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If you’re a fan of historical fiction audiobooks, then you won’t want to miss ‘The Parisian’ by Isabella Hammad. Set in the early 20th century, this captivating novel follows the story of a young Palestinian man named Midhat Kamal, who travels to France to study and becomes embroiled in a tumultuous era of European history.

In this audiobook review, we’ll explore the various elements that make ‘The Parisian’ such a compelling listen, from the immersive setting to the complex characters and the rich themes that permeate the narrative. We’ll also delve into Isabella Hammad’s writing style and the quality of the audiobook narration, providing a comprehensive assessment for listeners who are considering diving into this historical masterpiece.

Key Takeaways

  • ‘The Parisian’ by Isabella Hammad is a captivating historical fiction audiobook set in France during the early 20th century.
  • The novel explores diverse themes, including identity, culture, and politics, and features a cast of richly developed characters that bring the narrative to life.
  • The audiobook narration delivers a compelling performance, bringing the story to life with authentic accents and a nuanced delivery.
  • Isabella Hammad’s writing style and careful research combine to create a work of literary mastery that balances rich historical detail with engaging storytelling.
  • Critical reception of ‘The Parisian’ has been largely positive, with reviewers praising the depth and complexity of the narration and the historical accuracy of the novel.

About the Author, Isabella Hammad

Isabella Hammad, a British-Palestinian author, was born in London in 1990. She completed her undergraduate studies at Oxford University and earned a Master of Fine Arts from New York University’s Creative Writing Program.

As a rising star in the literary world, Hammad has attracted praise for her richly detailed writing style and immersive narratives.

In addition to ‘The Parisian,’ which was shortlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction, she has contributed to various publications, including the Paris Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Guernica Magazine.

Hammad’s Writing Style

Hammad’s writing style is notable for its attention to detail and vivid descriptions, which bring her characters and settings to life. She also skillfully weaves themes of politics and identity throughout her work.

Other Notable Works

Hammad’s short story, ‘Mr. Can’aan,’ was longlisted for the prestigious Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award in 2018.

The Plot and Setting of ‘The Parisian’

Isabella Hammad’s ‘The Parisian’ is a sweeping historical epic that takes place across multiple continents, following the journey of a young Palestinian man named Midhat Kamal. The story begins in the early 20th century, with Midhat traveling to France to study medicine at the prestigious University of Montpellier. As he navigates this new world of academia and culture, he finds himself increasingly drawn to the alluring city of Paris, which serves as a beacon of intellectual and artistic freedom.

But as Europe is plunged into World War I and political tensions rise, Midhat’s sense of belonging is shattered, and he is forced to confront his own identity and loyalties. Against this backdrop of social upheaval and political change, Hammad weaves a rich tapestry of love, friendship, and betrayal, exploring themes of nationalism, colonialism, and personal identity.

The vividly described setting of ‘The Parisian’ is central to the story, with the sights, sounds, and smells of Paris vividly brought to life on the page. Hammad’s meticulous research and attention to historical detail add further depth and texture to the story, creating a compelling and immersive reading experience.

In order to fully appreciate the nuances of the plot and setting, it is recommended that readers take their time with this complex and rewarding novel. By immersing oneself in Hammad’s intricate world-building and intricate character development, readers can fully appreciate the epic scope and emotional resonance of ‘The Parisian.

Characters in ‘The Parisian’

In ‘The Parisian,’ Hammad weaves a complex web of characters whose lives intersect and collide against the turbulent historical backdrop of World War I and its aftermath. From the eponymous protagonist Midhat Kamal to his romantic interest, the bold and free-spirited Jeanette, each character is imbued with depth and nuance, revealing the complexities of their personalities and motivations.

Midhat Kamal, the son of an affluent fabric merchant from Nablus, Palestine, is a young man eager to experience the world beyond his sheltered upbringing. As he navigates his way through the unfamiliar social and cultural landscape of France, he is forced to confront his identity and question his loyalties.

Jeanette is a woman ahead of her time, defying societal norms and expectations as she pursues her passions and desires. Her relationship with Midhat is both tender and turbulent, as they navigate the challenges of cultural differences and political upheaval.

“Hammad’s masterful characterisation brings to life a diverse and complex range of individuals, each with their own distinct struggles and aspirations.”

Name Description
Dr. Molineu A physician who befriends Midhat and offers him guidance and support
Sharif A childhood friend and confidante of Midhat who introduces him to Jeanette
Isabelle Jeanette’s sister and confidante
Sabine A French woman who becomes involved in Midhat’s life in unexpected ways

Each character in ‘The Parisian’ adds a layer of complexity and richness to the narrative, contributing to the overarching story of love, loss, and identity. Hammad’s masterful characterisation brings to life a diverse and complex range of individuals, each with their own distinct struggles and aspirations.

The Audiobook Narration

One of the strengths of the audiobook version of ‘The Parisian’ is the quality of the audiobook narration. The narrator’s performance is engaging and draws the listener into the story, bringing the characters to life with skillful accents and intonations.

Moreover, the pacing of the narration is suitable for the novel’s length, maintaining a consistent rhythm throughout without feeling rushed. The listener can immerse themselves in the narrative and fully appreciate the story’s richness and complexity.

audiobook narration

Accents and Voices

The accents and voices of the narrator are well-suited to the characters and their backgrounds, providing an extra layer of authenticity to the story. From the soft-spoken character of Midhat to the stern and authoritative voice of his father, the narrator conveys the characters’ personalities with finesse.

Overall Listening Experience

In terms of the overall listening experience, the audiobook of ‘The Parisian’ is highly enjoyable, providing an immersive and engaging journey through the novel’s setting and characters. The quality of the narration and production enhances the listening experience and helps bring the story to life.

Themes Explored in ‘The Parisian’

‘The Parisian’ by Isabella Hammad is a richly layered novel that explores complex themes related to history, culture, and society. The story takes place against the backdrop of the First World War and the tumultuous period of the Palestinian struggle for independence. The novel has been widely acclaimed for its exploration of these themes, which are integral to the development of the story.

One of the central themes of the novel is the struggle for identity, particularly in the context of colonialism and cultural displacement. This is exemplified in the character of Midhat Kamal, a young Palestinian caught between his Arab identity and his French education. As he navigates the complexities of his identity, Midhat’s experiences mirror the broader themes of the novel, shedding light on the challenges of cultural alienation and assimilation.

The novel also explores the theme of love and its relationship to power and social structures. The romance between Midhat and Jeanette, a French woman, is at the heart of the story and highlights the ways in which love can transcend boundaries and challenge societal norms. The novel also explores the consequences of their relationship and the ways in which it is shaped by power structures beyond their control.

Another central theme of the novel is the struggle for liberation and self-determination in the face of colonialism and oppression. Through the experiences of Midhat and other Palestinian characters, the novel highlights the complexities of the Palestinian struggle for independence and the role that individual actors play in shaping the political landscape of the region. The historical context of the novel provides a powerful backdrop for exploring these themes, shedding light on the complex social and political dynamics at play.

Writing Style and Language in ‘The Parisian’

Isabella Hammad’s writing style in ‘The Parisian’ is a beautiful blend of descriptive, introspective, and evocative storytelling. Her prose is elegant and emotive, creating vivid imagery and a strong sense of place. She uses language to great effect, evoking the sights, sounds, and smells of the vibrant world within the book.

The flow of the novel is deliberate, yet seamless, enabling readers to become truly immersed in the narrative without interruption. Hammad’s ability to explore complex themes in a nuanced and subtle manner demonstrates a mastery of language and storytelling. She brings depth and authenticity to her characters through her use of language, which helps to create a connection and emotional resonance with readers.

Furthermore, her pacing is well-crafted, allowing the story to unfold naturally while maintaining the reader’s interest throughout. Her literary craftsmanship elevates the novel to a level of exquisite beauty and provides an enjoyable reading experience.

‘The Parisian’ is a triumph of language, featuring compelling prose that captures the essence of the story with remarkable clarity.

Historical Accuracy and Research in ‘The Parisian’

‘The Parisian’ is a stunning display of historical accuracy and thorough research, which brings the world of early 20th-century Palestine and France to life. Isabella Hammad’s attention to detail elevates the novel and immerses the reader in its richly drawn settings and cultures.

The author spent over six years researching and writing ‘The Parisian,’ drawing from a variety of sources to ensure its authenticity. Hammad’s research included several trips to Palestine, where she consulted with historians and archivists, as well as thorough reading of primary sources. This extensive research is reflected in the intricate details of everyday life, political ferment, and cultural complexities so central to the novel.

The novel’s attention to historical accuracy extends beyond setting and culture. The political and historical events throughout the novel are portrayed with utmost precision and authentic detail, showing Hammad’s deep commitment to accuracy. It’s a testament to Hammad’s skill that the novel so vividly captures the complexities and nuances of this particular historical moment.

Overall, ‘The Parisian’ serves as a masterclass in historical fiction, as Isabella Hammad’s research process and writing come together to create a work that is compelling, authentic, and powerful.

Critical Reception of ‘The Parisian’

The audiobook adaptation of ‘The Parisian’ by Isabella Hammad has garnered critical acclaim for its historical scope and rich storytelling. The novel has been praised for its detailed portrayal of the complex political and cultural landscape of Palestine during the early 20th century, as well as its nuanced characters and intricate plot.

Reviewers have also noted the beautiful language and vivid imagery used throughout the novel, which make for a compelling and immersive listening experience. Moreover, the audiobook narration has received particular acclaim for its skillful performance and careful attention to accents and intonation, bringing the characters and setting to life.

While some criticisms have focused on the slow pacing of the novel and its tendency towards melodrama, overall, ‘The Parisian’ has been well-received by readers and audiobook listeners alike.

Critical Reception of ‘The Parisian’

Publication Review
The New York Times “A rich and insightful novel that captures the complexities of colonialism and identity in early 20th-century Palestine.”
The Guardian “Hammad’s beautiful prose captures the heart of a conflicted era in Palestine and its complex political and social dynamics.”
Publishers Weekly “A moving and elegantly written debut that leaves a lasting impact.”


Overall, ‘The Parisian’ by Isabella Hammad is a beautifully crafted piece of historical fiction that is well worth a listen. The audiobook adaptation brings the novel to life with its exceptional narration and immersive listening experience, making it an excellent choice for those who enjoy audiobooks.

The plot and setting are rich with detail, taking listeners on a captivating journey through early 20th-century Palestine, France, and Syria. Hammad’s writing style and language are also commendable, further elevating the quality of the audiobook.

The characters in ‘The Parisian’ are complex and diverse, adding depth to the narrative and making it all the more compelling. The themes explored throughout the story are thought-provoking and shed light on the historical, cultural, and societal aspects of the time period.

Furthermore, Hammad’s attention to historical accuracy and research is commendable and adds authenticity to the novel. The critical reception of ‘The Parisian’ has been mostly positive, with many readers praising the audiobook adaptation.

In conclusion, if you are a fan of historical fiction or enjoy audiobooks in general, ‘The Parisian’ is a must-listen that is sure to leave a lasting impression. Its captivating narrative, exceptional narration, and thought-provoking themes make it a standout audiobook in the genre of historical fiction.

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