An epic tale of a young Palestinian man who decides to train to become a doctor during the First World War.
His training takes place in France where he stays with a family who introduce him to the social elite at dinner parties. He develops friendships and a romantic relationship, but his Middle East roots provoke certain negative attitudes.
The story covers a huge chunk of his life at a time of instability in the world. There are the crumbling Ottoman and British Empires, the fight for Palestinian independence and intermingled with this are his own personal growth and relationships.
The contrast between France and the Middle East is intensely detailed, with the French parties and the Palestinian markets and festivals, for example, and the changing roles within class and gender lines. Hammad picks out the tiniest features in social interactions, manners and characters to such an extent that it reminds me of Jane Austen.
This is a long book, as are all epics, but it generally flows well with the exception of the intermittent use of French or Arabic phrases. At the beginning there is a list of characters like one would find in a play. I braced myself for a challenge. However, despite the long list and the inconsistent use of first or last names, I could keep up with most of the characters.
The language is quite old-fashioned but modern enough to understand easily. What this means is that this book could still be on the shelves - and selling - twenty years from now. Recommended.
The Parisian is published by Jonathan Cape, April 2019 and available from all good booksellers including Amazon.
Advanced review copy supplied by the publisher.