Kat's Reviews > The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise

The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Dec 19, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: borrowed-from-library, read-in-2011, historical-fiction
Read from December 05 to 18, 2011 , read count: 1

I thought The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise was a children's book when I first saw it. After reading the reviews here on Goodreads I realized it's actually a funny, and oftentimes sad, book about a Beefeater who lives in the Tower of London, and the quirky people he interacts with.

Balthazar Jones and his wife Hebe Jones live in the Salt Tower with their 180-year-old tortoise Mrs. Cook. They used to have a son Milo, but he died mysteriously as a young boy. Ever since then, the husband and wife have found it more and more difficult to communicate and connect with one another. Hebe's main complaint about her husband is that he never shed a tear after their son Milo died. All Balthazar does (aside from his job as keeper of the Royal Menagerie and tour guide for the Tower) is collect rain samples in Egyptian perfume bottles. The grief the coupld experiences changes their once happy, loving relationship into one of distance and separation. Their story is a sad one, for sure, but not one without hope.

A lot of moments had me laughing while reading this book. Some of the situations described are so silly or ridiculous. For instance, the Tower chaplain, Reverend Septimus Drew, wants to be a writer. He's been rejected by every publishing house and has instead resorted to writing erotic fiction, which actually sells very well. He also pines for Ruby Dore, the landlady, but his journey toward winning her heart hits a roadblock when he accidentally leaves some of his erotica in her bar and she discovers he's not what he seems. The Reverend even gets nominated for an erotic fiction writing award, but as his nom de plume is that of a woman, he has to go to the awards ceremony dressed in drag. How silly is that — a chaplain dressed as a woman?

The Ravenmaster is another funny character, as is the Yeoman Gaoler. But amidst the laughs there is a lot of sadness in the book. Hebe Jones and her friend Valerie Jennings work in the London Underground Lost Property Office, where they come across the strangest of items that get lost on the tube. Hebe is determined to find the owner of an urn filled with ashes, and when she locates the man, she starts to understand her suffering marriage a bit better.

Filled with numerous tales of the Tower's past, the monarchs who've ruled England in the past several centuries, and the assortment of people (and animals) who've lived there, The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise is a heartwarming — and heartbreaking — read that I'm sure Anglophiles, animal lovers and history lovers would appreciate.


Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.