The Parisian by Isabella Hammad review – Middlemarch with minarets

This post is by Johanna Thomas-Corr from Books | The Guardian

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This sprawling saga inspired by the author’s family history marks the arrival of a startling new talent

There’s a touching moment in the middle of The Parisian when a friend of the novel’s hero, Midhat, is trying to bring him up to speed with events in their home town, Nablus, in Palestine, in the interwar years. “But 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.”

It is Midhat’s great-granddaughter, Isabella Hammad, who has taken up the reins in her doorstopper of a debut. The 27-year-old novelist was inspired by the real-life Midhat Kamal, a charismatic Palestinian born at the end of the 19th century, nicknamed “the Parisian” for his European ways, whose ...