Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise

Balthazar Jones, Yeoman Guard, aka 'Beefeater', lives in the Tower of London with his wife and his almost 200 year old tortoise, Mrs. Cook. Summoned to Buckingham Palace one day, Jones is informed that he will be in charge of the collection of animals given as gifts to the Queen. When the pungent zorrilla, the quarrelling love birds, the misplaced giraffes and other assorted creatures are moved from the London Zoo into their new home in the Tower property, the strange daily life of the Tower residents becomes even stranger.
 In Julia Stuart's new novel The Tower, The Zoo, and the Tortoise, ghosts of Tower prisoners mingle with the Yeoman Guards who live there and hundreds of years of history are interwoven with the love story of Yeoman Guard Jones and his wife Hebe.

Reviews of this book will compare it to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The words "charming" and maybe even "whimsical" may pop up. And that's all true, and I really liked both Guernsey and this book and Stuart's previous novel, The Matchmaker of Perigord, but I find all three novels hard to describe without resorting to comparisons and words that might put some readers off. If you like humor in your reading and some local color and facts, characters who are good and decent if flawed and a depiction of lives that are not without sadness, but overall full of hope, if you like the humanistic tone of McCall Smith's the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency, try The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise.

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