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The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise
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The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  6,336 ratings  ·  1,408 reviews
Brimming with charm, sparkling prose and undeniably unique characters, this hilarious novel set in the Tower of London has the transportive qualities and delightful magic of the contemporary classics Chocolat and Amelie.

Balthazar Jones has lived in the Tower of London with his loving wife, Hebe, and his pet, the oldest living tortoise, for the past eight years. That's righ
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 10th 2010 by Bond Street Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jan 19, 2014 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of the odd & British Lit.
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Melki
3 stars rounded up to 4. Years ago my Canadian niece landed a summer job (how'd she do that - some places will hire anybody) as a tour guide at the Tower. To this day get a few cocktails in her and she’ll regale you (much to the annoyance of her husband) with stories of hanging out with Beefeaters. She adored them - so when I saw this I just HAD to read it. It backs her up - Beefeaters do have their own private pub where they pursue their favorite pastimes – hard drinking, tourist bashing and p ...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 2* of five

The Publisher Says: Brimming with charm and whimsy, this exquisite novel set in the Tower of London has the transportive qualities and delightful magic of the contemporary classicsChocolatand 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.
Even though I want to hug this book, and love this book, and stoke its spine, that doesn't mean it's cutesy - because IT'S NOT. It's just that all the characters are so lovable, I don't want to let them go.

We'll start with Balthazar Jones, a Beefeater, whose duties as a guard of the Tower of London require him to live within its walls. He is a student and collector of rain, and the newly appointed zoo keeper of the Tower's menagerie.

His wife, Hebe, works at the Lost Property office of the Londo
Lydia Presley
This book made me laugh out loud so many times that my sides began to hurt.

Normally I breeze through books quickly, but this one I savored, loving every minute of it. I'd heard that it was slow, and was dreading the slowing down of it, but I found it thoroughly and utterly delightful and so very, very British.

There are so many scenes in this book that were perfect, and the characters - man, the characters were fantastic. The scene with the urn arriving at Hebe's workplace, the Erotic Fiction wr
very few books actually make me laugh out loud but this one did.there is a very memorable cast of characters including a beefeater who collects rain,a woman who works in the london underground lost and found where people bring in things like a canoe, an inflatable sex doll and dustin hoffman's oscar trophy.there is also a chaplain who writes erotic fiction and a 181 year old tortoise.

like i said, it's very funny. but it's not all comedy.there's also sorrow,pain and joy...all the things that happ
Will Byrnes
Retired military officer Balthazar Jones is a Beefeater, working and living with his wife, the unfortunately named Hebe, in the Tower of London. The couple have been trying to cope with the loss of their young son three years ago, but seem unable to move past their grief. Balthazar collects raindrops, perhaps the tears he cannot, himself, shed. While there is an undercurrent of sadness here, it is more than mitigated by a lively cast of eccentrics, and when Balthazar is charged with setting up a ...more
Jenny T
Thanks to the GoodReads First Reads program for sending me a copy, but I have to admit, this book just didn't quite work for me.

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise tells the story of a Beefeater (or Yeoman Warder) named Balthazar Jones, who lives and guards the Tower of London, and his fading relationship with his wife Hebe after the loss of their son. This is the story of love in bloom at the London Underground's Department of Lost Things. And this is the story of the Queen's menagerie that Ba
I really enjoyed this charming and touching story set in the Tower of London. We were visiting there recently and took the guided tour. Our Beefeater guide was wonderfully entertaining and informative. I hadn't known that the Beefeaters and their families are required to live in the Tower.

Balthazar Jones and wife Hebe are stilling reeling from the unexpected death of their young son Milo. Balthazar is charged with opening and maintaining a new menagerie at the Tower. Hebe works in the London Und
The title of this novel could have been so much longer. Author, Julia Stuart, could have entitled it: The Tower, The Zoo, The Tortoise, The Beefeater, The Quirky, The Son, The Loved, The Lost, The Found, The Reverend, The Ravenmaster, The Hopeful and The Grieving. Yes, that title would have been way too long. So, I understand Ms. Stuart’s shortened version. Rather than giving the reader all that information in the title she instead unfolds this material to the reader slowly and gently, using str ...more
The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise SHOULD be a book full of rollicking British fun, with an ensemble of quirky characters who live in the Tower of London. Stuart clearly did her research on the Tower itself: anecdotes about the Tower's previous inhabitants and various facts are spread throughout the text. The main character, Balthazar Jones, is a Beefeater who lives in the Tower with his wife, Hebe Jones, a transplanted Greek who is less than happy with her living accomodations. Though Balthaz ...more
This was a funny read, I enjoyed the parts with Hebe and Valerie at the 'London Underground Lost Property Office' more than the Tower bits of the story. It made me laugh out loud a few times, and has left me with a mild curiosity to see what the actual office looks like and if they get half the stuff mentioned in the book. I have to say I won't look at a Beefeater quite the same way again..or the Tower for that matter. It managed to bring the fortress to life in a different way and I know I'll b ...more
This is a story of Balthazar Jones and the life surrounding him as a Beefeater in the Tower. His life is really a soggy mess, as is everyone else's who inhabits the haunted Tower. Then one day he is informed that the Queen is leaving him the care of her Royal Menagerie. This soon to be chaos added to the priest that writes erotic fiction, the ghosts, the lost penguins, the numerous sad love stories, the lost Oscar, the sarcophagus, the lovesick Albatross, the collection of rain samples and the n ...more
A Beefeater at the Tower of London with an obsessive interest in collecting rain specimens in Egyptian glass bottles is now called upon to look after a new royal menagerie. Foreign dignitaries have at times made presents of exotic animals found in their countries to the Queen of England. They're usually kept at the London Zoo, but following the death of one gift, leading to an offended Ambassador, the Queen decided that it might be better to have these specially gifted animals under closer care, ...more
This is a picturesque novel about the employees and residents of the present-day Tower of London, the city's largest tourist attraction. The story focuses on Beefeater Balthazar Jones and his wife Hebe, who live in the Salt Tower with their ancient pet tortoise Mrs. Cook and who are grieving the recent death of their young son Milo. As the story opens, Balthazar is appointed to open and manage a menagerie on Tower grounds of the animals given to the Queen by foreign heads of state. He oversees t ...more
*This is a review of the advance reader copy*

Well, I'm not going to beat around the bush here. I LOVE this book. The plot is a little bizarre, but the strangeness of life lends itself well to moments of humor. More than once I laughed out loud at some outrageous, but inevitable occurrence. The book is written in charming and entertaining vignettes, moving from character to character in a world I've only seen as a tourist. It ends on the most satisfying note despite the various turmoils the chara
Jolie Kerenick
I had some trouble getting in to this book initially, but I stuck with it because I wasn't sure if it was me or the book. As it turns out, it might have been a little of both, however I am glad I stuck with it as it picked up. I tend to really enjoy books that leave me with the feeling of knowing the characters on some level. I think the fact that I work as a mental health therapist probably contributes to this in someway. The author did not let me down on that front.

The story centers around the
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
"...for the rest of the evening the air in the Salt Tower was so fragile that they spoke to each other as if the place were filled with a million fluttering butterflies that neither dared to disturb."

"Hebe Jones ran a hand along the bed sheet that had been a weding present all those years ago. But it failed to find her husband."

You might recognize an older bearded gentleman dressed in a Victorian uniform of red tights, dark blue breeches, matching tunic, and the classic white ruffle around the n
What a torturous (as opposed to tortuous) book! There was loads of interesting historical bits stuffed in there, but the basic story line was so stuffed with adjectives and stolid writing that had I not wanted to find out how Milo died and what happened to the tortoise (now that's a combination I never thought I'd utter) that I would not have persevered. Give me my time back.
This book is utterly charming. It follows the rather glum but comic adventures of Balthazar Jones, a Tower of London beefeater, as he endeavors to be guardian of the queen's menagerie. Balthazar almost seems a tragic figure. His son, Milo, has died three years ago at age 11, and Balthazar is consumed by guilt that he may contributed to Milo's cardiac death by arguing with him about homework the night before the boy died. Unable to share this burden, Balthazar and his wife, Hebe, drift apart. She ...more
Eric Klee
I picked up THE TOWER, THE ZOO, AND THE TORTOISE because of all the praise it had received from critics and reviewers. While cute, the story is as entertaining and fast-paced as watching two English women discussing the weather in London whilst sipping tea.

The story involves a Beefeater (a ceremonial guardian/tour guide of the Tower of London; hence THE TOWER in the book's title) who lost a young son and, since then, he and his wife have been growing apart. They also have a pet turtle named Mrs
Katie Herring
It took me a couple of chapters to really get into the story.

I only continued reading because the writing was beautiful.
Some of the sentences that really got to me were as follows: "And for the rest of the evening the air in the Salt Tower was so fragile that they spoke to each other as if the place were filled with a million fluttering butterflies that neither dared disturbed." "No matter how often she opened her bedroom window, never once had she been touched by the moonlight of love." "...b
I picked this book up because of the promising comparisons to Guerney Literary & Potato Peel Society and Chocolat on the front cover. While it certainly had promising underlying ideas (all detailed on said cover, even revealing plot points not discovered until one or two hundred pages in!), the writing itself was partially too concerned with details and partially not concerned enough with tone. In fact, I believe it's the tone of the whole book that really brought it down for me. The compari ...more
Michael Fitzgerald
Dear Author:

If you don't know what words mean, please don't use them. For example, "fulsome" is not a fancy way of saying "full". Intelligent educated readers are aware of this and you make yourself look foolish when you write the phrase "its tasselled tail flying like a flag over its fulsome buttocks" once (p.123). When the exact same phrase appears on p.169, it's apparent that you are trying to be witty but haven't got what it takes. When the exact same phrase appears a third time (p.217), you
There are a lot of unusual characters in this odd novel. There is Balthazar Jones, the Beefeater at the center of the story, whose life giving tours at the Tower of London is complicated by the Queen's decision to put him in charge of the Royal Menagerie she has abruptly decided to move from the zoo to the Tower. There is his wife, Hebe, who is struggling to cope with the death of their son while working to reunite people with items that have been turned into her at the London Underground Lost P ...more
There may be a couple mild spoilers here. Not giving away anything major but just small incidents that I thought were so funny.

Wow! This was different. I thought this was beautifully written. I just loved the style. The portrayal of the sadness and the joys and the absurdities of life and the very unusual setting was enthralling. The humor and timing was just incredible. I'm sitting here laughing out loud, again, at the upside down parrot diving and screaming "f..k me ravenmaster" - completely c
Balthazar and Hebe have lost their own son Milo and are grieving. In their grief they have lost themselves and each other. Hebe is brittle, and hates living in the Tower of London along with her husband, who is a Yeoman Guard. Her husband barely talks to her and is dealing with his grief by collecting samples of rain water and collecting them, finely labelled, in Egyptian perfume bottles. Rev. Septimus is losing his battle against the church rats and has taken up writing erotic fiction, pining a ...more
Oh boy am I going to be busy! I won this one today! My mail carrier's going to hate me!

So glad I won this on Goodreads/first reads. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel full of quirky characters living in the unique setting of the Tower of London, a place that has always been fascinating to me! Written in typically British stoic, understated style, I found the story itself touching and amusing and I LOVED all the history that found its way into its telling.
"It is a little known fact that Her Majesty is rather partial to tortoises," he said. "She is aware that you are in possession of the world's oldest specimen, which, of course, is a source of great national pride." p.33

A friend of mine recommended this book to me about a month ago. Since I was sitting in the public library as we exchanged emails, I checked out the book at once. Unfortunately it languished in my TBR pile until last week. Now that I have finally read it, I am grateful that my frie
This is a book that is just great fun to read, with stories of the Tower of London thrown in for good measure. I know that some of these characters will come to mind many more times in the coming years. Their unique combination of quirkiness and their hearts of gold made them leap off the page. A book that makes you laugh out loud suddenly because the humor arrives at the oddest and most unexpected times, and yet it also holds wonderful, solid truths to tuck away in your heart. ~Not to be read o ...more
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Julia Stuart grew up in the West Midlands in England. She studied French and Spanish, and lived for a short period in France and Spain teaching English. After studying journalism at college, she worked on regional newspapers for six years. She then became a staff features writer for The Independent, where she worked for eight years, including a spell with The Independent on Sunday. In 2007, she re ...more
More about Julia Stuart...
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“For he was firmly of the conviction that the body was more susceptible to disease without the presence of love to warm the organs.” 5 likes
“Standing at the original Victorian counter was a man in a long black leather coat. His hair had been grown to counteract its unequivocal retreat from the top of his head, and was fashioned into a mean, frail ponytail that hung limply down his back. Blooms of acne highlighted his vampire-white skin.” 4 likes
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