Stuart's second novel (The Matchmaker of Périgord, 2008) employs a whimsical over-the-top style that occasionally draws...

READ REVIEW

THE TOWER, THE ZOO, AND THE TORTOISE

A sensitive Beefeater, his wife and assorted other eccentrics cope with modern life in the infamous Tower of London.

Considering he spends much of his day telling tourists where the lavatories are, Balthazar Jones takes pride in his coveted role as Yeoman Warder (aka Beefeater) for one on England's top destinations. The former officer in Her Majesty's Forces shares his centuries-old, on-site lodgings with his wife Hebe, a no-nonsense woman of Greek descent who works in the lost-and-found office for the London subway service. Once very much in love, Balthazar and Hebe have grown apart since the death of their 11-year-old son Milo three years ago. Balthazar’s life takes an unexpected turn when he is put in charge of the Tower's new menagerie. Consisting of animals gifted to the Queen by various nations, the new arrivals include a Komodo dragon, giraffes erroneously credited to the country of Sweden, as well as some naughty marmosets. The non-zoo Tower residences include the unlucky-in-love Rev. Septimus Drew, who writes erotica under a pseudonym while yearning for Ruby Dore, the proprietress at the Tower's only pub. Oblivious to the reverend's adoration, Ruby finds herself in the delicate situation of being pregnant and unwed. Then there is the mustachioed Ravenmaster, who, when he’s not looking after his ill-natured flock, manages to carry on a dalliance with the pneumatic cook, Ambrosine Clarke. The zoo proves popular with visitors, and Balthazar finds himself bonding with creatures great and small. But his enthusiasm for the zoo doesn’t help his damaged marriage, as Hebe makes a fateful decision that impacts them both. Our hero is left trying to win back his wife's heart while juggling multiple potential catastrophes.

Stuart's second novel (The Matchmaker of Périgord, 2008) employs a whimsical over-the-top style that occasionally draws attention to itself, but the tale is grounded by the moving central love story. This sweet romp will appeal to history buffs.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-53328-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

Did you like this book?

Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more