For whatever reason - perhaps the whimsical cover - I was expecting this book to suffer from quirk overload. However, I was so pleasantly surprised by what I found instead. A really moving, engaging, and original narrative that - through some extraordinary circumstances - reveals a lot about the human capacity to love and to mourn. Definitely recommend.
Rated of 5
by Heather K. (Brooklyn, NY)
The Good, the Bad, and the Inexcusable
This novel had potential, but it seems Julia Stuart couldn't decide if she wanted to write a "whimsical" novel about quirky British folk trapped, in contemporary fashion, in London Tower, or a more serious novel dealing with the terrible grief two parents feel after the loss of their only child. So she's tried to do both, and it doesn't work.
Stuart has a pretty way with words (ohhh, more on THAT later), and did a fine job in bringing out the personalities of her characters, even those who have minor parts. I like the clever allegorical twists she's thrown in, too, and of course the history is indeed fascinating. And I could have forgiven the imperfect splicing of the storyline, since her characters are complex, sympathetic, hopeful, and (sometimes) hilariously hapless (yup, I did get a few chortles from the book).
But the most heinous issue with this novel is that Stuart is so infatuated with her clever phrases that uses them over and over and ... oh, c'mon ... over again. It took great restraint on my part to not throw the book against the wall after reading, yet again, about "fullsome buttocks." And that's just one of many, many annoying little phrases that Stuart feels compelled to endlessly inject into the novel. This ridiculous conceit doesn't propel the plot or enhance the story, and it really irritated at least one reader! This is inexcusable sloppiness on her editor's part.
So I'm giving the novel an "average" rating because as a novel it was poorly executed, but as a history lesson on the Tower of London it was, in fact, well done. But I wouldn't recommend the book.
Rated of 5
by Patricia W. (Richmond, VA)
The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise
Being an avowed Anglophile, I was prepared to love this book. Instead it seemed to me to be a book that was trying too hard to be oh so charming. It was fun to read factoids about the history of the Tower of London but there was so much going on in the book that it was hard to focus on their characters, much less develop a compelling interest in their issues.
Rated of 5
by Susan Reiners (Dublin, NH)
A dissenting opiniion
It appears that most BookBrowse readers really liked this book. I tried. Really, I did! With the news always so full of the current wars, scandal in high places, natural disasters and murders du jour, I thought it would be fun and relaxing to read a gentle story about three different love affairs in the Tower now, and pick up a few tidbits of history besides.
And yet, I thought this was a big yawn. Ms. Stuart was trying to emulate the style of a Victorian novel, I presume, but I found it distracting and tedious that she kept repeating some things over and over. Perhaps she is in love with her words or maybe it's careless editing, but I don't feel it necessary to be reminded every few pages that the counter in the London Underground Lost Property Office is original, the entire official name of the heroine's place of employment, the official rank of every character or the age of the tortoise. I did like that two of the love affairs were left to readers' imagination, but not enough to make me imagine I enjoyed reading this book.
Rated of 5
by Kate S.( Arvada, CO)
Split Down the Middle
After reading several other readers reviews, it seems that people either absolutely LOVE this book, or are not taken by it. I fall into the latter category. It was a clever idea, had some fun quirky, moments, but I felt that the author tried so hard to be clever that it lost most of its charm. Julia Stuart certainly has a way with words but she went overboard on this one.
Rated of 5
by Everett W. (Mount Pleasant, SC)
The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise
I enjoyed this book, but it is not great literature, rather a sometimes amusing tapas. I was initially put off by the publisher’s introduction. This book is not “snortingly funny” or an “absolutely unfettered literary delight.” It rather is a light, occasionally witty love story with a happy ending. The story is populated by eccentric English characters, few of whom, unfortunately, are fully developed. As someone with both training and an active interest in history, I found the details about the Tower of London and its history fascinating.
Judge rules unused Borders gift cards to be worthless(May 23 2013) Borders owes nothing to holders of roughly $210.5 million of gift cards that had not been used by the time the bookstore chain shut down, a Manhattan federal...