A Light Verse Novel about Partying in Londinium (London) back in Roman Times

“The Emperor’s Babe” by Bernardine Evaristo (2001) – 253 pages

I’m always on the lookout for good verse novels, so when I read that “The Emperor’s Babe” was selected by the Times as one of the “100 Best Books of the Decade”, I decided to read it. This novel is a playful decadent romp told by a teenage girl named Zulieka who roams the streets of London and lives it up with her wild friends until her father arranges a marriage for her with a middle-aged Roman nobleman in London on business. The girl’s family goes from being poor to being well-off, but Zulieka is stuck in a huge villa with her horny old man. She misses her old friends and the street and club life.

Here is an example of the light verse from the novel.

      one minute it’s hopscotch in bare feet
      next you’re four foot up in a sedan in case

your pink stockings get dirty. No one
prepared me for marriage. Me and Alba

were the wild girls of Londinium,
sought to discover the secrets

of its hidden hearts, still too young
to withhold more than we revealed,

to join the merry cast of actors.
she was like a rag doll who’d lost its stuffing:

spiky brown hair kept short ‘coz of nits;
everyone said she was anorexic

or had worms, but Alba was so busy
chasing the dulcis vita that she just burnt

everything she ate before it turned to fat.

Don’t read “The Emperor’s Babe” expecting to learn anything important about Roman history. It ain’t that kind of book. Here are some of the words that could be used to describe “The Emperor’s Babe” :sassy, audacious, sexy, erotic, tragic, glittering, dazzling, seductive, outrageous. The verse doesn’t rhyme which is just fine with me.

This book is great to read on a traveling holiday which I did, because it demands little concentration, yet every time you pick it up you have fun with the chaotic and inventive verse. If you are easily offended by the risqué, don’t touch this book with a ten-foot pole.

      We’d prowl the darkened alleyways, our noses
    Sniffing out the devastating odor of sex.
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