The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise

By Julia Stuart
(Doubleday Books, Hardcover, 9780385533287, 304pp.)

Publication Date: August 10, 2010

List Price: $24.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.
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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the 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


Description

Brimming with charm and whimsy, this exquisite novel 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 lives in Bahrain. This is her first novel.


Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. While filled with humour, The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise has an undercurrent of heartache. Why do you think the author included the tragic element—could the story have survived without it?

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