Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise
As a lover of historical fiction when I think of the Tower of London I think of the classics: missing princes, the rack, religious zealots, adulterers, years of imprisonment followed by beheadings and of course jewelery. It does not conjure up for me visions of hearth and home. Well there you have my ignorance because people do actually live there. Wouldn't that be great? For Rent: 3 bedroom, 1 bath with exposed stone, dank air, small windows, moat view and access to the battlements. Usurpers to the throne need not apply.
Following the mode of countless novels and every child's favorite, The Cross-Section Diagram-- and who doesn't love those by the way? They are perfect for extra nosy me!-- The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise slices away a chunk of the Tower to reveal a handful of its apartment dwellers. Among these locals there is a grieving Beefeater and his wife, a newly pregnant barmaid from the Rack and Ruin, a writer of erotica the Reverand Septimus Drew, a philandering Ravenmaster and a ticket inspector---and that's not even the zoo part. The zoo is set up by Balthazar, the Beefeater, by royal decree to house the exotic animals gifted to the Queen. And the Tortoise? He is Balthazar's 108 year old pet and don't blink, he's going to 'run' away. How all of these people and animals come together to end up with a happily ever after is what makes up the winsome wackiness of The Tower.
The Matchmaker of Perigord, author Julia Stuart created a world you wish you could live in for the lovelorn matchmaking barber Guillaume. Amour-sur-Belle was a kind of Northern Exposure meets Chocolat. It was sweetly eccentric. The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise takes those qualities and adds more heart and humor. There are moments when the charm of The Tower is more dead weight than light weight but at those times your infatuation with the characters carries the day. This was such an engaging novel. Being transported to London to spend time with Balthazar and Co. put me in a happy place.