I finished Julia Stuart's Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo last night. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a book to laugh over and to cry over. It's about interesting people and interesting animals. It's also about love, loss and coming to term with situations as they are rather than as you want them to be. Funny and heartwarming and I found myself laughing over one page and then crying over the next one.
I really liked Hebe - Balthazar's wife - who works in the lost property office. She and her colleague, Valerie Jennings, are absolutely priceless. Hebe takes refuge in a magician's box for sawing the lady in half when life gets too much for her - why was that left on the Underground?; Valerie lies in an Egyptian sarchopagus with a hardback book carefully wedged to stop the lid closing. Their attempts to reunite lost property with the owners are priceless: the box with someone's ashes in; the safe that no one can open; clothes; books; a gigolo's diary; an Oscar statuette - these are just a few of the things described.
Then there are the animals - the parrot that sleeps upside down; the zorilla - don't ask; the albatross which misses its mate and the pig which plays football with a grapefruit. But the people who make up the Tower population are intriguing too - Septimus Drew, the erotic novel writing clergyman with the nibbled cassock and the unrequited love for Ruby Dore the landlady of the Rack and Ruin pub; the Ravenmaster who is fanatical about his ravens and about the woman from the cafe.
It is lovely book and I recommend it to anyone who wants something different.