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The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  7,433 Ratings  ·  1,556 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 2010)
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Aug 07, 2010 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise is about Balthazar Jones who is a Beefeater – he lives and works at the Tower of London. Balthazar and his wife Hebe are trying to go on with life after the death of their only child. She works at the London Underground’s Lost Property Office where she tries to reunite lost objects with the owners and Balthazar leads tours at the Tower. One day, it is announced that the Queen’s menagerie (gifts of animals from other countries) will be housed at the Tower and ...more
Aug 06, 2010 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*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
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
Aug 15, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"...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
Aug 20, 2010 Angela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: given-away
I found this book to be very slow going at first. The long descriptive passages with no dialogue or even action seemed to violate the writer's rule of 'show don't tell.' The skipping around between past and present and between characters with no warning was often unsettling and disorienting. I would just find myself being pulled into the life of one character when I was suddenly thrust headlong into a different scene all together.

Many of the characters in the book were intriguing with their vari
Sep 03, 2010 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simply put, delightful. The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise has a lot to offer; history, love, humor, quirky characters and an 181 year-old tortoise named Mrs. Cook. Balthazar Jones, a Beefeater, lives in the Tower of London with his wife Hebe and the Mrs. Cook. Hebe works for the London Underground's Lost Property Office, a story in itself. After the death of their son Milo, they have not been able to rekindle the spark that once flamed their beautiful relationship. Their marriage is faltering ...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
Jolie Kerenick
Aug 27, 2010 Jolie Kerenick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
Oct 12, 2010 Lena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Sep 14, 2010 Lynda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 31, 2011 Emily rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: london
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
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
Nov 25, 2010 Jenny T rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, first-reads
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
Dec 07, 2010 Alins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 08, 2010 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Lisa  Emma Kilgariff
This book had the potential to be fantastic, but ended up disappointing me from the very first page. The concept is great, and in many places it is incredibly well executed (yes, that is a pun) but the writing killed it for me. In most cases I can ignore a couple of grammatical errors or weird sentence structures but this was not the problem, in fact it was well written in those respects. The problem was that the writing was incredibly repetitive! I don’t know if this was intentional, and it mus ...more
Jun 04, 2011 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Dec 28, 2011 Summer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comedy, europe
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
Aug 21, 2016 AdiTurbo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: must-reads
DNF. Not very into it. I loved the historical research but very little is happening, and the characters are not real people but a bunch of quirky habits and pastimes. The language is overly-decorative and smart-alecky, and I didn't feel that I cared, even though there is a serious tragedy in the center of this book.
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.
Sep 21, 2012 Melki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humorous-fiction
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
Richard Derus
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.
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
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jan 19, 2014 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it really liked it  ·  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
I liked this book. But I couldn’t help, while reading it, thinking that I should like it more. It has many elements that often provide me with reading pleasure. The animals for instance—the poor wandering albatross that is missing its mate; the monkeys wildly flashing their junk at inopportune times; the missing penguins.

Plus, this is a book about grief—about Balthazar and Hebe Jones grieving the loss of their son, Milo. And grieving for a child has potential to either pull a couple closer toget
The best stories are told so seamlessly and so well that one hardly realizes one is being told, so swept up we are in the characters. Exhibit A: This adorable, whimsical debut novel from Julia Stuart. The perfect amount of whimsy, the right dose of magical realism- a fun read all around.

The Tower refers to The Tower of London, short for Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress. Related historical figures include Elizabeth I, Charles II, Edward III, & Richard The Lionheart. A historical UNESC
Oct 12, 2016 Sterlingcindysu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a book that is charming and whimsical, Stuart packs alot in it's pages. There's several sub-plots going on and everything is tied up at the end. I think she could have easily made 2 or 3 separate novels about the women who work finding the owners of items lost on the Tube or the minister who writes romances. Even the Tortoise exacts revenge for her missing tail.

Let's face it, sometimes you want to read a light-hearted book. This fits the bill. Serious topics are covered but at no time is ho
Sep 26, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, humour, 2016-reads
What a lovely surprise this book was! I really enjoyed it. I found it to be funny, sad, quirky and charming in equal measure. What I particularly enjoyed was how the author wove the history of the Tower of London into the story and did so seamlessly. I also really liked the cast of characters, including all of the animals who were just as offbeat as their human counterparts. However, I did have one or two small problems with it which led to me rating it 4 stars instead of 5. The last couple of c ...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
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“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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