The Emperor's Babe: A Novel Paperback – 25 Apr 2002
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?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)
From the Publisher
CRITICAL ACCLAIM FOR THE EMPEROR'S BABE
'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 savour...it 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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
By far the most notable thing about The Emperor's Babe is its language, which is a strange mix of modern slang, street-talk and Latin phrases that combine into a sort of patois. It's sometimes effective, but just as often grating; it all just feels very overdone and occasionally patronising. Similarly, genuinely atmospheric evocations of life in Roman Britain - which are fascinating, vivid and a great reminder that London was just as multicultural a city circa 200AD as it is now - are peppered with deliberate anachronisms. I assume are intended to make us feel closer to Zuleika and her world and identify more directly with them, but I found the somewhat laboured humour in references to Armani tunics and the EC4 postcode very quickly wore thin.
This is a shame, because some of the story really is beautifully written, and amid the brashness of Zuleika's narration, there are several moments that are touching, heartbreaking or arresting in one way or another. Zuleika's deliberately offhand references to the horrors of her wedding night - she is married, remember, at the age of 11, to an obese, middle-aged man - are painful in their deliberate casualness, and there is a viscerally shocking scene when she experiences a moment of catharsis while watching the grotesque cruelties of the amphitheatre.
While Bernadine Evaristo has done an innovative and interesting thing with this book - and I am sure many people would love it; there is much to admire in it - this one's just not for me, I'm afraid.
A brash bawdy romp, this is basically a "Carry On Cleo" type of mixture of Roman stereotypes with knowing winks to the audience through references to modern place names in and around London and modern fashions. The cover gives the game away with Zuleika sporting a heart shaped tattoo enclosing the words "SEV IV ME". I loved it, but those who take their historical fiction seriously will hate it.
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...
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love this book, its funny and clever and deserves to be much more widely known.Published 7 months ago by wonderoushen
A well written novel with an interesting melding of modern Day language and slang with classical language. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Miss J Tavares
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!Published on 25 Jun. 2014 by Amazon Customer
Disjointed. Part poetry, part story. Did not enjoy the style, but appreciated the message. Provoked an interesting discussion in the book club.Published on 30 April 2014 by Lady Gwendoline
This book was on my university reading list, and I would never have picked it up. Just the phrase 'novel in verse' would have made me run a mile, and I opened The Emperor's Babe... Read morePublished on 14 April 2013 by Nichola Thorpe
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). Read morePublished on 26 Mar. 2012 by DJW
The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it, said Oscar Wilde, as the first page of this sexy, naughty, quite wonderful book reminds us. Read morePublished on 15 Aug. 2011 by J. A. Eyers
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... Read morePublished on 5 April 2011 by Fearon