It is, contrary to this visitor's expectation, a little difficult to feel the full weight of history when visiting the Tower of London. Maybe it's the conveyor belt they make you stand on to see the Crown Jewels, or maybe it's the hordes of other tourists blandly staring at yet another suit of armor. The complex can feel just a bit silly, belying its almost millennium of weighty history.
None of the Tower's inhabitants seem to have life figured out. Balthazar and his wife Hebe Jones are each drowning alone in their grief. The owner of the Tower's occupants-only pub suspects that she earned more than just a disappointed heart from her fling with a Spaniard. The chapel's reverend fears he will never free his dwelling from the evil occupation of yellow-toothed rats. And, worst of all, the Queen worries that visitor numbers at the Tower are down, just as she is in need of a new location for her personal menagerie.
The juxtaposition of tragedy and comedy is one of Stuart's greatest strengths here, and the result is a touching, if light, novel. She also sprinkles in fun bits of history - like the story of Ranulf Flambard, the Tower's first notable occupant and first escapee. This is certainly an enjoyable and charming read, particularly if you're a fan of British history and quirks.
Isn't the cover just adorable? Image lifted from Book Covers Anonymous, where you can also see the UK cover.