Book Talk: Tower of London provides setting for Julia Stuart

Wed Aug 18, 2010 7:53am EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - When writer Julia Stuart read about Beefeaters still living in the Tower of London, she became fascinated about life behind closed doors at the palace and fortress which dates back to the 11th century.

Her second novel, "The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise" is the story of Beefeater Balthazar Jones, his wife Hebe, their 180-year-old tortoise and their adventures living in the Tower as their marriage crumbles after the death of their son.

Stuart, who was previously a journalist, published her first novel, "The Matchmaker of Perigord," in 2007 and did extensive research about the Tower of London for her latest novel.

Stuart, who moved from Bahrain to Egypt this year, spoke to Reuters about her writing:

Q: Was it easier to write your second book than your first?

A: "No, it wasn't. I found the first one much easier. That one I wrote half when I was still working full-time, which took about six months, and then I took three months off work and finished the second half in 10 weeks. The second one I found much more of a challenge but it is a much more challenging book as it has the humor but also this tragedy through it."

Q: What led you to the Tower of London?

A: "A few years ago I read an article about the Beefeaters living in the Tower of London and I thought it was fascinating that they lived there and were locked in at night with a resident doctor and a chaplain. I scratched around for a plot but couldn't find one so wrote the first book but then I came back to this."   Continued...