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The Emperor's Babe [Hardcover]

Bernardine Evaristo
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 2002

The Emperor's Babe is Bernardine Evaristo's unique lyrical portrait of Roman London

Meet Zuleika: sassy girl about town, hellraiser, bored ex-child-bride, black Roman in Londinium, AD 211. In the place (and time) to be . . .

Through the bustling, hustling city, its slum tenements and sumptuous villas, we follow Zuleika, feisty and precocious daughter of Sudanese immigrants made good. Married to a fat, rich absent Roman, she is stranded in luxurious neglect, until, one day, Septimus Severus, the Emperor himself, comes to town, bringing with him not just love - but danger . . .

Funky and funny, sexy and moving, this novel in verse is a triumph of imaginative writing - and of sheer lyrical and emotional vitality.

'A heroine of ancient times for the modern age . . . a glittering fiction whose words leap off the page into life. Brilliant' The Times

'Funny, engaging and daring' Independent on Sunday

'Exhilarating . . . wildly entertaining then deeply affecting' Ali Smith

'Adventurous, compelling and utterly original. You won't read another book like it this year' The Times

Bernardine Evaristo is the author of three critically acclaimed 'verse novels' - Lara, The Emperor's Babe (which won the Arts Council Award in 2000) and Soul Tourists - and two prose novels, Blonde Roots and Mr Loverman. Evaristo is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts, and was awarded an MBE in 2009. She lives in London.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books; First Edition First Printing edition (April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670030716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670030712
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.5 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,251,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

British writer Bernardine Evaristo is the award-winning author of seven books including her new novel, Mr Loverman, about a 74 yr old Caribbean London man who is closet homosexual (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 2013 & Akashic USA, 2014). Her writing is characterised by experimentation, daring, subversion and challenging the myths of various Afro-diasporic histories and identities. Her books range in genre from poetry, verse-novels, a novel-with-verse, a novella, short stories, prose novels, radio and theatre drama, and literary essays and criticism. Her eighth book will be a collection of her short stories, published by in Italian by Carocci in 2015. The first monograph on her work, Fiction Unbound by Sebnem Toplu, was published in August 2011 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. The second will be published by Carocci in 2015.

Her awards include the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize, EMMA Best Book Award, Big Red Read, Orange Youth Panel Award, NESTA Fellowship Award and Arts Council Writer's Award. Her books have been a Best Book of the Year 13 times in British newspapers and magazines and The Emperor's Babe was a Times 'Book of the Decade'. Hello Mum has been chosen as one of twenty titles for World Book Night in 2014. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2004, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2006, and she received an MBE in 2009.

Her books are: MR LOVERMAN (Penguin, 2013), HELLO MUM (Penguin 2010), LARA (Bloodaxe 2009), BlONDE ROOTS (Penguin 2008), SOUL TOURISTS (Penguin 2005), THE EMPEROR'S BABE (Penguin 2001), the first version of LARA (ARP 1997), ISLAND OF ABRAHAM (Peepal Tree, 1994). For more information visit BOOKS. Her verse novel The Emperor's Babe was adapted into a BBC Radio 4 play in 2013 and her novella Hello Mum was broadcast as a Radio 4 play in 2012. Her writing - essays, articles and non-fiction - has appeared in many publications.

She has edited and guest edited several publications. She is the co-editor of two recent anthologies and a special issue of Wasafiri magazine: Black Britain: Beyond Definition, which celebrated and reevaluated the black writing scene in Britain. In 2012 she was Guest Editor of the winter issue of Poetry Review, Britain's leading poetry journal, in its centenary year. Her issue, Offending Frequencies, featured more poets of colour than had ever previously been published in a single issue of the journal, as well as many female, radical, experimental and outspoken voices.

She is also a literary critic for the national newspapers such as the Guardian and Independent and has judged many literary awards including the National Poetry Competition, TS Eliot Prize, Orange First Novel Award and the Next Generation Poet's List. In 2012 she was Chair of the Caine Prize for African Fiction and Chair of The Commonwealth Short Story Prize. That year she also founded the Brunel University African Poetry Prize. She is Reader in Creative Writing at Brunel University and designed and teaches the anuual six month Guardian¬-University of East Anglia 'How to Tell a Story' fiction course in London.

She has toured widely in the UK and since 1997 she has accepted invitations to take part in over 100 international visits as a writer. She gives readings and delivers talks, keynotes, workshops and courses and she has held visiting fellowships and professorships.

Bernardine Evaristo was born in Woolwich, south east London, the fourth of eight children, to an English mother and Nigerian father. Her father was a welder and local Labour councillor and her mother a schoolteacher. She was educated at Eltham Hill Girls Grammar School, the Rose Bruford College of Speech & Drama, and Goldsmiths, University of London, where she earned a PhD in Creative Writing. She spent her teenage years acting at Greenwich Young People's Theatre. She lives in London with her husband.

Product Description


?Smart, imaginative, and readable . . . A rich farrago of historical fact and outrageous fancy.? ("The New York Times Book Review") A heroine of ancient times for the modern age... a glittering fiction... brilliant.? ("The Times," London) A riotous, racy whirl through Roman Londinium... Bernardine Evaristo has spun a captivating tale in verse.? (Robert Fagles) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

'Evaristo's triumph is to transmute politics and history into a glittering fiction whose words leap off the page into life. Anarchic, she calls it, but brilliant would do just as well.' The Times

'The Emperor's Babe makes you feel that you are reading something that has never before been attempted - a sensation to is a fast exciting read whose occasional bittersweet notes build until it turns, like a ballad, from comedy to tragedy...Brushing off the dust of 1,800 years like a cobweb, Evaristo's golden lads and girls dance in the sun before us, glistening, frail and real. Vivat Zuleika.' Sunday Times

'Evaristo is youthful and daring, with hidden depths of wisdom and hilarity, and she has delivered an entirely new concept for the historical novel, as well as the London novel.' Independent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
One minute it's hopscotch in bare feet, next you're four foot up in a sedan in case your pink stockings get dirty. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ASTONISHING LYRICAL PROSE (AND YET SO HIP!!) 11 July 2001
By A Customer
It's been a while since I've been knocked off my feet by a book in way The Emperor's Babe did. Maybe not since I read Rimbaud at highschool... Adverbs keep flying through my head when I want to describe the book: funny, intelligent, sophisticated, heart-warming, etc. etc. What struck me first (of course) was the verse. Steady two line most of the time, but changing pace in more intimate sections and by that changing atmosphere at once. The book is somewhat of a classic lyrical epic and bc of that rhytm it grips you from the first pair of lines, and (I have to say this) it swings!!
Second: the main character, Zuleika, is a welcome apparition in present-day literature. Zuleika is tough, smart and gets what she wants. No whining like Bridget J. or all the other 30-ish single women-books and definitely nothing of the "I've lived through it all" Oprah-books. Zuleika's got a certain sense of girl-power (sorry for that word) and that makes you love her from the start.
And then the story: London 211. It's dirty, rotten and sexy. But that's all I say, just go and read. And after that go and look for her first book "Lara". You won't be sorry...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Prefer Fully Prose pieces 15 April 2010
By Ms. E. Blankson VINE VOICE
I bought this book as I was looking to read something funny and light hearted. I was fully aware that this was written in verse in two line couplets and even read the first couple of pages on the Amazon page and liked it. But r reading a couple of pages and a whole book is a big difference and I found it hard work to read as it was written.

That being said it was enjoyable and I like the idea of the book. The main character Zuleka is charming and endearing, and it begins at that age where she realises she knows nothing when she thought she knew everything. The colourful cast of characters also make it a good read.

Had this been fully prose I think I would have enjoyed it more. But that is just my preference and others will probably see differently. Either way it is worth a read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars keep going! 5 April 2011
By Fearon
Don't look at this book as one giant poem that you just wont understand. Ignore the strange lay out of the words on the page, and this really is a brilliant, emotional, adventurous story that does remove the distance between now and the past. Evaristo is a genius!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sassy Roman Romp 21 Oct 2010
By Lorraine Sears TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Roman London through the eyes on a young woman, a child bride who has never lived, until she catches the eye of the emperor and becomes his mistress.

This book is without doubt, one of the funniest, cleverest most touching tales I have ever read.

Cleverly written in two line verse throughout (non-rhyming), this book is a break from the norm. Obviously due to style and presentation it is not as long as other books of a similar size, but it packs no less punch. I read many reviews about this before buying it and I was not disappointed at all.

Despite it being written in verse, if that is not your thing, your eyes will soon get accustomed to reading it as if were a normal story. There is no reason to avoid the story just because of the style.

If you like books that are a little different, something unique that brings a smile, then this story is for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just brilliant! 25 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
It's been a while since I felt like this about a book. I love the story, the language and the tone. It made Londinium come alive and taught me some Latin - DUM SPIRO, SPERO!
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2.0 out of 5 stars 2 in 1. 30 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Disjointed. Part poetry, part story. Did not enjoy the style, but appreciated the message. Provoked an interesting discussion in the book club.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative and brilliantly written 26 Mar 2012
This is a tremendous piece of writing which should be on the reading list for all A-Level English and Classics students (risque passages aside). Don't let the "poetry" badge put you off - I can see why Evaristo opted for the format; the free flow of prose and the formatting of the page give the work another dimension, and the creativity of phrase and verse is wonderfully deployed. This is exciting, vibrant writing that had me racing to finish.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars scintillating, tantalising, ravishing 29 Aug 2001
By A Customer
I heard about this books because I scour the papers for recommended books and this one came up trumps time and time again. I have to say that few books move me in the way this one did. It made me step outside of my own mind, my own way of thinking, and go into the head of this amazing girl called Zuleika who lived in 211 but seemed as if she lived next door today. I defy anyone not to fall in love with Zuleika - she's so full of life and wit. Few writers have created a character so multi-faceted and so vivid and so loveable. It is a very imaginative book, in fact one of the most, if not THE most imaginative book I have ever read and I read all the time. It's set in Roman London but it constantly refers to contemporary London, making it swing between both centuries. It's a bloody good story too, a real page turner and the characters leap off the page with such energy and origanlity. I keep recommending this book to my friends because it is such fun to read while also having intellectual weight too. It's a magical mix of many things and I will keep returning to read it. A real groundbreaker!
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