Balthazar Jones has lived in the Tower of London with his loving wife, Hebe, and his 120-year-old pet tortoise for the past eight years. Thats right, he is a Beefeater (they really do live there). Its no easy job living and working in the tourist attraction in present-day London.
Among the eccentric characters who call the Towers maze of ancient buildings and spiral staircases home are the Towers Rack & Ruin barmaid, Ruby Dore, who just found out shes pregnant; portly Valerie Jennings, who is falling for ticket inspector Arthur Catnip; the lifelong bachelor Reverend Septimus Drew, who secretly pens a series of principled erotica; and the philandering Ravenmaster, aiming to avenge the death of one of his insufferable ravens.
When Balthazar is tasked with setting up an elaborate menagerie within the Tower walls to house the many exotic animals gifted to the Queen, life at the Tower gets all the more interesting. Penguins escape, giraffes are stolen, and the Komodo dragon sends innocent people running for their lives. Balthazar is in charge and things are not exactly running smoothly. Then Hebe decides to leave him and his beloved tortoise runs away.
Filled with the humor and heart that calls to mind the delightful novels of Alexander McCall Smith, and the charm and beauty of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is a magical, wholly original novel whose irresistible characters will stay with you long after you turn the stunning last page.
Published in the UK in August 2010 as Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo.
Standing on the battlements in his pajamas, Balthazar Jones looked out across the Thames where Henry IIIs polar bear had once fished for salmon while tied to a rope. The Beefeater failed to notice the cold that pierced his dressing gown with deadly precision, or the wretched damp that crept round his ankles. Placing his frozen hands on the ancient parapet, he tilted back his head and inhaled the night. There it was again.
The undeniable aroma had fluttered past his capacious nostrils several hours earlier as he lay sleeping in the Tower of London, his home for the last eight years. Assuming such wonderment was an oasis in his usual gruesome dreams, he scratched at the hairs that covered his chest like freshly fallen ash and descended back into ragged slumber. It wasnt until he rolled onto his side, away from his wife and her souk of competing odours, that he smelt it again. Recognising instantly the exquisite scent of the worlds rarest rainfall, the ...
Discussion Guide & Quiz
In the tradition of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Chocolat, Julia Stuart's exquisite new novel is brimming with charm, whimsy, and wonder. The following questions are intended to enhance your reading experience and to generate lively discussion among the members of your book group.
22 out of 27 BookBrowse readers rated The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise 4 or 5 stars. Most of them agree that:
The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is an absolute delight! Every one of Stuart's characters is endearing, brought to life with humorous quirks, and a sense of quiet tenderness that warms the heart in even the rainiest of times. This book is a good pick for animal lovers, English history buffs or anyone who has ever known "the silent ecstasy of wearing new socks." (Elena S) (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Full Review (1606 words).
If you've read the The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise you'll already have been taken on a veritable history tour of The Tower of London and the Yeoman Warders, popularly known as Beefeaters, who guard it. For those who haven't read the book yet or, for that matter have but would like a quick summary of some of the history of the Tower, here are a few highlights (and below the review you'll find more about the Beefeaters):
Where is the Tower and why was it built? William the Conqueror defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and was subsequently crowned king. A few years later, having subjugated most of his new land, William started work on a citadel in South-East London, to awe his new subjects and to defend the ...
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