Some books you start knowing exactly why your reading them. Whether this be because the review is two weeks overdue, book club’s in two days, its been staring at you for the past three years or you just want to, at least there is a reason.
Some books you start and think, why am I reading this? I’m not interested in this book, the cover or blurb (how do people not read blurbs automatically upon picking up any book? How? What is wrong with people?). Its not even been recommended to me. I’m just reading it.
These are the Books that Suck-not in a bad, American Teen in the Nineties way, but in the pull you in before spitting you rudely back out sense of the word. When you look up from the sofa and think, wow, did I really just spend two days reading that? Was that a waste of time? I don’t know! I didn’t particularly learn anything from the book; there was no massive emotional response from me towards it; in fact I’d almost say, it passed the time.
The book I’ve just finished, “Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo” by Julia Stuart, is one of these. Telling the story of the residents of the Tower, Beefeaters, bar staff and clergyman alike. The plot meanders along, although it is fairly serious in its subject matter. The setting is delightful, jumping between Balthazar’s home at the Tower and his wife’s place of work, the London Underground Lost Property office. Both have The Most Interesting Jobs In The World, both are grieving for their son who died unexpectedly two years ago. When the Palace decides to put the Queen’s collection of exotic animals in the Tower instead of London Zoo, it is Balthazar’s task to look after them. Meanwhile his wife Hebe is charged with finding the owners of various things lost on the tube, from gigolo’s diary (always an easy laugh) to urns, to pot plants.
A huge and varied supporting cast, each with their own ridiculous names (both first and sur are always mentioned, its a bit like reading Facebook, or an account of Primary School) floats around the main action, conjoining with the plot for comedic effect every now and then.
The best thing about the book was the randomly assorted Facts about all thing Tower/Lost Property related. I really hope they were all true, cos some of them really impressed me in a “remember that for Pub Quiz” way.
Reading this book is a bit like drinking Lilt; you know full well its just Coke, but it tastes like pineapples so can’t be completely bad for you. If you enjoyed The No.1 Ladies’ Detective series by Alexander McCall Smith and the like, then I’d recommend it to you. “Cozy”, I think the word is. “Makes you glad to be alive” would be used. I have now a long list in my head of people I’m going to lend this book to, but if you want a gentle January Read, I’d recommend it to you.