Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise Paperback – August 23, 2011
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
From Publishers Weekly
A Beefeater, his wife, and their nearly 180-year-old tortoise live in the Tower of London, and if Stuart's deadly charming sophomore novel (after The Matchmaker of Perigord) is any indication, the fortress is as full of intrigue as ever. Balthazar and Hebe Jones lost their son, Milo, to illness three years ago, and while Beefeater Balthazar grieves silently and obsessively collects rainwater in perfume bottles, Hebe wants to talk about their loss openly. Hebe works in the thematically convenient London Underground Lost Property Office, and the abandoned items that reside there (an ash-filled urn, a gigolo's diary, Dustin Hoffman's Oscar) are almost as peculiar as the unruly animals (lovebirds not in love, a smelly zorilla, monkeys with a peculiar nervous tic) in the Tower's new menagerie, given to the queen and overseen by Balthazar. Passion, desperation, and romantic shenanigans abound among the other Tower-dwellers: the Reverend, an erotic fiction writer, has eyes for a bartender, and the Ravenmaster is cheating on his wife with the cook. Though the cuteness sometimes comes across a little thick, the love story is adorable.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“[A] hilarious love story. . . . This book will steal your heart.” —People
“History buffs, animal lovers, and simply the tenderhearted will swoon over this captivating story. . . . Sweet and enchanting.” —Entertainment Weekly, Grade A
“Feather-light without being feather-brained. Julia Stuart has penned a work that is original and every-page amusing.” —The Denver Post
“A marvelous confection of a book.” —The Washington Times
“Delightfully zany and touching. . . . With her deft and charming style, Stuart brings this comic story to a satisfying and heartwarming end.” —The Washington Post
“Julia Stuart’s sweet The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is a blessing, undisguised and undeniable, and apparent from the first sentence. . . . [A] tale at once contemporary and timeless. . . . The Tower, of course, is known as the home of the Crown Jewels, and Stuart’s many-faceted little gem adds to its glitter.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“This is fine writing. . . . For [those] who could use a little whimsy and a rousing good yarn, turtle soup is on.” —The Plain Dealer
“Imagine a funny, poignant book, full of delightful and wacky characters, then add a bit of English history, and you’ve got The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise. . . . This is Carl Hiaasen for the Tower of London.” —NPR, “Best Books of 2010”
“The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise unfolds with an airy whimsy. . . . Great fun. . . . For all that [Stuart’s] setups are ingenious, she never loses sight of the humanity of her characters. . . . Both original and memorably enjoyable.” —The Denver Post
“Stuart’s tale is a comedy of realms—her Tower, her England—where people and things are out of place. . . . Sometimes it takes an escaped Komodo dragon for people to begin sorting out their lives.” —BookPage
“A charming spoof.” —The Washington Times
“Enjoyable and humorous. . . . Has a human genuineness to it that is touching and, at times, heartbreaking.” —The Gainesville Times
“[A] treat for Anglophiles.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“It’s the delicate balance of odd and normal that makes Stuart’s book irresistible.” —Sacramento Book Review
“Stuart’s attempt to combine current reality with the ghostly past is a brilliant premise. . . . Remarkably funny. . . . Stuart is obviously fascinated by the multiple histories that inhabit the tower, and her research flavours the novel well.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“An absolute delight.” —IndieLondon
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The story follows Balthazar and Hebe Jones; he is one of the famous Beefeaters who staff the Tower of London, while she is a clerk at the London Underground's Lost Property Office. The couple lives in the Tower along with the other Beefeater families, and they have suffered a tragedy in their lives which is a thread that is slowly revealed throughout the book. They are struggling with their 30-year-old marriage while going about their daily lives surrounded by eccentric characters who provide some much-needed levity to the book. In the meantime, all manner of interesting objects turn up at Hebe's Lost Property office and this provides another round of fun and funny anecdotes.
This book was such an unbelievable pleasure to read. At times it seemed like the story was going to float off into the giddy ether, only to be guided back by the steady hand of the author. It struck the perfect balance between hope and sadness. I absolutely loved this book and would recommend to anyone.
Still, "The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise" does a remarkable job of handling that material without bogging down into soap opera territory. This brings us back to that English eccentricity; I wonder if such a story could be set anywhere other than England and still retain that lightness of touch. With all due respect, for instance, how serious can a story possibly be when so many of the main characters dress in that outfit? It looks like some designer got a job in a clown-costume factory and couldn't quite remember where to put the accordion pleats. (Just take a look at the nearest bottle of Beefeater gin if you're not sure what I'm talking about - that's the dress uniform, but the daily uniform looks like a sort of depressed version of the same getup.)
Besides the clothing, the story also includes a clergyman who writes romance novels in his spare time, the man who spends his days taking care of the Tower's collection of ravens, the lost-and-found's other employee who alleviates her boredom by trying on the false beards people have left on the trains, and a few dozen other oddballs. Then you take another look and realize that they're all, without exception, looking for love. That's a nice touch from the author, who presents us with a genuinely loving couple in crisis as her main characters.
At which point we learn that the Queen has decided to restart an ancient tradition by moving all her exotic animals - the ones that foreign leaders have presented to her - from London Zoo to the Tower. She wants to have the Beefeaters set up a menagerie on the Tower grounds, like the one that used to be there in previous centuries. And on top of all his other problems, who gets to take care of these animals and birds? Balthazar, that's who. Well, a man needs a hobby.
If there's a weakness to this novel it's that from this point onward, the outcome is pretty much of a foregone conclusion. Just about all the characters are people of good will, and we all know what happens to people of good will in a romantic comedy, no matter how many obstacles they have to get through. This is a quirky, touching, sometimes moving romantic comedy - there's a child's death involved, for goodness' sake - but a romantic comedy nonetheless.
The author intelligently loaded in some structural weight to balance the lightness of her materials. Most noticeably, everyone in this story has some connection to the Tower of London, and that shared background provides the characters with some dimension, some life outside of the romance machinery. They didn't just drift into this story by coincidence; they were there already. A romance, like any fiction, is an artifice, but things like the common setting make this one seem more natural.
Another structural stroke that lends this confection some weight is Hebe's activities on behalf of the London subway's lost-and-found. She and her colleague don't just collect lost objects and take advantage of them - reading the books and diaries, trying on the clothes, trying to open the safe - they also look for the owners and return the things. Some of the people they encounter in this endeavor have stories of their own to tell and contributions of their own to make. They even have something to say about what's happened to Balthazar and Hebe.
Still, although this novel is more than a piece of cotton candy, it remains a romantic comedy. On the other hand, "Pride and Prejudice" is also a romantic comedy. What makes that one great, and this one good?
In the end, of course, you'll have to figure that out for yourself - there may even be those among you who think that "The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise" is great and "Pride and Prejudice" good, although if that's your opinion you and I are going to have to discuss sports or television shows rather than literature when we meet. My sense is that the respective quality of this novel and others has to do with a couple of things, plausibility and imagination.
Ms. Stuart has done a very fine job in this work, but no one really lives like her characters - even, I suspect, the real Yeoman Warders of the Tower. The greatest danger they face is sadness; painful but bearable. The characters in "Pride and Prejudice" face the real possibility of homelessness. Those in "Tom Jones" face public humiliation or domestic violence. Those in "Catch-22" face actual death. All very funny, partly because the stakes are so high. As has been said before, when someone in a silent movie slips on a banana peel, it's funny because you can't see the bruises, but you know the bruises are there. This novel doesn't quite reach that level.
But let's not take that whole business too seriously. All it really means is that "The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise" isn't a classic. Not yet, anyway - only time will tell. Meanwhile, this novel is very funny, often moving, and in the end triumphant. Wait until you learn, in the last line, what that tortoise accomplishes.
Benshlomo says, If it bends, it's funny - if it breaks, it's not.
The premise is 'What if' the tower once again opened the menagerie of exotic animal 'gifts' to the Queen? It is a simple question, but this book has you crying, laughing out loud, sympathizing with romantically challenge persons and more.
The story follows the Yeoman Warder (Beefeater,) Balthazar Jones, as he is assigned being 'in charge' of re-opening the Menagerie. If this isn't enough for the poor man, he is also trying to cope with the death of his young son, Milo. His wife, Hebe Jones, has the most unusual job of working for the Underground's lost and found. Hebe is also torn by Milo's passing and finds her marriage in deep trouble.
There are other characters that will have you laughing, sighing, and hoping for their favorable outcome in life. Meanwhile, there are the Penguins, Bearded Pig, Giraffes and more. Also, Mrs. Cook, a 181 year old Tortoise who gets her revenge on...well, I'm not going to spoil this tale.
This is an excellent novel and reads so quickly as the story compels you to see what happens. I'm looking forward to Ms. Stuart's next novel in my TBR piles, "The Pigeon Pie Mystery." This is a treat yourself book.
The thing I liked best about this book was the gentle and forgiving way the characters were written. Although they were ordinary and had many flaws, the author treated them all with dignity and respect. Often writers who portray "ordinary" characters make them seem pathetic and/or ridiculous. Stuart did not demean them for their ordinariness. The characters were real, and I could identify with them because of their faults.
I laughed and cried, which is a cliche, I know, but in any event, it was a wonderful book.