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What a incendiary, thought-provoking novel this is. It examines how women and children are crushed between the twin oppressions of eastern fundamentalism and western consumerism. And it also, like a bleak but
spiritual and haunting ballad, moves us and makes us care.
“In a world awash with the sort of low-grade, formulaic fiction that publishers think women want, Emer Martin is a beacon of hope…. If there is any justice in the world her latest novel, Baby Zero, will see her break through to the major league of literary writers and cement her reputation as one of the most exciting voices to emerge from this country in the last decade…. A prophetic and deeply moving work.”
–Books Ireland, Feb 2007
“Raven-haired writer Emer Martin is giving a lunchtime reading from her fabulous new novel, Baby Zero. Emer Martin is a brilliant writer, very much the real deal. She tells me that every single Irish review of her new book has made passing reference to Cecelia Ahern. Weird, given that Emer is to chick-lit what Shane MacGowan is to sobriety.”
- Olaf Tyaransen, Evening Herald
This, her third [novel], explores the uncertainties of the post-9/11 world, addressing the conflict between Islam and the West and the problems of immigration and assimilation through the “river within a river” that is Marguerite’s story…
Indeed Martin’s own situation – as an Irish woman married to an Iranian man – makes her uniquely placed to address such fraught issues, and this insight elevates Marguerite’s tale into a subtle exploration of the role of history and memory in the construction of identity: “You know you’re in trouble when the Iranians think you treat women badly.”
Martin delights in subverting the glib stereotypes of East and West and rejects traditional markers of nationality, identity and ethnicity in favour of a focus on individuals and the similarities between them. Viewed from this perspective, contemporary tensions are nothing more than “the same Cowboy and Indian story over and over again in different costumes, in different locations”. Baby Zero is both a convincing tale and a timely warning.
–The Irish Times, 24 February 2007
A riveting page-turner. A compelling satire on the clash of civilisations, the success of this story lies in the telling. Painted in large letters on a wall in the centre of Dublin, someone has taken the trouble to proclaim “Never forgive, never forget” not too far away, another, in even larger letters reads “Love Life”. If these slogans represent the writing on the wall of a new, multicultural Ireland, then Emer Martin’s Baby Zero offers rare insight into what they might mean.
–Brenda McNally, Sunday Tribune
“[Baby Zero] is cogent and urgent in depicting migration and dislocation as the predominant narrative of 21st-century history. Her characters are piquant and memorable; the tale is also very funny in
its portrait of Leila’s monstrous mother, Farah…[Martin's] portrait of
a world defined by the collapse of all notions of community
contains lasting strength and beauty”
–Claire Alfree, Metro (London)
Sometimes critics say a novel’s plot is great but the writing isn’t so good, or that the writing is great yet the plot is up-the-left. But this is the first time, I’m sure, that I haven’t been able to break those two things apart. There’s no light between them. They’re equally extraordinary, equally driving the momentum. Baby Zero is a literary
unit so flush, confident and unique that it should win a big fat prize, and I suspect it will. It’s as sharp and sore and dizzying as a bullet wound, and will probably stay with you for just as long.
New review of BABY ZERO and interview with author on laurahird.com
Emer Martin’s first novel, the winner of a major award when first published last year in her native Ireland, is as brutal as it is beautiful. Set primarily in Paris, with interludes in London, Munich, Amsterdam and Israel, Breakfast in Babylon traces the progress of Isolt, a young Irishwoman, through a European underworld inhabited by punk junkies, beggars, and criminals. She hangs out by day at the Pompidou fountain in Paris and by night in squalid and dangerous squats. Martin writes of this underworld, where drugs and alcohol are the only comforts and where life is short, in a spare, matter-of-fact prose. Isolt, as a woman, is an outsider and her status, or lack of one, allows her to stand outside and observe. One senses that she will retreat from this world as earlier she had retreated from an unhappy childhood in Ireland; that she hopes to arrive at wisdom through extreme experience, but not to succumb to it.
Despite the grim material, Breakfast in Babylon is often a very funny book and shows that Martin possesses in abundance the classic Irish gift for the absurd and the comic so evident in the fiction of Flann O’Brien and Samuel Beckett. It is her light and sure touch which renders the novel so remarkable. Also notable is Martin’s sure register of place and her ability to trace Isolt’s development as a woman as she trudges through the underworld. Breakfast in Babylon also represents a completely new departure for the Irish novel. Martin is the first Irish writer to represent the underside of Irish participation in Europe—a continent not of riches, but of addiction, abuse, nihilism, and despair. An explosive debut. There has never been an Irish novel like it. [Eamonn Wall]
In the follow-up to her acclaimed debut novel, Breakfast in Babylon, Emer Martin introduces an unforgettably dysfunctional Irish family whose members are paralyzed by the legacy of mental illness and crippling doubt. After her husband’s breakdown and institutionalization, Molly moves her four children from Ireland’s rural west country to Dublin, where her eldest daughter, Aisling, is attending college. Ostensibly her mother’s favorite, Aisling nevertheless takes the first opportunity to disappear without a word. Fifteen years later — time spent “preoccupied with the tyranny of everyday life” — Molly at last persuades her youngest daughter, Keelin, to begin the search for her sister. Following a trail that leads from Dublin to Tokyo to the United States, Keelin at last traces her long-lost sister to Central America, where an uncertain reunion — and a stunning betrayal — awaits.
At high speed and with wicked humor, Emer Martin introduces us to a family unlike any other. Long after her husband–who is literally unable to cross a threshold–is institutionalized, Molly moves her children from the west country of Ireland to Dublin. She is following her daughter Aisling, her favorite, who is to attend college there. But one summer, Aisling disappears.
Fifteen years later, Molly persuades the youngest and most reliable of her four girls, Caoilfhoinn, to put her own life on hold and find Aisling. Traveling the world with several of her siblings, Caoilfhoinn sees that each is cursed with their father’s affliction, “the doubting disease.” In one way or another, each is stuck, paralyzed. Many questionable adventures, an uncertain reunion, and a stunning betrayal later, Caoilfhoinn is forced to question the familial attachments that have always driven her. As Stephen Dixon wrote of Martin’s first novel, Breakfast in Babylon, the mood here is “hot, mad, and exciting, like a young writer’s…work should be.”