The Tower, The Zoo, & The Tortoise

BalthazarDon’t know why they changed the title on this version of the book, but the cover is fun.  I still really like the silly cartoony one from the US first edition.

The gang of Read It & Steep read Julia Stuart’s The Tower, The Zoo, and the Tortoise for September.  This had been my recommendation, the book being one that had really moved me when I first read it a few years back.  We didn’t have a whole lot of people attend our meeting, but we still had a full conversation about this little British gem.  For one of the first times, we looked at the discussion questions from the publisher to aid in our conversation and I have to admit that it did make us think about the text in ways we hadn’t before.
It’s easy to dismiss this book as a bit of silly fluff filled with (as one of our Steepers felt) “overreaching whimsy.”  That being said, the majority of us felt that this book was a quick, easy read that actually spoke to us on a deeper emotional level than expected.  Was it funny that the pastor moonlights as an erotica novelist?  Yes.  There are so many little nuggets of joy in this novel, from the tower pub The Rack & Ruin’s ban on Monopoly to the wonderful wonderful scenes in the London Underground Lost Property Office (painting a magician’s box so the owner can’t claim it!?!).  The book also explores terrible loss and life changes in a truly human way.  We see how fictional people who (even though they are whimsical) feel real react to things like unexpected pregnancy, divorce, and the death of a child.
The group felt like this one was a solid 3.5 teacups.  One of my favorite comments of the night was this (said with delight): “The characters are just so British!”  We all agree that this novel would translate beautifully to film if it was in the hands of Wes Anderson.  It reads like the novelization of one of his movies.  Good stuff!

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