"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R Martin

19 February 2012

Review: Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo - Julia Stuart

Isn't the cover of this book just amazingly cute? It is one of the reasons why I love this book so much. And loved it I did indeed. It was original and quirky a breath of fresh air in my reading schedule. It had me stifling laughter as I read it on the bus and I roared laughing while on my own. It also had me sobbing slightly and the book is so heart breaking and warming at the same time that it truly is amazing to read. So whatever you do this year please please read this book!

So here's my review of Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo:

5/5 - Absolutely amazing stuff; I loved it!

This book was incredible! It was hilariously quirky, with laugh out loud moments but also moments of sorrow and heart break. The author successfully portrays the eccentric side of life (not that everyone spends their day and night in the Tower of London!) but she also portrays the depth of human emotion; sorrow, regret, happiness, stupidity etc. I especially loved the weaving together of numerous storylines; Balthazar Jones, a beefeater with a fascination for rain and all its varieties, who’s life is completely turned upside down when the Queen announces that she wishes various zoo animals be housed in the Tower; Reverend Septimus Drew, a man with a hatred of rats, a passion for a certain woman and an unholy secret that could possibly threaten his role as a man of God; Hebe Jones, the wife of Balthazar, who spends her days reuniting members of the public with various lost items left unknowingly on the Tube and who feels frustrated with the night time antics of her husband. To name a few more characters there is Ruby Dore, the owner of the Rack and Ruin, the Ravenmaster, the Yeoman Goaler and Valerie Jennings. All of the characters have that extra bit of life story to tell and share with the reader, and the author’s use of narrative hopping from one to the next just keeps you waiting to hear what happened next. Each character is affected in different ways by the arrival of the Tower menagerie and each individual goes through a change during the novel be it great or small. I can’t quite pinpoint who I enjoyed reading about the most but I think my favourite individual of the story was definitely the Reverend Septimus Drew who turns out to be something you don’t quite expect in a religious man (and the outcome is hilarious!). He was the epitome of kindness, always trying to cheer his old friend Balthazar up despite the outcome and always finding good in those seen as bad. Hmmm, Mrs Cook, the Jones’ ancient tortoise (181 years to be exact!) may possibly be my favourite character and if any of you pick up this lovely book you will realise why in the last sentence of the book!

The animals in this book are characters also. Now you have Mrs Cook who I mentioned above, who has graced generations of the Jones family with her worldly presence. Other animals introduced throughout the book includes: the ravens of the Tower, one friendly bearded pig, two lovebirds who hate each other, an albatross who constantly cries out in sorrow for its love, a komodo dragon and many, many more. It was pure entertainment reading about the animals and their affects on the inhabitants of the Tower. It is just brilliant stuff to read.

Now, I love historical fiction and I do view this book as such. It is filled with the most hilariously juicy historical tid-bits that you probably haven’t heard of before. This book is like embarking on a little journey where you learn the most interesting bits of trivia about a history that you never knew existed. This book is jam packed with little stories about what really happened in the tower; the escapees throughout the ages, the menagerie in its former glory (and demise), the tortures that really occurred and who was housed where as prisoners. If you enjoy history in all its forms I urge you to pick up this little book and take a chance because it is so quirky, so interesting, so comical and so touching that it will make you laugh, cry and sigh in amazement all at the same time! I can’t highlight enough how much I enjoyed this book. Sometimes you stumble across a few hidden gems that completely surprise you and this book is definitely a hidden gem.  

Also, here's a few photos of my visit to London Zoo last summer! 



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