Another book review blog?!?

Yes because people ask "Have you read anything good lately?" And I have. From a class ...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise: A Novel - Literary fiction

Author: Julia Stuart 
Publication Date: 2010  
Number of Pages: 304 (hardcover)   
Part of a Series: No
Subject Heading(s): 
  • Bereavement in families 
  • British humor 
  • Child’s death 
  • Conflict in Marriage 
  • Healing 
  • British history 
  • Humorous stories 
  • Literary Fiction 
  • London, England 
  • Love story 
  • Loss 
  • Zoo Keepers     

Geographical Setting: London, England   
Time Period: present day
Main Character(s): 
  • Balthazar Jones- a history buff who enjoys giving tours as Beefeater of the London Tower, a grieving father, and a husband who tends to hold his emotions inside rather than share them with his wife
  • Hebe Jones- an independent, hard working, grieving woman who is  the wife of Bathalzar Jones and works at the London Underground’s Lost Property Office
  • Milo- the Jones’ son who passes away at the age of 11, but plays a big part in the novel through flashbacks and references to his life
  • Mrs. Cook- the oldest tortoise in existence, family pet of the Jones’
Plot Summary:  Balthazar Jones and his wife Hebe live in the Tower of London. Balthazar is a Beefeater who provides tours of the historical tower. When the Queen decides to reintroduce the zoo on the Tower grounds, Balthazar is asked to become the zoo keeper. At first he is hesitant but soon he falls in love with the animals and the zoo becomes a hit among the tourists and the other residents of the Tower. However, not  all is perfect in Balthazar’s life as the grief from his young son’s death has slowly torn apart his marriage. In order to restore their relationship the Jones’ must work through their grief by learning to communicate more effectively and move on.
  • Tone: humorous but mixed with hints of seriousness in its themes 
  • Characterization: told in 3rd person but readers come to understand and get to know the original cast of characters through their thoughts and actions, secondary characters are important to the plot;  
  • Story line: unique story plot but filled with themes of loss, love, and healing to which all readers will relate;  
  • Style/Language: charming;  
  • Frame/Setting: The Tower of London and the history surrounding this historical site is an important part of this novel and is weaved in throughout, history buffs will enjoy this aspect
Brief quote: “Balthazar Jones had been collecting rain for almost three years, a compulsion that had started shortly after the death of his only child. At first he thought that rain was simply an infuriating part of the job, which, along with the damp from their abominable lodgings, produced in all the Beefeaters a ruthless specimen of fungus that flourished on the backs of their knees.” (7)

Prizes or Awards: 
NY Times Bestseller (August 2010), 
highly recommended in Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, 
Entertainment Weekly grade A review, 
People Magazine 4 out of 4 stars review

Similar Works:   
The Hound in the Left-Hand Corner by Giles Waterfield – humorous stories, takes place in London in a historical museum which is similar to the historical London Tower 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer- takes place in England, original story plot, unique characters, charming style and language (LibraryThing)
Reviewer’s Name: Taryn Kingery
The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise: A Novel
Adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.  Chicago: ALA, 1997.

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