I feel like I’ve been reading this book forever. I have read 2 or 3 other books during the course of this one. It is a charming, quirky, but slow novel. It got a great review in EW, which surprises me because I do not see this having mass appeal. That all sounds very negative, but I don’t mean it to be. There is tender emotion in this story behind the eccentric characters and oddly formal and repetitious (by that I mean certain phrases repeated often) writing style. satisfying. The characters in the novel are each little pictures of human eccentricities, and surely the Tower itself is a main character in this story. At its heart are a couple, Balthazar and Hebe Jones. He is a Beefeater (Yeoman Warder) and they, like the other Beefeaters, live at the Tower of London. Here is where I wish there was a map. I also need to know more about this. According to the book it seems that there are lots of families living at the tower, each in their own building, and they seem to have their own community. Living right there in the historic tower (with circular walls!) where prisoners were held, English history abounds, and ghosts haunt! It’s super fascinating. Hebe and Balthazar are a sad couple, once madly in love, driven apart by the death of their only and beloved son, Milo. Hebe works at the London Underground Lost Property office. I loved these scenes the best– Hebe and her friend and co-worker, Valerie, settled in amongst a great variety of lost articles, diligently working to find the owners, even years after things have turned in. Indeed, they are like librarians or detectives in all that they do!
The quiet sad life of Balthazar changes when word comes from the Palace that animal gifts given to the Queen will now be housed at the Tower in a Royal Menagerie and that Balthazar will be the new Zookeeper.
I enjoyed this story very much, especially its satisfying ending.