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Extended Audio Sample The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise: A Novel, by Julia Stuart Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (4,161 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Julia Stuart Narrator: Jonathan Cowley Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Brimming with charm and whimsy, this exquisite novel set in the Tower of London has the transportive qualities and delightful magic of the contemporary classics Chocolat and 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. 

Among the eccentric characters who call the Tower’s maze of ancient buildings and spiral staircases home are the Tower’s Rack & Ruin barmaid, Ruby Dore, who just found out she’s pregnant; portly Valerie Jennings, who is falling for ticket inspector Arthur Catnip; the lifelong bachelor Reverend Septimus Drew, who secretly pens a series of principled erot­ica; and the philandering Ravenmaster, aiming to avenge the death of one of his insufferable ravens. 

When Balthazar is tasked with setting up an elaborate menagerie within the Tower walls to house the many exotic animals gifted to the Queen, life at the Tower gets all the more interest­ing. Penguins escape, giraffes are stolen, and the Komodo dragon sends innocent people running for their lives. Balthazar is in charge and things are not exactly running smoothly. Then Hebe decides to leave him and his beloved tortoise “runs” away.

Filled with the humor and heart that calls to mind the delight­ful novels of Alexander McCall Smith, and the charm and beauty of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is a magical, wholly origi­nal novel whose irresistible characters will stay with you long after you turn the stunning last page.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A hilarious love story…This book will steal your heart.”


  • “History buffs, animal lovers, and simply the tenderhearted will swoon over this captivating story…Sweet and enchanting.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Feather-light without being feather-brained. Julia Stuart has penned a work that is original and…amusing.”

    Denver Post

  • “A marvelous confection of a book.”

    Washington Times

  • “Julia Stuart’s sweet The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is a blessing, undisguised and undeniable, and apparent from the first sentence…A tale at once contemporary and timeless…The Tower, of course, is known as the home of the Crown Jewels, and Stuart’s many-faceted little gem adds to its glitter.”

    Richmond Times-Dispatch

  • “This is fine writing…For [those] who could use a little whimsy and a rousing good yarn.”

    Plain Dealer

  • “Delightfully zany and touching…With her deft and charming style, Stuart brings this comic story to a satisfying and heartwarming end.”

  • “Imagine a funny, poignant book, full of delightful and wacky characters, then add a bit of English history, and you’ve got The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise.”


  • “A treat for Anglophiles.”

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • “It’s the delicate balance of odd and normal that makes Stuart’s book irresistible.”

    Sacramento Book Review

  • “Stuart’s attempt to combine current reality with the ghostly past is a brilliant premise…Remarkably funny…Stuart is obviously fascinated by the multiple histories that inhabit the tower, and her research flavours the novel well.”

    Globe and Mail (Toronto)

  • Selected for the August 2010 Indie Next List
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A 2010 NPR Best Book for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Jenny Hortin | 2/18/2014

    " I picked up this book to reminisce of my time in London and to learn more about the Tower of London. It is a delightful read, with a few surprises along the way. Beware that sudden language comes from nowhere. All the characters form a complicated plot and their relationships are delicious. My favorite character is Valerie Jennings. She works in the Lost and Found off of the Tube and finds herself in very strange but very funny circumstances. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Cheryl | 2/12/2014

    " Yeah, I don't think I am Bristish enough to have found this book funny. It was an interesting setting, the Tower of London, and the protagonist and his wife each hold quirky positions and there is an element of whimsey to it all, just not "funny". "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Melinda | 2/7/2014

    " I was perplexed by this book. I guess I tend to rely far too much on the cover to gauge the tone of the book inside. The whimsical cartoon on the front made me think the story inside would be light and whimsical--and parts of it WERE--but a lot of it was jarringly dark (can't really go into it without spoilers). Strange. There were parts I liked--the two women who worked in the Lost and Found were great--but I was left not entirely satisfied by it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Mollie | 2/2/2014

    " Such a sweet book, loved it. Great background on the Tower of London and bittersweet story of love and forgiveness. "

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