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The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise Paperback – August 23, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 161 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (August 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030747691X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307476913
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (161 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #591,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Phil 413 VINE VOICE on July 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The humor the author writes with never diminishes the heartbreak the characters feel, and I think I liked this most about the book. I felt like the author's main message was, "Life's tough, but it does go on, and finding humor and love along the way helps."

The cast of animals and the stories about the history of the Tower and its prisoners (and ghosts) is interesting and fun without distracting from the lives of the beefeater, his wife, and the many other characters. All of the characters have their heartbreak to deal with - for some it's loneliness, for another it's feeling abandoned, and for others it's suffering the grief of the death of a loved one. Just about any hurt we might have to deal with in life is presented with ways to cope and heal illustrated in the characters' lives, often with humor and honest emotion. The way the characters deal with their problems and help one another to find something new to try when one idea has failed, is not just funny, but heartfelt, creative and genuine.

There is more to the story than life at the Tower. There is another world to be explored at the Lost and Found, where Hebe (the wife of Balthazar, who is appointed the one in charge of the queen's new animal menagerie) works. Although several small stories take place simultaneously, it's easy to follow each story and the intersections with other characters. I also liked how Hebe's passion for her work ends up helping her in her own life: She meets friends who help her find something she's lost in her life - hope.

The ending felt perfect. Resolution, realization, a plan one worried didn't work the way he wanted it to worked better than he thought. This book satisfied more than I thought - it was deeper, more thought-provoking and had more substance than just a light read.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Everybody knows about the Beefeaters in the Tower of London, of course, but it's unlikely you ever knew one personally. In this light- hearted novel you will meet the denizens of the Tower: Beefeater or Yeoman of the Tower Balthazar Jones along with his Greek wife, Hebe, are barely holding on to a marriage gone stale.

We are introduced to the Reverend Septimus Drew, the Tower parson, who secretly pens erotic novels under the pen name Vivienne Ventriss. We meet Ruby Dore, the sexy barmaid of the Tower's pub Rack and Ruin, who was born "slithering" on to a kitchen floor because the resident Tower doctor would not leave his Monopoly game at a crucial moment in play to attend the crucial moment upstairs. And there's the black-gloved villain, the Ravenmaster, who looks after his flock of vicious black birds, one of which recently sent a tourist to the hospital when the unfortunate man tried to pet the bird. And there's Arthur Catnip, the Ticket Master and his voluptuous girlfriend Valerie...

Hebe Jones works at the London Underground Lost Property Office and tries to unite the careless public with their left-behind objects which include, along with hundreds of umbrellas, a kidney transplant, an urn of ashes labeled "Clementine Perkins" and a yellow canoe.

We cannot overlook Mrs. Cook, the 180 year old tortoise belonging to Balthazar Jones and who lost her tail to one of the ravens. We briefly meet in retrospect the Jones' little boy Milo, who dies at age eleven and with him dies the spirit of the marriage, only dregs are left. At this point in time there really aren't any happy campers among the Tower personnel, trapped inside those ancient circular walls.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Balthazaar Jones, Beefeater and overseer of the menangerie at the Tower of London, and his wife Hebe, employed by the London Underground's Lost Property Office (so specialized that it has everything up to and including an Egyptology section), occupy Salt Tower on the grounds of the Tower of London. Still reeling from the loss of their son, Milo, a subject so painful that they cannot bring themselves to discuss it, their marriage has become increasingly static over the intervening years. They are surrounded by a quirky cast of characters, some notables being Hebe's coworker, Valerie Jennings, a woman prone to finding herself costumed in inappropriate garb at the most inopportune moments and the Rev. Septimus Drew, curate at the Tower and writer of erotic fiction. What the characters all have in common is that Stuart has made them out to be immensely quirky (though perhaps Hebe not so much so as the rest) and immensely lonely. And that is the duality of this book: it is at once a quirky, and sometimes even silly, read, but it is also a work about the profound nature of isolation when one is surrounded by many people.

It's hard to review this book without using the word "quirky" a lot: the characters are quirky, the setting is quirky, the repeated use of historical trivia is quirky, the objects stored at the Lost Property Office are quirky, etc. It's a matter of personal taste how much quirkiness one can take; some will find it delightful, some will tire of it. It's a delicate balancing act, too, to balance this theme of unusual circumstances and people against a very real and very profound sense of isolation in modern day society, when human contact is inevitable but can be meaningless, misinterpreted, or fleeting.
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