4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Transported by the Scheherezade of Irish Literature, 22 July 2007
I have recently spent two days in the thrall of Emer Martin's Baby Zero. I understand it's her third novel - I haven't read the other two but I really want to, now.
The title refers to three female members of an upper class family from Orap (a fictional Middle Eastern country, with a lot of resemblances to Iran and Iraq). As each succcessive regime turns the year back to Zero, each of the girls, born years apart, is a "Baby Zero". Through them, Martin charts the survival of the Fatagagas family through civil war and flight, across the globe to LA with a stop in Ireland on the way - and finally back to Orap in a disastrous attempt to reclaim the privilege and security of the years gone by.
She's a master story teller ( I literally had chores piling up but ignored them all because the story was demanding to be read; that hasn't happened to me for fifteen years). There's powerful stuff in here - some of the material is so vivid it's gut wrenching, not least because its rooted in reality - but Martin also weaves in her own extremely funny observations of human behaviour, and her characters are often able to be wryly witty about their circumstances (I liked the spoilt American-raised Marguerite seeing the cowed women of Orap all shrouded in Burqas, with her mother and aunt haranguing her about violations of civil rights for women, commenting, 'It must be really easy to be a drag queen here').
Personally I was sure I could not have kept on reading if Martin was not so well able to handle the material with the shifts in tone and perspective which made it so engaging. The humour and the ultimate redemption in the story alleviate the difficult material, in a manner which reminded me of Louis de Bernieres' South American trilogy.
But Martin's powerfully assured writing and idiosyncratic voice owe nothing to anyone but herself.
Without overanalysing it, I was transported to another world, completely engrossed and left pondering the story ever since. That's all I ask for from a book. Baby Zero delivers.