my opinion, having such a huge number of individual characters was unnecessary and detracted from the core story. Some only flit in and out for a chapter or two, never to be seen again, without adding anything to the core narrative.
I feel I did learn a lot about the consequences of the creation of the Zionist state of Israel and the struggles the Arab population had to endure in the time between the world wars, but this came at a price. What started a wonderfully character led novel turned into a history book, a bait and switch. Many of the other reviewers on Goodreads loved it however, I don’t feel that this is a bad book in any way though, it’s just not the book for me.
Suitable For: This would be suitable for older teenagers in terms of offensive content but I am not sure they would enjoy it.
Sex: Some, not graphic though.
Drug Reference: None
If you are interested in the political and historical situation in Palestine before the start of world war two then this may well be the book for you.
Buy from Wordery or Book Depository
Isabella Hammad was born in London. She did her undergraduate degree at Oxford University (English Language and Literature) she was then given a scholarship to attend Harvard University and then completed her MFA in Fiction at New York University. She then won the 2018 Plimpton Prize for her short story ‘Mr Can’aan’. This is her first novel. She is only 27 and I have no idea how she has managed to do so much in that time.