Other Book Reviews

 for BLONDE ROOTS

‘Astonishing’ – The Times
‘Ingenious’ – The Observer
‘Brilliant’ – The Telegraph
‘Powerful’ – Financial Times (*A Book of the Year)
‘Audacious’ – Independent on Sunday
‘Mesmerizing’ – The London Paper (*Top Choice)
‘Dizzying satire’ – The New Yorker
‘Ingenious’ – Washington Post, USA
‘Brilliant satire’ – Scotland on Sunday
‘Astonishing, uncomfortable & beautiful’Publishers Weekly,USA (*Starred)
Daring and shocking’ – Culture Watch
‘Totally original, witty and harrowing’ – Prospect (*A Book of the Year)
‘Bitingly humourous’ The Telegraph, (Pick of the Paperbacks)
‘Absolutely amazing’ – BBC Radio 5/Simon Mayo Show
‘Highly recommended’ – Library Journal, USA (*Starred)

‘Despite the seriousness of the subject, a lot of fun rubs off on the reader’ – San Francisco Chronical (*Book Editor’s Pick/a Book of the Year 09)
‘Pleasingly subversive’ – Kirkus, USA
‘I couldn’t put it down’ Feminist Review, USA
‘Riotous humour’ – The Independent
‘Povocative and powerful’ – Romantic Times, USA (*Top Pick)
‘Hauntingly beautiful & heartbreakingly uncomfortable’ Deseret News, USA
‘One long, outrageous metaphor on slavery’ – Next, USA
‘A cracking read’ – Strange Horizons
Gripping drama’ – Journal Interactive, USA
‘A provocative reminder’ – Bust Magazine, USA
‘Delightful yet sobering’- Book Page, USA
‘Sparkling new novel’ – St. Petersburg Times, USA

‘Novelists are irresistably drawn to the ‘what if’ game…But it has seldom been done on the scale of Bernardine Evaristo’s astonishing new novel which takes one of the great horrors of history and turns it on its head. …Evaristo is a poet and the novel is full of playful anachronisms, many of them based around language and emotions that sound decidedly 20th century. But it’s also a satire, almost Swiftian in its imaginative leaps, in which humour and suffering are effortlessly intermingled. …This brilliant novel will fulfil her purpose of making readers view the transatlantic slave trade with fresh eyes.’
The Times

‘…Evaristo’s satire on racism packs a timely punch….For her first prose novel she’s played a bold and rather brilliant game of counterfactual history and turned the slave trade on its head, imagining a world in which Africans enslaved Europeans. Evaristo manages to keep her wit and anger at a spicy simmer throughout…Many people in the fashion and beauty industries need to read this book, and think again about the power of their images.’
The Telegraph (23/8/08)

‘A bitingly humourous and damning portrait of the slave trade’
The Telegraph (16/5/09) (Pick of the Paperbacks)

‘(Bernardine Evaristo)…has come up with an ingenious way of refreshing the horrors of the slave trade…This is Evaristo’s first novel entirely in prose…but her language retains its musicality and exuberance, particularly in Doris’s un-self-pitying, drily comic tone…more than just a clever satire on race [it] achieves what one presumes the author intended: to remind us that ‘us’ and ‘them’ could so easily have been reversed, and that regarding someone as less than fully human is the root of all tyranny.’
The Observer(24/8/08)

‘My only complaint about Bernardine Evaristo’s alternate history of racial slavery is that it’s 150 years too late…But now, amid the warm glow of 21st-century liberalism, with our brilliant black president, what could we possibly learn from a new satire on slavery? Plenty! …The whole story is a riotous, bitter course in the arbitrary nature of our cultural values. Don’t be fooled; slavery might have ended 150 yearts ago, but you’ve still got time to be enlightened by this bracing novel.’
The Washington Post, USA

‘[Her] audacious inversion of the slave trade shakes one of the greatest foundations of modern history and topples a tower of deep-seated received wisdoms…Beyond her pithy prose and engaging characters, Evaristo, as she did with The Emperor’s Babe, tells a hugely imaginative tale that invites important debate, challenging fundamental perceptions of race, culture and history.’
Independent on Sunday  (24/8/08)

‘Evaristo has provided a brilliant satire whose flashes of comedy make the underlying tragedy all the more poignant.’
Scotland on Sunday (14/9/08)

‘As with Swiftian satire, Evaristo’s novel is powerful not for its fantastical elements but for its ability to bring home the horror of historical events’.
Financial Times (1/9/08) (& a Book of the Year)

‘British novelist Evaristo delivers an astonishing, uncomfortable and beautiful alternative history that goes back several centuries to flip the slave trade…Evaristo’s intellectually rigorous narrative constantly surprises..This difficult and provocative book is a conversation sparker.
Publishers Weekly (USA) (Starred Review)

‘In her new novel, Bernardine Evaristo, never one to shrink from an experiment, has taken her boldest step to date and turned the whole thing on its head… One of the best things about this book is its bittersweet, riotous humour…Running through these pages is not just a feisty, hyperactive imagination asking ‘’what if”, but the unhealed African heart with the question, ‘‘how does it feel?”. This is a powerful gesture of thematic ownership by one of the UK’s most unusual and challenging writers.’
The Independent (1/8/08)

‘Writers messing around with history is nothing new, but the way that Evaristo entirely inverts the story of slavery is mesmerising. She has imagined the world with linguistic flourishes, creating a tale that is satirical as well as moving.’
The London Paper (8/8/08) (Top Choice)

BBC Radio 5/Simon Mayo/Books (4/9/08)
‘I thought this was an absolutely amazing book…a reminder of what great literature is about.’
BBC Radio 5/Dreda Say Mitchell, Critic

‘The voices of the characters are engaging and funny. Really, really clever, thought-provoking…moving, powerful, impressive.’
BBC Radio 5/Boyd Hilton, Critic

‘It’s a wonderful book…brilliant! I hope it will end up on the school syllabuses.’
BBC Radio 5/Joel Morris, Critic

……………………………
‘Blonde Roots re-imagines past and present with refreshing humour and intelligence….It’s the message that freedom is the right to choose your own bonds that makes Blonde Roots so human and real.’
The Guardian (2/8/08)

‘I found Blonde Roots to be a cracking good read. Not a new story but a great variation on the theme, skilfully written, full of sparkling, edgy images. Recommended.
Strange Horizons
(27/10/08)

‘Her book is funny, and she avoids the fallacious trap of equating suffering with moral superiority. Evaristo has seized a cautious, private thought and expounded with deliberate satire, dry wit and acute insight into this thing we call history…Evaristo has created a rich precedent.’
http://www.culturewars.org.uk (16/8/08)

‘Novelists and historians are often tempted to play the ‘what-if’ game, but few of these attempts result in anything as inspired as Blonde Roots....Evaristo’s message goes deep in this delightful yet sobering novel.
Book Page, USA

‘Both hauntingly beautiful and heartbreakingly uncomfortable Blonde Roots
becomes less about pigment and more about the characters. The reader becomes invested, rooting for a positive outcome that surpasses the colour of skin. Here, humanity and perseverance are the main theme, proving that the need for freedom and attachment are universal.’
Deseret News, USA

‘Owing to the poetically-surreal quality of its prose, Evaristo’s deeply political writing is never far from endearing. Blonde Roots jolts the reader into looking at, and in turn learning from, history with new eyes.’
St. Petersburg Times, USA

The wide variety of characters, the examinations of image and identity, and Doris’ own adventures may make this a popular selection for book groups. Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries.’
Library Journal, USA, (Starred Review)

‘One of the remarkable achievements of the book is its ability to take on a horrendous subject such as transatlantic slavery in which millions of Africans perished, and while never losing sight of the seriousness of the subject, the writer still manages to make us laugh.’
Calabash Magazine

‘Ultimately Blonde Roots is successful, both as a work of fiction – I couldn’t put it down – and as an experiment with political implications. Evaristo humanizes the victims, and in some cases, the perpetrators of the slave trade and gives readers who thought they knew all the answers about this important piece of world history new questions to think about.’
Feminist Review (USA)

‘This provocative and powerful alternate history asks the question – what if Europeans has been enslaved by Africans. Readers may find the revelations difficult to read in this thought-provoking story that challenges our perceptions of race.’
Romantic Times (Top Pick)

‘A pleasingly subversive, well-crafted novel of slavery and deliverance that turns conventionss – and the world – upside down.’
Kirkus, USA

‘It is an education in the history that was stripped from a proud people, told in perhaps the only way that would compel the public to pay attention. It is a marvellous achievement, as both a fiction and an argument, and is certainly a book for our times.’
Halftribe

‘Evaristo writes as if her pen is on fire – the enthusiastic detail of clothes and food and places and people shooting out, white hot – so the prose fairly whooshes along, like flames through a dry forest, and you really do get carried along with it….get yourselves a copy of Blonde Roots…because it is ambitious and challenging and it will make you think hard about all sorts of things.’
Crowdpleasers.blogspot.com

How on earth do we help an ethnic majority understand the realities or racism?…Blonde Roots is the daring and shocking result…Evaristo’s writing is vibrant, but interspersed with a biting wit. Hers is an alien universe that bears enough echoes of our own for the book to be deliberately unsettling.
Culture Watch

‘Who would have thought it possible? A dazzling, hilarious, funky, and utterly contemporary novel about the transatlantic slave trade. I can think of no other writer who could pull it off.’
Diana Evans, novelist, author of 26a

‘Sharp, witty, funny, unflinching, and at times painful, Blonde Roots raises deep questions, challenges received wisdoms, and plumbs new depths of compassion and empathy.’
Chris Abani, novelist, author of Graceland

‘Bernardine Evaristo rises to a new challenge with every book. Her re-imagining of history is by turns provacative, illuminating, moving and entertaining – what more can one ask for?’
Margaret Busby, Critic, editor of Daughters of Africa

for THE EMPEROR’S BABE

One of the Times ‘100 Best Books of the Decade’, November 2009.

‘Adventurous, compelling and utterly original. You won’t read another book like it this year.’
The Times: Best of Summer Books

‘Sexy, clever and ingenious: a verse romp set in Roman Londinium. Why must fiction always be in prose?’
The Independent: A dozen alternatives to the Booker long list.

‘Exotic, erotic and incredibly entertaining, this is, amazingly, a verse novel you can’t put down.’
The Observer

‘Evaristo’s strikingly original The Emperor’s Babe makes you feel that you are reading something that has never before been attempted, a sensation to savour. Written in fresh, zingy, witty language that combines tags of Latin, historically authentic references and 21st Century teen slang, it is a fast, exciting read whose occasional bittersweet notes build until it turns like a ballad from comedy to tragedy….The Emperor’s Babe….is a modern work of art that uses the literary tradition with such light assurance that everything seems new. 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.’
The Sunday Times

‘The Emperor’s Babe .. is unexpectedly sassy, funny,engaging and very sexy. Honest to God, you’ll love it.’
Sunday Independent (Ireland) (A Book of the Year, 2001)

‘If there is any justice in the world, The Emperor’s Babe will be a huge hit. Fictions like Evaristo’s, overflowing with energy and originality, are as rare as the sauteed peacock brains she has her heroine consume…..Evaristo’s triumph is to transmute politics and history into a glittering fiction whose words leap off the page into life….brilliant.’
The Times
‘Evaristo’s skill lies in taking standard metaphorical models and twisting them in the most unusual, original, inventive ways. The Emperor’s Babe is exactly what the title suggests: the adventures of a sassy, sexy, girl about town…It’s also funny, engaging and a daring evocation of the possible genesis of black British history. By puncturing the imperial pomp of Latin vocabulary with the cut and thrust of modern street talk, Evaristo demystifies much of the gilded decorum Rome evokes… The punchy poetry is perfect for the rhythm of the emperor’s babe, the epitome of all that is fast, fresh, funky.’

Independent on Sunday (A Book of the Year, 2001)

‘Evaristo’s delicious The Emperor’s Babe is, as they say, something completely different: a fresh and original historical novel, narrated in verse.’
The Bookseller

‘It is a highly enjoyable romp.’

The Guardian

‘Evaristo uses her second verse novel to set about the Roman Empire with a gleeful disregard for decorum….the ancient Romans haven’t suffered such irreverence since Carry on Cleo……..It has great charm and vitality.’
Daily Telegraph (A Book of the Year, 2001)

This is a belter of a book. Told at breakneck speed by an incredible talent. This novel deserves to win every award going. Bound to be a bestseller and a classic.
New London Independent

‘Wildy imaginative.’

Red Magazine: Pick of the Month

‘The Emperor’s Babe is an undoubted triumph…it is a beautifully crafted work.’
Wasafiri Literary Magazine

‘Evaristo re-writes history in her extraordinary tale of Roman London….(The Emperor’s Babe) breaks all the rules. A world where ancient and contemporary zeitgeists converge, it offers a whole new take on the concept of the London novel…..an hilarious, street-wise tragi-comedy…’
The Voice

‘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.’

The Independent

‘There are few books more quirky and original than Bernardine Evaristo’s new offering The Emperor’s Babe. Evaristo has managed to capture, with contemporary clarity, humour and a host of quirky characters, what London might have been like 2000 years ago.’
New Nation

American Review Quotes

‘Irreverent, fun, and amusingly anachronistic…The gladiatorial scene is not to be missed…Consistently amusing, clever and inventive.
Library Journal USA

‘Smart, imaginative and readable… a rich farrago of historical fact and outrageous fancy.’
New York Times

‘A vividly imagined albeit distinctly modern look at a woman’s role in Roman times by a talented writer with a fertile mind and playful spirit.’
Publishers Weekly

4. for LARA

‘Lara is a short, lyrical, vividly real novel-in-verse, dipping 150 years into the past to explore the family history of a British woman with a Nigerian father and English mother. It’s funny, touching, informative, passionate and very easy to read. If you’re tired of novels that all seem the same, this one’s a complete original.’
Daily Telegraph, (A Book of the Year)

‘First novels don’t often make my heart beat faster….Bernardine Evaristo is a gifted black writer. Her
Lara is a beautifully written novel-in-verse.’
New Statesman, (A Book of the Year)

‘Highlighting her skill as a storyteller as well as a poet,
Lara is a work that is finely crafted in both detail and delivery.’
The Journal, (A Book of the Year)

‘The linguistically exultant
Lara is a true discovery.’
The Independent on Sunday

‘A verse novel can often be greeted with a mixture of suspicion and resistance…Bernardine Evaristo, however, is a torch bearer and her writing floods light onto the genre. Anyone who has ever read The Emperor’s Babe will enjoy this re-issue of Lara….Evaristo’s poetry is compelling, visceral and immediate…The exuberance of this verse novel is infectious and many people already concur’.
PN Review

‘A highly original and ambitious book, engaging great swathes of history…..a rich and fascinating work…a tale vividly and vivaciously told, the writing is often sensuous, at times terse and brutal….Evaristo plays with time and narrating voices….Perhaps one of the fruits of multicultural British consciousness will be the evolution of hybrid literary forms, crossing boundaries, mixing genres, challenging established ‘ways of saying’, enriching the vocabulary of both form and utterance. Going by Bernardine Evaristo’s achievement, I would certainly hope so.’
Wasafiri

‘Evaristo is considered a major voice in the multicultural panorama of literature in Britain today……Evaristo’s treatment of her material is super-original….. An extraordinary story of the cross-cultural global village in action.’
Weekend Herald, New Zealand


‘It takes the reader on an epic journey through the girl’s life and family history in a unique style that is moving and funny. Accessible as a novel, tender as poetry.’
Good Book Guide

‘This powerful verse novel is one of the finest books I’ve read to date in this genre. It is a rich and evocative book and one I could not put down.
Artemis 

Lara makes the case that there is a compelling emerging genre of British writing which offers rich potential for moving and evocative literature….. In Evaristo we are witnessing a fresh voice of daring….a narrative rich in vivid description of place and time, but equally compelling is her ability to capture the nuances of language in the dialogue of her characters… What Evaristo manages to do is expand the meaning of being African and being a woman living in the transcultural world of the twenty-first century Europe…….A wonderful story, well told.’
World Literature Today, USA

‘Evaristo re-tells the black history of Britain from a mixed-race perspective.’
New Nation Newspaper

‘A moving epic of restlessness and desire written with lyrical beauty and highly resonant images.’
Best of Black & Asian Writing, Well Worth Reading

Lara is an exquisite piece of poetic fiction.’
2nd Generation magazine

for SOUL TOURISTS

‘In Soul Tourists Bernardine Evaristo has mixed poetry and prose to produce a bouncy, sometimes touching novel about the search for love and belonging…The economy of Evaristo’s language as all this unfolds is impressive….(The writing) is fecund, stimulating and witty…Evaristo remains an undeniably bold and energetic writer, whose world view is anything but one-dimensional.’
The Sunday Times

‘Evaristo revels in meshing time frames, juggling spoken and narrative registers, fusing the glaringly incompatible, and here, flipping between free-style verse, prose and dramatic dialogue. The secret of her alchemical touch lies in transforming this experimentation into funky yarns so tantalising you want to devour them.’
The Guardian

‘Free-wheeling, genre-busting, exuberent and sexy, this is not a novel for the faint-hearted.’
The Guardian (pbk review 06)

‘Bernardine Evaristo’s dazzling Soul Tourists explores realms that are more than usually out of the ordinary…Evaristo, radically refusing to be confined by genres, has written the story of a love affair, a road trip and a detour into hidden aspects of Europe’s black history that manages to be thought-provoking, funky and funny.’
Metro

‘The story is told in an inspired mixture of prose, blank verse and haiku, as it leaps energetically from interior to exterior,dialogue to monologue, containing moments of lucid imagery and sex-starved comedy.’
The Times

‘A rollercoaster road movie in print where the language twists and turns more than a path through the Pyrenees. Evaristo crosses the border between prose,poetry and film script and exposes the hidden face of black European history in the process.’
Books of the Year, Independent on Sunday

‘This odyssey is a book to pack for its gypsy spirit and summer music.’
The Independent

‘One of Britain’s most innovative writers, Bernardine Evaristo always dares to be different. Soul Tourists is a reaffirmation of her unique and stimulating style.’
New Nation

 for HELLO MUM (Because this was a Quick Read it was not reviewed. Here are readers comments from the comment box in Halesworth Library, Suffolk and Holywell School, Suffolk

Holywell School

I think Hello Mum is a really good story. It gives you a very good understanding of what life is like for teenagers and how knife crime etc affects people

This one of the best books I have read. The ending was very sad I would tell everyone to read this

I think Hello Mum is a very dramatic story. It’s good because it shows people the kind of things that happen.

Hello Mum was a pretty good book which was fascinating the way they wrote the story as if he is having a conversation with his mum.

I think Hello Mum is an excellent story. I don’t normally like reading but I enjoyed reading this book.

I think it is really helpful to teenagers because it is true and can relate to what is going on in their lives.

I think it is brilliant and that means something because I don’t really like books.

I think it is very realistic and very true. I love the book cause it’s not too long and not too short it’s just alright.


Haleworth Library

“I wasn’t expecting to like it, BUT was totally absorbed in jj’s world.  The pressures and attitudes of young people were brilliantly and brutally portrayed, SO VEY SAD”

“An amazing and terrifyingly accurate piece of social history.  An excellent fast-paced piece of writing – and oh so sad.  Brilliant for reluctant readers.”

“I thought it was a really good read, it left me with a very clear idea what it felt like to be Jerome”

“I am 82 years old, reading this book which I enjoyed twice over”

“A very sad story of how gang culture can blight the life of a young boy. I liked Jerome and his little touches of humour.  The book gives a disturbing account of daily life in some parts of cities”.

“A cracking thought provoking short read.  A disturbing insight into life for some not so very far from East Anglia”

“Not a book I would normally have read, but very likely writing.  Good use of words, horribly realistic”.

“Thought provoking for all age groups, but especially the young.  A story that bridges the Generation Gap!”