Gitta's Literary Escapades

Just another reader taking on (modern) classics, best-sellers, award-winners, non-fiction, and (guilty pleasure) chicklit armed with common sense, a brain and feminism.

The Emperor's Babe by Bernardine Evaristo

The Emperor's Babe: A Novel - Bernardine Evaristo

Enjoy historical fiction? That does not necessarily mean you will enjoy this. However, if you can recognise good writing - and I mean style, not story - and can keep an open mind when it comes to modern poetry, this might turn out to be a wonderful reading experience.


Historical Accuracy

A large part of the valuation of historical fiction relies on its accuracy. This was never an objective Evaristo, so if you read this genre to learn something about the culture, you might end up disappointed. Or if you are already knowledgeable about this period and locale and cannot enjoy inaccurate fiction, this is not the book you'll want to read. Evaristo deliberately makes use of anachronism to convey a certain cultural experience she believes to be close to what Roman London might have been like. For example, she uses English, Latin, Italian and Pict to create a multicultural London that we can understand. Naturally, neither Italian (nor English) were spoken during that time, but Evaristo's intention is to convey this cultural melting-pot and she does it really effectively through employing anachronism.


Free Verse

Normally, I'm not very fond of modern poetry and I had never read a novel in verse, but I thought it was very appropriate. Like Latin poetry, it does not rhyme but relies on metre and it is thus quite appropriate for a novel set in Roman Britain. The novel is made up of a multitude of short sections; some function as chapters, others are poems(in the more conventional meaning of the word). This makes it easy to stop reading and getting back to it without having to reread bits.


It is very raw, emotional and especially vividly described and the language is explicit at times. Even though this is historical fiction, it is not a light read. This book is thought provoking and intense and not literature for the masses. The luscious language and style Evaristo employs and the actual story should be enjoyed in equally. This is not simply entertainment, this is Literature.

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