Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Emperor's Babe” as Want to Read:
The Emperor's Babe
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Emperor's Babe

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  273 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Bernardine Evaristo’s tale of forbidden love in bustling third-century London is an intoxicating cocktail of poetry, history, and fiction. Feisty, precocious Zuleika, daughter of Sudanese immigrants-made-good and restless teenage bride of a rich Roman businessman, craves passion and excitement. When she begins an affair with the emperor, Septimius Severus, she knows her li ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 24th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published 2001)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Emperor's Babe, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Emperor's Babe

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,013)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 25, 2015 Cait rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Twoooo.......and a half? Idk.

Wow first of all I think the edition I had definitely had the best cover. But anyway. This book feels like somebody's thesis that didn't get enough of a tightening-up before publication. I love the core idea so much--the main character, Zuleika is the daughter of Nubian immigrants to Roman Londinium, and the book chronicles her life through verse, since she's an aspiring poet--but this really feels like round one of something, where you find an old thing you wrote in
Sep 13, 2010 Heidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Heidi by: 50books_poc
First verse novel I've read, and certainly not one that I'd intended to start with. I expected that one day I'd get around to reading some of Stephen Herrick's work, or Elizabeth Fensham, or Eva Sandall. But I was shelving books at work and came across this book by Bernadine Evaristo, a name I'd heard a lot on 50books_poc. And I looked at the blurb and read a little bit of the book, and it was like the book reached out and grabbed me. It's the most amazing combination of language and setting and ...more
Nicholas Whyte
Apr 03, 2010 Nicholas Whyte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Zuleika, the narrator of The Emperor's Babe, is the daughter of Sudanese immigrants in London in the very early third century; she is married aged eleven to a Senator, and several years after starts a relationship with the visiting Emperor, Septimius Severus. I knew a little about him from Gibbon, who writes of him rather disapprovingly in Chapter V of Decline and Fall, though is more positive about him in Chapter VI when he goes to kill the Scots.

The Em
Meghan Cooper
Mar 10, 2010 Meghan Cooper rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Budding readers who are bored of the same conventional books
Recommended to Meghan by: Friend who absolutely loves this book
This book is written entirely in verse and it looks at how a young girl in roman times is forced into a marriage with an older man. It is full of symbolism and excellent decriptions. I thought it was really different from other books and I thought it was well written. On the other hand this book could have flowed better and could have moved at a faster pace. I also didn't understand some parts of the book so I didn't get lots of the full meaning.
Anita Fajita Pita
So, "this is a book written in verse" is what you're reading in all the reviews of this book. What you aren't reading is that

this is a book that you forget
is written in verse.

so you just kind of
plow through three quarters of it

until something kind of sings at you
and your eyes stutter

and you remember
that this is a book written in verse.

I don't really have the right words to comment on this story. It's magical and lyrical and full of lust and love and sorrow. The commentary is feminist; it's mod
Jun 11, 2015 Kamilah rated it liked it
You gotta love the main character heroine. She's streetwise, quick as a whip, and honestly her voice, the things that she thinks and says, it's all just good fun. You laugh and you buy her character in her frustrations and her drive. However, I will say I was not too fond of the time skips. I feel like Evaristo subtly talks about important things.

Just an example, after Zuleika declares she will make the emperor his, suddenly not even a section or two later, we have Severus eating at her home and
Jan 06, 2013 Fizzycola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Olisinkohan ikinä tullut tarttuneeksi kirjaan, jonka nimi on "Keisarin kullanmuru", sen paremmin kirjakaupassa kuin kirjastossakaan? Tuskinpa vain. Oli todellinen onnenpotku, että joulupukki suuressa viisaudessaan oli valinnut juuri tuon teoksen yhteen kirjapaketeistani.

Mitä? Proosarunon muotoon kirjoitettu historiallinen romaani Lontoosta vuonna 211? Päähenkilöinä nubialaissyntyinen varhaisteini ja Rooman keisari! Eeeeei!

Mutta kyllä. Ja erinomainen romaani onkin. Raju ja romanttinen, rujo ja k
Feb 02, 2016 Molly rated it it was amazing
I found this on the clearance rack. The review (Kirkus Reviews) quoted on the cover said it was "like an episode of Sex and the City written by Ovid." I don't care for Sex and the City, but Ovid was enough to get me to read it. It was a quick, fun, sexy read. I cried. I appreciated the chance to read some fiction written from the perspective of a black lady under the Roman empire. I'm not typically a "chick lit" sort of person, and there were many moments when I found the interactions between ce ...more
Anu Hirsiaho
Dec 17, 2015 Anu Hirsiaho rated it it was amazing
A classic of postcolonial feminist fiction-by some standards it could even be called chicklit, though the level of language is too demanding for the novel to be treated only as entertainment. The Nubian presence in the Roman empire is a relatively unknown chapter, so the story of black Zuleika as a well-kept child-bride and mistress was titillating. I saw this book at the time of its publication but was not up to reading it, because of the poetic form and partly archaic language. Now I'm really ...more
Joanne Sheppard
May 13, 2016 Joanne Sheppard rated it it was ok
The Emperor's Babe is a novel written in blank verse, set in Roman London. The narrator is a Zuleika, a girl born to Sudanese immigrant parents who, aged 11, is quite literally sold by her father to a wealthy man who wants her for his bride. Skip forward a few years and Zuleika is pampered materially but emotionally neglected, bored and unfulfilled - until she catches the eye of the Roman Emperor, Septimius Severus,

By far the most notable thing about The Emperor's Babe is its language, which is
i am obsessed with this, i can see flaws but i'm still obsessed, this book still gets a million stars from me!! so funny and clever and consistently brilliant.
Reetta Saine
Jul 24, 2011 Reetta Saine rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Sain kirjan, koska omistaja tahtoi kuulla siitä arvostelun. Tässä.

Yleensä kolme tähteä annetaan kirjoille, jotka ovat "ihan hyviä", mutta Keisarin kullanmurun kolmikko on tarkka keskiarvo hetkittäisten kielellisten nautintojen ja myötähäpeän vaihtelusta.

Zuleika on sudanilainen maahanmuuttaja 200-luvun Londoniumissa, Rooman valtakunnan reunalla. Hänet naitetaan 11-vuotiaana ylhäiselle roomalaiselle patriisille, mutta todellisen rakkauden tyttö saa kokea keisari Septimus Severuksen rakastajattaren
Sep 13, 2011 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
One does not think of London, England as ever having been a Roman town, but this marvelous book is set in Londinium, Britannia, AD 211, a bustling city of slums, palatial Roman homes, gladiators, slaves, vice of every description, and the birthplace of Zuleika, the narrator of this book, which is set up as poetry (mostly irregular unrhymed couplets narration) written by her. The book is raw, feisty, humorous, touching, and a corner into a woman of great spirit, and I loved reading the book.

Viivi "Neri"
Oct 30, 2013 Viivi "Neri" rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Saatiin taas äidinkielen tunnilla tehtävä lukea kirja. Tällä kertaa siis kaksi minulle harvinaista asiaa kirjassa: suomenkielinen ja runomuotoinen.

Olin aluksi erittäin ennakkoluuloinen kirjan suhteen, mutta jo muutaman ensimmäisen sivun jälkeen olin jo täydessä vauhdissa ahmimassa tarinaa eteenpäin. Runomuoto aluksi meinasi tehdä lukemisen vaikeaksi kun automaattisesti piti tauon kappalejakojen kohdalla vaikka lause olisi ollut vielä kesken. Toisaalta kun oppi vihdoin lukemaan tekstin yhtenäisen
Candy Wood
Readers need not be put off by this novel’s verse format. The narrator aspires to be a poet in the tradition of Horace or Catullus, and her style is a cheerfully anachronistic vernacular. While the setting is Roman Londinium, AD 211, and many of the details of living conditions, clothing, and food are historically accurate, modern idioms and place names like St. Paul’s and Greenwich establish links with present-day London. The narrator, Zuleika, experiences widely contrasting sides of the city a ...more
Sometimes, assigned reading may seem a little wayward, and poetry can be branded as pretty daunting. Both of these concepts cause people to flinch and quickly back away from the prospect of reading something that; a) they have been told to read and; b) something written in a style that some believe involves to much of a conscious effort to be enjoyable.

Occasionally however, a text will blow both of these concepts out of the water and The Emperor's Babe does just that. This book rocked. It has
Jun 16, 2007 Christy rated it really liked it
It’s Roman times in Londinium (that’s London to us modern folks) and Zuleika, a Sudanese child bride, describes her roller coaster life in jaunty verse that combines Latin with today’s slang. It’s an exhilarating and thoroughly original book.

Here’s a taste of her verse. In this excerpt she is describes how the gladiators are:
“satirized by the smug classes / in comic sketches at the theatre
where they appeared as airheads, / wot ‘adn’t mastered the lingua Latin proper
wot didn’t know their Horace /
Mar 21, 2014 Melissa rated it it was amazing
Unique and creative and beautiful and sad.
Feb 01, 2011 Celine rated it really liked it
So very grateful to evesalexandria for having reviewed this. Without it I'd never have picked it up and that would have been missing out on a treat. It should have been too cutesy, too anachronistic, too damned clever for its own good. It wasn't. I loved the salt of it, and the use of language. A book to be savoured.
Aug 10, 2007 Heather rated it really liked it
Awesome story of a Nubian slave-turned-princess in Londinium Brittania who rises and eventually falls after a love affair with a Roman emperor. The plot is interesting, but what makes it even better is that she narrates in modern British slang and it makes it seem strangely familiar. It's also laced with the main character's poetry, which gives it a really cool flow.
Nicola Aldren
Jan 19, 2014 Nicola Aldren rated it really liked it
Very clever!
Jul 11, 2012 Debbie rated it it was amazing
Not having much of an interest in poetry, I was initially horrified to see this book was written in verse. However, I was stuck on a tube with an hours journey so read it anyway. I loved it! It was really easy to read, funny, ancient and modern all in one book. I must learn not to be prejudiced about writing styles in future!
Jun 23, 2007 Nana rated it really liked it
an intriguing novel written in verse (generally couplets, but she uses other forms as well). set during the roman empire, it cleverly incorporates current pop-culture lingo and references. it's a quirky, fast read, and an interesting form for a novel. she basically cut out all the chaff. though we often love & need the chaff.
Oct 11, 2011 Serena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uni-reading-list
I have never read a novel that is in poetry form throughout. It isn't as dull as you would first think. This poetry is vivid and descriptive and pushes the story on with fast pace mixing period history with the slang of today to tell a young girl's story who at 11 was married off to an elderly patrician.
Aug 14, 2011 Malcolm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel about the London-based mistress of Septimus Severus and daughter of Sudanese immigrants, in rhyming couplets. Zuleika is one of the most sassy women characters I met in a novel in the last ten years. Don't be put off by a 253 page long poem – it is funny, and it is a rollicking good read.
Sep 29, 2013 Gitta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Language and history lovers
Recommended to Gitta by: University
Given the recent changes to the ToS on Goodreads, I -- like many -- have decided to delete my reviews. This review has been moved to Booklikes. Click here to read my review.
Apr 17, 2013 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fun, funny, tragic, beautifully and excitingly written, and pulls off the rare trick of being both accessible and arty. A novel in verse sounds gimmicky, but is executed wonderfully. Expanded my ideas of what can be done in modern poetry and modern novels.
Mar 30, 2015 Molly rated it it was amazing
Just fantastic, unique, un-put-downable. Funny, touching, magically charming. Narrative Verse that is lushly poetic and yet completely lviing and functional in the delivery of story - I didn't think anyone could write like this anymore.
Oct 07, 2012 Rozonda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Breathtaking, beautiful and intense, bittersweet, coarse, poetical and humorous, Zuleika has a very personal voice and her journey through poverty, abuse, love and tragic death is beautifully expressed in this verse novel.
Feb 04, 2015 Blinzelei rated it it was ok
Shelves: university
Admittedly, this book is interestingly written in verse form, but with a mixture of old Latin and modern slang. However, I found the plot as such a bit flat. Seemed as though Evaristo wanted to end the story quickly.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 33 34 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Arden Shakespeare Complete Works
  • Two Cures for Love: Selected Poems, 1979-2006
  • The Armour of Achilles (Adventures of Odysseus, #3)
  • My Father And Other Working Class Football Heroes
  • Ace, King, Knave
  • War Music: An Account of Books 1-4 and 16-19 of Homer's Iliad
  • Sir Orfeo
  • The Devil's Tour
  • My Beautiful Launderette
  • Fast Lanes
  • The Wise Woman (Stone of Light, #2)
  • The Sickness
  • Iphigenia / Phaedra / Athaliah
  • The Secret of the Kingdom
  • Afterimage
  • Memorial
  • The Dark Rose (The Morland Dynasty, #2)
  • The Best of Satyajit Ray
Bernardine Evaristo is a British writer, born in Woolwich, south east London to an English mother and Nigerian father. She has written novels in various mixes of prose and poetry; she has also written poems, radio plays, and theatre plays. Among her other honours, The Emperor's Babe was chosen as one of the Times' "100 Best Books of the Decade" and Evaristo was named a Member of the British Empire ...more
More about Bernardine Evaristo...

Share This Book

“To leave a whisper of myself in the world, my ghost, a magna opera of words.” 3 likes
“my fingers penetrated your bushy hair, pulled it up in tufts, squeezed the tension out of your head, to your quiet, grateful groans. I untied the Gordian knots in your shoulders with juniper oil, pummelled your back with my fists, knuckle each vertebrae down to your coccyx, knead your hard buttocks, rub oil into your legs, bathe your tired feet, squeeze them until your tingles shoot up my arm, I chew each toe in turn until it is softened, bite into your soles like a joint of pork, you cannot help but giggle, sir, I turn you over, with my palms, rotate your temples, trace the curves on your face, touching yet not, three fingers inside your mouth, let you suckle, baby, from belly to breast, I massage your chest in concentric circles, pinch your nipples, nibble gently, set my belly-dancer tongue on to them, take your hands, my love, tie them above your head, with your belt, I sit astride my steed, take the reins, my flexible muscles holding you in, flexing like strong fists, tighten and release, teasing you, taming you, your eyes are shut, you have died and gone to Olympus, smiling, I slap it off, so hard my hand hurts, your eyes shoot open like a dead man dying, I slap you again, you feign amusement, your eyes suggest so this is slap and tickle? I take your riding crop, fold it, lash your chest. ‘Take that!’ I hiss. ‘How dare you humour me. Who’s the boss now?” 0 likes
More quotes…