Earlier in the week, I bemoaned the apparent non-existence of one Mrs. E. A. Germains, the author of the Jewish novel Left to Starve (1878). My mother, overhearing the bemoaning in question, took to ancestry.com--and behold! The mystery is solved!
Mrs. E. A. Gemains is Emma Zalkin Germains, born in Birmingham in 1844. The Zalkin Germains is courtesy of her husband, Adolph Zalkin Germains, formerly Aaron Simon Zalkin Germains/Germans. Depending on whom you ask (or whose transcription you trust, anyway), A. Z. was either from Prussia or Russia (that one letter does make a difference; Russia occurs most often in the records); he was naturalized in 1875. And then, for some reason, he and his wife took off for NY, arriving in November 1876. The passenger list identifies them as "musicians." (There are, in fact, a lot of musical references in Left to Starve.) Their oldest child, Victor, was born in the USA in 1878, which is also the year that Adolph apparently self-published his wife's novel. (You'll note that Emma started having kids in her 30s, which is pretty late. The marriage itself also appears to have been a late one.) But by 1881, they're back in England. By an odd miracle of misspelling, Emma's occupation is identified on the 1881 census as "grovel writer" (I suppose being a novelist could involve a lot of grovelling, especially where publishers were involved). But wait! There's more! In 1883, they go back to the USA again--this time with three children attached: Victor, Percival (Auguste?), and Nila. Who, in reality, is not Nila, but Pauline. (Are you confused? We were.) Now, Adolph is identified on the passenger list as an "inventor," and there are various references out there to things he...invented (patents, ads, and suchlike). However, they don't stay in the USA. Back they go to England, and within just a couple of years, because the school admissions records indicate that Victor and Percival start attending Sidney Road School. Alas, Victor dies in 1887. (Percival would also die quite young, in 1897.) And the couple promptly have...Victor Wallace (1888), Netta or Nettie (of whom there's no other record), and Rose (1889). Our Mysterious Novelist dies sometime between 1889 and the 1891 census, which makes it quite possible that Rose's birth was a contributing factor. Given all the bouncing around, along with all the mysterious changes in career, it's maybe not surprising that they were never, shall we say, of a sound financial disposition; Adolph went bankrupt in 1897. According to the probate calendar, he died in 1908, leaving an estate of 1050 pounds.
Victor Wallace Germains, by the way, has enjoyed a bit more shelf life than his mom: he was the author of books on Churchill, Kitchener, and other military-related topics.
Incidentally, it would now appear that the only mention of Emma Germains in a standard reference work is...completely wrong. Emma is listed as an Irish novelist in Loeber et al., A Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650-1950, on the strength to Left to Starve, which has some Irish scenes. But there's no sign that she was Irish. (ETA: In the Left to Starve post, Bill Tozier reminds me that she's also listed in Allibone.)