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  • Published: 3 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9781784705701
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 576
  • RRP: $19.99

The Parisian

A sumptuous historical novel, set against the backdrop of World War I, from 'an enormous talent' (Zadie Smith)

'A sublime reading experience: delicate, restrained, surpassingly intelligent, uncommonly poised and truly beautiful' Zadie Smith


Midhat Kamal - dreamer, romantic, aesthete - leaves Palestine in 1914 to study medicine in France, under the tutelage of Dr Molineu. He falls deeply in love with Jeannette, the doctor's daughter. But Midhat soon discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong.

Through Midhat's eyes we see the tangled politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era - the Palestinian struggle for independence, the strife of the early twentieth century, and the looming shadow of the Second World War. Lush and immersive, and devastating in its power, The Parisian is an elegant, richly-imagined debut from a dazzling new voice in fiction.


  • Published: 3 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9781784705701
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 576
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Isabella Hammad

Isabella Hammad was born in London. She won the 2018 Plimpton Prize for Fiction and a 2019 O. Henry Prize , and is a 2019 National Book Award "5 under 35" Honoree. The Parisian is her first novel.

Praise for The Parisian

Isabella Hammad’s remarkably accomplished debut novel very quickly snares the reader’s attention… Hammad is a natural storyteller... The writing is deeply humane, its wide vision combined with poised restraint… A story of cultures in simultaneous conflict and concord, The Parisian teems with riches – love, war, betrayal and madness – and marks the arrival of a bright new talent.


Breathtaking… Isabella Hammad establishes herself here as a literary force to be reckoned with. The Parisian is, in many ways, an extraordinary achievement.

Irish Times

A stunning 576-page debut, both a lush rendering of Palestinian life a century ago under the British Mandate and a sumptuous epic about the enduring nature of love… a small, beautiful, human story blazing against the enormity of the sociopolitical one… a novel you sink into.


One of the most ambitious first novels to have appeared in yearsWritten in soulful, searching prose, it’s a jam-packed epic… Hammad is a natural social novelist with an ear for lively dialogue as well as an ability to illuminate psychological interiority… Hammad is a writer of startling talent – and The Parisian has the rhythm of life.


The Parisian has an up-close immediacy and stylistic panache that are all the more impressive coming from a London-born writer still in her 20s… There are intimidating 19th-century precedents – Tolstoy, Turgenev, Stendhal… Isabella Hammad has crafted an exquisite novel that, like Midhat himself, delves back into the confusing past while remaining wholly anchored in the precarious present.

New York Times Book Review

[In] this lavish, leisurely and immersive novel… an English-language epic steeped in Palestinian stories from almost a century ago… Ms Hammad overlays a sophisticated, up-to-date grasp of the scars, overt and covert, left by unjust authority onto the traditional pleasures of the sprawling historical saga… a novelist of vision.


Hammad has an exquisite control on her subject: this is precise writing, measured, and careful… her detail makes you feel the homes and cities she takes us to, and the people that inhabit them, are as multifaceted and mysterious as those of real life… It is Hammad’s sustaining of both perspectives, the minutiae that make up an individual life and the macro political upheavals that change a country forever, that makes The Parisian so impressive.


The Parisian is akin to plunging into a great 19th-century classic, thanks to the languorous pace, easy poise, minute observations and the apparent ease with which Hammad takes her third person narrative from one character to another… There is also an underlying urgency to this rich, luscious novelThe Parisian is a skilful demonstration of how the personal and the political are inescapably intertwined.

Financial Times

You’ll be transported across decades, emotions, plots and people with gravity-defying ease… Uniting themes such as the breakdown of the Middle East (it’s an invaluable understanding into the problems that continue to this day) and the rootlessness of migrants, Hammad creates a real sense of time and place luxuriating in the details of food, smells and sights; take a weekend off and disappear into her vision.


It is startling to think this ambitious tour-de-force was written into life by someone at the start of their literary career… with even the tiniest of details meticulously observed, this debut follows the changing desires of a boy as he is moulded into a man, the irresistible pull of family loyalty and the search for peace, as much within, as on, the global stage.


An admirably ambitious debut... With energy and care, [Hammad] animates a crucial period of Palestinian history that most readers will know little about.

Sunday Times

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 twenties seems impossible, yet it's true. Isabella Hammad is an enormous talent and her book is a wonder.

Zadie Smith

The love story at the heart of [The Parisian]… is rendered in aching detail… Hammad has a great eye for the acts of increasing intimacy along the way to falling in love.

The Times

Glorious… Hammad asks some fascinating questions about the way narratives have shaped, and continue to shape, our world… Provocative, testing and magnificently risky, this is an author writing for her life.

Sophie Ratcliffe, Daily Telegraph

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.

Jonathan Safran Foer

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

Nathan Englander

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.

Irenosen Okojie

[Hammad cuts] through the familiar dichotomies of West and Near East, placing her protagonist in a rich web of families, political intrigues, and cultural exchanges, and subtly reconfiguring the literary tropes of “home” and “abroad”.

New Yorker

It's a big family novel like Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy but it charts the history of Palestine... The prose is impeccable.

Leila Aboulela

The Parisian is extraordinary—wise, ambitious, and lavishly rewarding. With luminous prose and rare compassion, Bella 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.

Bret Anthony Johnston

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.

Bradford Morrow

Superb… There’s romance and adventure and adversity… sublimely written.

Good Housekeeping

Isabella Hammad shows a rare maturity, both in her marshalling of a huge cast of characters and in her ability to illuminate such a politically charged period of history without didacticism or literary showboating.

Mail on Sunday

Sumptuous and sharply observed – an old-school novel to lose yourself in.


Hammad taps into the satisfying slow-burn style of classic literature with a storyline that captures both the heart and the mindThis is an immensely rewarding novel that readers will sink into and savor.

Publishers Weekly

An assured debut novel that sets the life of one man against the tumultuous backdrop of Palestine in the waning years of British occupation… Closely observed and elegantly written.

Kirkus *Starred Review*

Undeniably beautiful.

The Times *The Best New Novelists of 2019*

An engrossing, sweeping novel.

Evening Standard

The are moments of such lyric beauty in The Parisian, Isabella Hammad’s debut novel, that you want what they describe to be permanently closed, hers to be the final word… [The Parisian] also has a close grasp of history, and the high quality of its writing never fades.

Charles Finch, Washington Post

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad has already won advance praise from Zadie Smith, and deservedly so: this tale of a Palestinian immigrant... is beautiful historical fiction.

Evening Standard

Hammad traces her protagonist’s emotional journey with great sensitivity, against a backdrop of historical events… a vivid, capacious historical novel.

Jude Cook, Spectator

The Parisian is a graceful and balanced book, animated throughout by an immense social intelligence… a pleasure to read.

Literary Review

A sweeping historical novel that opens in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire… The Parisian calls to mind a 19th-century novel.

New York Times

Complex, subtle and challenging… [The Parisian is] excelling––with a powerful ending that is moving in the way it knits together the themes of self-betrayal and social and political treachery.

Gareth Jenkins, Socialist Worker

Reconciling oneself with the pain and pleasure of the ties that bind one to certain people and places is something that lies at the heart of Hammad’s novel… the world Hammad paints is a rich one.

Lucy Scholes

Hammad… convincingly weaves the conversations and arguments around the Palestinian table, inviting the reader to join the friends and family who are full of complexity and humanity, and refuse to be defined by the tragedy that is befalling them… To read The Parisian is to gradually get to know a friend, like drinking tea with a favourite uncle and hearing about family stories, gossip and politics.

Tanushka Marah, Middle East Eye

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