BREAKFAST IN BABYLON by Emer Martin

BREAKFAST IN BABYLON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sobering if unsure tale of the flotsam of Europe--beggars and junkies living from one score and squat to the next--and of a young woman's experience as a part of it, in a debut from Dublin-born Martin. Paris is where the bulk of the action takes place, as Irish teenager Isolt lands penniless among the beggars and quickly adapts to their ways. The death from a stumble down stairs of an alcoholic friend, an older, once beautiful woman who escaped husband and children to find refuge among the addicts, is an early lesson for Isolt, but it comes at a time when she's not quite ready to heed it. When the chill of Paris becomes too much, she and her friends hop a train to the southern coast, but aside from sampling a new drug that makes them all crazy, sleeping on the beach hasn't much appeal. Isolt returns to the city and pairs up with Christopher, a Hispanic dealer/junkie from Detroit whose dark side the others fear but whose housing tips generally keep them all dry. When he uses up a drug shipment he was supposed to sell, however, things start to go sour. The gentle giant living with Isolt and junkie Christopher is beaten to death by their supplier's thugs, so they flee to London, where Isolt can live on the dole. A marriage for the conveniences that citizenship would offer follows, but Christopher's barbaric nature quickly warps the relationship. Isolt falls desperately in love with one of her exsquatmates, only to see this path to redemption nipped in the bud when her husband locks her up and brutalizes her again. She escapes to America, looking for a fresh start. Excessive commentary and a complicated, unconvincing villain don't help this gloomy if undeniably frank and vivid story, leaving one to hope for a firmer hand on the reins next time.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1997
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin