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Extended Audio Sample The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise: A Novel Audiobook, by Julia Stuart Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.54 out of 53.54 out of 53.54 out of 53.54 out of 53.54 out of 5 3.54 (39 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: August 2010 ISBN: 9780307751591
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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.”

    People

  • “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.”

    NPR

  • “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 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 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 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 Mollie | 2/2/2014

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

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jo | 1/27/2014

    " The writing's so good, the story almost doesn't matter...BUT there's lots of fun, crestive stuff here and very fun history! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Helen Southall | 1/22/2014

    " Not bad - a bit slow - historical tidbits interesting but the story was only so-so. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeanne | 1/14/2014

    " Interesting things about the tower of London and a funny story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stacee | 1/14/2014

    " Really, really wanted to like this one after all of the ranting and raving I heard about it. My expectations of it being a laugh-out-loud quirky read fell short and I felt more saddened by the loneliness of the characters. The lost and found shop though, who wouldn't want that job? Maybe I'll try to read it again when I can invest more time to try and understand the whole of all of the stories. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Scott | 1/7/2014

    " The Beefeater. If you can read that and not giggle - especially when it's used in reference to a person - then perhaps this is not the book for you. It's kinda goofy, kinda clever, and kinda 4-star worthy, in a 3.5 star way. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janet | 1/6/2014

    " I found this one a bit slow. I just wanted to find out if Hebe comes back. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mezzogal Goh | 1/3/2014

    " Simple sweet book but could have gone further in exploring the plots. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Krista | 12/29/2013

    " Loved this quirky tale of life within the Tower walls. I alternately would laugh out loud and feel myself tearing up. Unique and truly enjoyable! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jeanette | 12/10/2013

    " The setting of the Tower of London was original -- as well as the Beefeaters characters that lived there. Sometimes I found the complex sentences distracting, but enjoyed the attention to detail. The tone was a little gloomy, but she tied it up with a satisfying ending. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Stephanie E | 12/9/2013

    " A surprisingly good book! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex Robinson | 12/7/2013

    " I enjoyed the quirky characters & each of their stories. The English humor sprinkled throughout the book added to the charm! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Yvette | 10/18/2013

    " Smart and funny. Curiously full of historical anecdotes specifically about the London Tower. Great for anglophiles of which I am not, but the laugh out loud wit is what pulled me in and kept me rapt throughout. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ellen Davis | 7/29/2013

    " I gave the book two stars instead of one only because of the bearded pig and the albatross that I was rooting for to have a happy ending. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Becky | 7/8/2013

    " Meh. I can see how others would enjoy it. I thought the big secret about Milo would be something way more scandalous. A little disappointed but oh well. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tricia | 7/6/2013

    " Pour yourself a nice glass of wine, curl up in a comfortable chair and just enjoy. This book was lovely. Characters wonderful and story hard to put down. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carol in Bothell | 6/12/2013

    " Quirky and sweet story about a Beefeater named Balthazar and the sorrow he and his wife are learning to share. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jjanovyak | 2/14/2013

    " Sweet and true in every important way. A bit mannered and too clever in points, but so worth sticking with. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ddree | 12/12/2012

    " I would give this 3.5 stars. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Cynthia | 6/18/2012

    " This book was a little too whimsical for me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carly | 6/13/2012

    " I am completely in love with this book. It was adorable and still serious. It made me want to go visit the Tower of London and to leave something on the Tube so that I could go visit the office for missing items. Overall a great, easy read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carolyn Rose | 5/24/2012

    " What a delightful book. What a cast of strange, sad, and amusing characters and situations. I laughed. I sighed. I may read it again one day. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessie | 3/4/2012

    " A charming little book that will make you hope you loose something on the tube. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Liza | 12/4/2011

    " Just loved this so much! Laughed and cried. Wonderful characters. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robyn | 11/29/2011

    " I enjoyed the story, the different plot lines and the eventual conclusion. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dale | 5/25/2011

    " When I finished reading this one, I handed it to my wife and actually said, "Here's a gentle, humorous book you'll really enjoy." So not a guy thing to say. But true. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Janelle | 5/11/2011

    " I can't write much cause Its part of a book club. But I will say that I did not like it and it was boring. It had no point. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marie | 5/4/2011

    " One of my favorite all time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarahlynn | 5/4/2011

    " Light, quick, dry, funny, fun. Worth a read! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Christina | 4/29/2011

    " Eh. I should stick with my instinct and NOT pick 30 something female authors...they lack imagination to finish something great that they have started! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 4/23/2011

    " Great, quirky British read. And it's on the 2011 Lariat List! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 4/23/2011

    " Whimsical, touching and hilarious with a very satisfying ending. This is the best book I've read so far this year which surprises me, given my recent taste for gritty thrillers. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robyn | 4/20/2011

    " An amusing and rather clever novel, with an unpinning of real emotion. Plus, a very interesting read for anyone who's ever visited the Tower of London. Finally, best character name ever: Arthur Catnip (a tattooed Underground ticket agent)--brilliant! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Shelley | 4/14/2011

    " Perhaps I was just too grumpy after the horrible weather this weekend, but I found the quirkiness of this book rather forced and I ended up irritated rather than amused. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anna | 4/11/2011

    " I do like how it is written, always with full names and repeated phrases. The characters are likable, but most of the book is depressing and it could be longer! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mom | 4/9/2011

    " Sometimes very funny and other times very strange. "

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About the Author
Author Julia StuartJULIA STUART is an award-winning British journalist and the author of one previous novel, The Matchmaker of Périgord. She currently lives in Bahrain with her husband.
About the Narrator

Jonathan Cowley is a British actor hailing from Eastbourne, East Sussex, but he currently calls Los Angeles home. He received AudioFile Earphones Awards for his narration of The Science of Evil by Simon Baron-Cohen and The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart. He has narrated many audiobooks and can also be heard on both sides of the Atlantic narrating film trailers and documentaries.