The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise (Paperback)
August 2010 Indie Next List
“Balthazar Jones, a retired military man, is now a Beefeater living in the Tower of London with his family and his 181-year-old pet tortoise named Mrs. Cook. When the queen decides that her menagerie of donated animals should return to live at the Tower as they had centuries before, Balthazar becomes their keeper. This is a touching family story, as well as a delightfully whimsical and zany tale of man and beast. Great fun!”
— Karen T Harris, Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, Vineyard Haven, MA
Brimming with charm and whimsy, this national bestseller set in the Tower of London has the transportive qualities and delightful magic of the contemporary classics Chocolat and Amélie.
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. That’s right, he is a Beefeater (they really do live there). It’s no easy job living and working in the tourist attraction in present-day London.
Among the eccentric characters who call the Tower’s maze of ancient buildings and spiral staircases home are the Tower’s Rack & Ruin barmaid, Ruby Dore, who just found out she’s 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.
About the Author
Julia Stuart is an award-winning journalist and the author of The Pigeon Pie Mysery, The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise, and The Matchmaker of Périgord. She lives in London.
“[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