Title: The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise
Author: Julia Stuart
First published March 4, 2010
304 pages, Hardcover
ISBN: 9780385533287 (ISBN10: 0385533284)
Discover the whimsical and charming world of The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart. Balthazar Jones has been a Beefeater at the Tower of London for eight years, living with his devoted wife, Hebe, and his 120-year-old tortoise.
But when Balthazar is tasked with creating a menagerie to house the Queen’s exotic animals, chaos ensues. Giraffes are stolen, penguins escape, and the Komodo dragon terrorizes the Tower’s inhabitants.
Alongside Balthazar are a cast of eccentric characters, including a barmaid, a ticket inspector, a reverend with a secret, and a philandering Ravenmaster. Filled with humor, heart, and unforgettable characters, this novel is a magical and wholly original adventure that will transport you to the heart of the Tower of London.
About the Author
Julia Stuart spent her formative years in the West Midlands of England. She pursued her passion for languages by studying French and Spanish, and spent some time teaching English in France and Spain.
After completing her journalism degree, she spent six years working for regional newspapers. She then joined The Independent as a staff features writer, where she worked for eight years, including a stint with The Independent on Sunday.
In 2007, she and her husband, who is also a journalist, moved to Bahrain. They now reside in London.
Julia Stuart’s 2010 novel, The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise, transports readers to the whimsical and quirky world of the Tower of London, where a motley crew of characters work, live, and love amongst the historic grounds. Stuart, a former journalist and author of several other novels, masterfully weaves humor, romance, and tragedy into this delightful and captivating novel.
Set in modern-day London, Stuart’s novel follows the life of Balthazar Jones, a Beefeater and the newly appointed Keeper of the Tower of London’s menagerie. As Balthazar mourns the death of his beloved wife, Hebe, he navigates the complicated and eccentric group of coworkers and animals in the Tower.
Stuart’s vivid descriptions of the Tower and its inhabitants create a world that is both charming and absurd. One of the strengths of The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is Stuart’s remarkable ability to create lovable, unique, and multifaceted characters.
The novel’s cast includes an overweight dodo bird, a depressed and reclusive tortoise, an ex-army chef with a passion for French cuisine, and the ghost of the Duke of Wellington, amongst others. Undoubtedly, Balthazar Jones is the heart of the novel, and Stuart’s writing captures his humor, wit, and grief in a way that is both sensitive and entertaining.
Although The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is categorized as historical fiction, Stuart’s novel is also a commentary on contemporary society. Through Balthazar’s experiences, Stuart highlights issues such as loneliness, grief, the power of friendship, and the importance of relationships in our lives.
Stuart’s reflections on these themes are poignant and thought-provoking, and she ultimately delivers a work that can be read on many levels. While The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is undoubtedly an entertaining and endearing read, it does have some limitations.
The pacing of the novel can be sluggish at times, and some of the characters’ storylines feel unexplored. However, these minor flaws do not detract from the overall charm and pleasure of the novel.
In conclusion, Julia Stuart’s The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is a delightful and enjoyable read that will leave readers both entertained and reflective. With its charming characters, humor, and commentary on contemporary society, Stuart’s novel deserves a place on any bookshelf.
Anyone looking for a heartwarming and amusing read should pick up this book, and it would appeal particularly to lovers of historical fiction, cozy mysteries, and all things British. The Washington Post gives The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.