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on 19 December 2004
This is a wonderfully enchanting read. Humourous, yet hugely informative, Rory Knight Bruce tells the true story of a tortoise's life, spanning an incredible 160 years, from humble ship's mascot to a much treasured family pet of the Courtenay family, Earls of Devon.
Powderham Castle, home to the family for over 600 years, was where 'Timothy' resided during his last century of life. It was during the 'Charleston' era when it was discovered HE (Timothy) was actually a SHE!
Timothy witnessed vast changes within this once huge country estate but remained 'untouched 'within the perimeters of 'his' Rose Garden. Having survived six monarchs, two world wars and numerous Earls of Devon, Timothy journeyed on to chelonian heaven in April of this year.
In his telling of the life of Timothy, the author captures the very essence of English tradition, old spirit and values, an age such a far cry away from today's world of bigotry, hypocrisy and political correctness.
This is a charming biography, both well researched and passionately written, a must for your fireside collection!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 August 2017
This is a nice look at an unusual subject; the resident tortoise at Powderham Castle, best known to me as the location for the film of The Remains Of The Day. The author had first met him while aged four, on a visit to Timothy in the rose garden, and later returned to interview him. Timothy, a Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise, died at a great age.

The tale of course has to visit all the good and famous people who owned either Timothy - since the Crimean War - or the castle - the earls of Devon and their families. We see how tortoises were used as live food stores aboard ship, how bombing made Timothy dig his own bomb shelter, and his rich diet of strawberries, dandelions and wisteria blossoms.

We explore the social history background, how punitive death duties on the estates caused the carving up of the huge land masses and selling off of homes. One heir after another came into a title and was killed during wars, the swift accumulation of tax occurring at a time when estates were largely funded by rents and agriculture and so could not double their income. Some estates went to commercial forestry and others to mink farms according to my wider reading, but the Courtenay family started a school of domestic science for ladies who no longer kept servants, opened hospitality ventures and opened the estate house to visitors. And filming.

Timothy died in 2004 at over 160 years old, and had touched many lives from the start of his career as a ship's mascot. Well done for taking the time to celebrate him. The author says he would like timothesis officially used as a word for wisdom in old age.

I read this book from the RDS Library. This is an unbiased review.
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on 17 November 2004
Every now and then you find a book which unashamedly enchants. This is the story of a country estate in the South of England seen through the wise old eyes of its oldest tenant, Timothy the Tortoise.
Timothy was not born at Powderham Castle,in Devon, but on the sun-kissed shores of the Turkish Mediterranean. Much of his (or, indeed, as it is revealed, her) early existence was spent as an able seaman aboard a British frigate, and he/she saw action at the Siege of Sebastopol. Later Timothy saw service in the East Indies, and in the China Seas,chasing Chinese junks loaded with opium, with perhaps the occasional night out in Hong Kong.
Fifty is not a bad age to give up the sea, and having jumped ship at Portsmouth in 1892, Timothy became a land-lubber, choosing instead the pursuit of lettuce and roses at Powderham. It could not last. During his and her lifetime so much was to change in the countryside. Timothy must have known when it was time to move on.
Now I have known many tortoises in my time, but it has never occurred to me to enquire of their age. Rory Knight Bruce had no such inhibitions when he interviewed Timothy in 1998. The outcome of their encounter is one of the most charming and intelligent biographies of our time.
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on 1 December 2004
This is a wonderfully enchanting read. Humourous, yet hugely informative, Rory Knight Bruce tells the true story of a tortoise's life, spanning an incredible 160 years, from humble ship's mascot to much treasured family pet of the Courtenay family, Earls of Devon.
Powederham Castle, home to the family for over 600 years, was where 'Timothy' resided during his last centuary of life. It was during the 'Charlston' era when it was discovered HE (Timothy) was actually a SHE!
Timothy 'witnessed' vast changes within this once huge country estate but remained 'untouched' within the perimeters of 'his' Rose Garden. Having survived six monarchs, two world wars and numerous Earls of Devon, Timothy journeyed on to chelonian heaven in April of this year.
In his telling of the life of Timothy, the author captures the very essence of English tradition, old spirit and values, an age such a far cry away from today's world of bigotry, hypocrisy and political correctness.
This is a charming biography both well researched and passionately written, a must for your fireside collection!
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on 7 October 2014
good read
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on 2 October 2015
Nice
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on 2 February 2010
One of the very worst books I have ever read. Well meaning, but awfully, amateurishly written. The writer changes subject every paragraph, occasionally every sentence, so the reader struggles to follow what is going on in, a let's face it, pretty simple story. Far too many expository bits and pieces about various Dukes, Earls and Captains who eventually melt into one. Could have been far better.

Avoid. And I say that even though I am trying to sell my copy!
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