Barack Obama propels flop novelist to New York Top 25

A British novelist who flopped in the UK has broken into the top 25 of The New York Times hardback fiction list, thanks to the Obamas…

A British novelist who flopped over here in the UK has broken into the top 25 of The New York Times hardback fiction list, thanks to the Obamas.

Julia Stuart’s novel The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise was the only book by a non-American author that President Barack Obama and his family took on their holiday to Martha’s Vineyard in New England last month, just after publication.

It is almost unprecedented for an unheralded British novelist to break into the top 25 of The New York Times list so soon.

Stuart, who is in her early 40s, had the novel published in Britain under the title Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London. It tells the story of a Beefeater who has to look after a royal menagerie in the tower while dealing with the death of a child and the subsequent effect on his marriage.

Despite moderate sales in Britain, Stuart’s agent, Grainne Fox, persuaded the New York publisher Knopf Doubleday to spend ‘a very high six-figure-dollar sum’ buying the book.

‘I pitched it as one that would appeal to the American love of things British, with its setting in the tower and the royal link,’ said Ms Fox, who has now handed the book to a leading film agent in Los Angeles.

Stuart’s first novel, The Matchmaker of Périgord, was the story of a French provincial barber forced to try a new career. She used to write for newspapers, and spent eight years with the Independent. She grew up in the West Midlands, and has spent time in France, Spain and Bahrain, but now lives in Egypt.

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