The Tower, The Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
Published by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House
As a Beefeater, Balthazar Jones and his family live in the Tower of London. As Balthazar Jones is the owner of the world’s oldest tortoise, he is the logical Beefeater to be chosen when the Queen decides to reinstate the Tower menagerie. Right from the beginning, transfer of the Queen’s animals from the London Zoo is a comedy of errors, starting with the majestic monkeys that flashed their genitals at the cameras while Balthazar stood in front of their cage to be photographed. Then there are the penguins that go missing… Of course, none of the stress of the menagerie compares to the stress of Balthazar’s marriage since his son died three years ago. His wife, Hebe, simply can’t understand Balthazar’s grieving process, and is getting disgusted by his habit of collecting different types of rain.
“The Tower, The Zoo, and the Tortoise” has been compared to both “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” and “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society,” both charming and lovely books. In some ways, the comparison is apt. Indeed, “The Tower, The Zoo, and the Tortoise” is a whimsical and charming story, but it often seemed that it was trying too hard to be whimsical and charming; it lacked the easy charm of “Major Pettigrew,” or even “Guernsey,” which I thought was a tad overhyped.
I enjoyed “The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise,” but there were just too many threads that were introduced and subsequently abandoned or neglected that seemed to have been added solely for quirk and charm. One was, of course, the collection of different types of rain. This habit of Balthazar’s was important at the beginning and end of the book, but was never really developed in between. Similarly, Balthazar’s love of the bearded pig. Also, I must say I thought it was completely unnecessary that Stuart told us twice about the “splendid thighs” of Hebe’s coworker.
A cute book, but not mind blowing. Might be good to buy for aunts, mothers, and grandmothers, if they don’t mind a few slightly risqué parts.
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