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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.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780140297812
ISBN-10: 0140297812
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 17mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: Penguin Books Ltd
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publish Date: 25-Apr-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » A story written completely in verse, liberally sprinkled with Latin vocabulary, sounds like a recipe for terminal boredom. Far from it. This is an intoxicating, outrageous romp through London in the second century AD, and the frantic pace will leave you breathless but panting for more. Evaristo is an established poet, and her debut verse novel, Lara, scooped her the EMMA best book award in 1999. She returns to the genre with a vengeance in her latest book, which was inspired by her research into the history of Roman London. When she discovered black Africans formed a substantial minority of the London population, the idea for her feisty Sudanese heroine was born. Zuleika is a streetwise young urchin at the start of the book, rollicking round London with her mates Alba and the transvestite Venus (nee Rufus). Her wild-oat-sowing days are soon cut short, however, when she is married off to the ponderous but wealthy Felix who leaves her to mooch around his expensive villa, bored and frustrated, while he travels the globe on interminable business ventures. Writing poetry, entertaining her parents and vile young brother, and sneaking out with Alba and Venus all help to pass the time, until the day she is spotted at the theatre by the Roman Emperor himself, Septimius Severus. They embark upon a passionate affair which can only end in disaster. This is a thoroughly modern rendering of an ancient tale and one of the book's fascinations is spotting the hundreds of modern references that strew its pages. A flower shop is called Wild@Heart; a local protest poet bears the name Manumittio X; even lyrics from West Side Story pop up ('There's a place for us/Somewhere a place for us'). Reading The Emperor's Babe is as exhilarating as a cold shower - Latin has never been so much fun! (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Holy Po-Mo, Batman! How about a historical, multicultural, transgender novel-in verse, yet!-about a colony of third-century Africans living in London under the empire (the Roman empire, that is). There are some stories that just can't be told straight, and newcomer Evaristo doesn't bother trying. She lets herself go wild in this account of the fabulous life and celebrated adventures of Zuleika, a Sudanese girl ("Illa Bella Negreeta") whose parents brought her from Khartoum to London-er, make that Londinium-and married her off to a Roman nobleman before she had even come within spitting distance of puberty. Her husband Felix was an old man in his 30s, very rich, and hardly ever in town, and he saw to most of Zuleika's needs, installing her in a gigantic house with an army of servants to attend to her. The problem was that he attended to other matters himself, and left her completely on her own. So she became a club kid in short order, hanging out at the ultra-hip Mount Venus nightclub with all the trannies and fashionistas and even became tight with transvestite goddess Venus herself. Zuleika soon becomes a fixture of the downtown scene, getting her frocks from the best shops and trading adulterous gossips with her girlfriends. Eventually she is spotted at the theater by the Emperor Septimus Severus, who happens to be passing through his British colonies on a kind of goodwill tour, and the two are struck by a thunderbolt. True love at last! And Felix can hardly complain, even if he were of a mind to, since everybody has to stand aside to let the Emperor cut in. Unfortunately for Zuleika, however, the Emperor is a king as well as a lover, and a soldier as well as a king. And soldiers have a way of dying in battle. Truly crazy, lots of fun, and more than slightly perverse: this reads like an episode of Sex and the City written by Ovid. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Bernardine Evaristo

Bernardine Evaristo's debut novel, LARA, was published to wide critical acclaim, and won the Emma Best Book Award in 1999. She is a former Poet in Residence at the Museum of London, and her work has been widely anthologized. She won a prestigious Arts Council Writers Award in 2000.

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