The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart – Book Review

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.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

10 comments to The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart – Book Review

  • Your last sentence made me laugh. I would still give this one try.

  • Hmm…if it’s like Major Pettigrew and Guernsey, it sounds like a winner! Although, while I am an aunt and a mother, I wonder if I’m too young for it, your comment sounds like I should be older. I’m like BFR though; I’d still give it a try. 😉

  • See, if they would have watched “Madagascar” they would have known better than to mess with the penguins! I don’t know, this might be fun to read as a lark, if nothing else. I like a little British charm.

  • This does sound like it’s worth reading. I just love the cover too.

  • Oh thank goodness someone finally wrote a review of this book….I’ve been eyeing it for some time and passed on it each time (albeit reluctantly)….now I don’t feel so left out.

  • Darn, darn, darn! I’ve been watching this one and expected a lot (from the cover…I know, ridiculous). I was curious to see what it was about as well. I’ll still read it but was hoping for glowing reviews.

  • Oh how sad. I’ll still read this one, but will keep your reservations in mind!

  • This sounds kind of cute to me – I still think I will check it out :)

  • kathryn

    I loved the sweetness of this book and simplicity of the characters. Our book group was 50/50… some loved it, others not so much. It did inspire me to read more of the history of the Beefeaters and Tpwer of London. It really is a neat book.

    • I loved getting an inside peek at the tower, but I think it walked a fine line, very easy to fall either on the ‘love it!’ side or the ‘overly saccharine’ side. It doesn’t surprise me that your book group was split.