The Tigers in the Tower
The Tiger in the Tower by Julia Golding
Sahira's family are travelling to England to deliver two majestic Indian tigers to the menagerie in the tower of London.
But tragedy strikes and sickness steals Sahira's parents from her on the journey. Left alone in London, Sarhira finds herself confined to a miserable and dangerous orphanage. Despite her heartache and the threats she faces, Sahira is determined to carry out her father's last request - to protect God's beautiful creatures: her tigers. To do so, Sahira must set out on an adventure and use all her powers of persuasion to engage the help of some new friends along the way.
Can the quest to find her tigers a safe home, lead Sahira to find her own place of hope and belonging in this strange and foreign land?
I have just finished reading The Tigers in the Tower by Julia Golding and I have a feeling it will sit with me for quite a while. This book is middle grade historical fiction of the highest order. The story centres around Sahira whose father was an English gentleman and mother was a Persian lady. As such in 1830 she is seen as an outcast wherever she goes. She doesn't seem to be wanted by her English relatives or her Indian ones. She finds herself alone and unwanted in a country that she doesn't know with only 2 tigers are her link to her previously happy life; for sadly her parents died on the journey from India to England.
My heat went out to Sahira right from the beginning of the story. This is a fierce, proud and spirited young girl trying to hold her head high and remain positive and resilient when her whole world has been taken away from her. From the beginning I found myself hoping that someone would show Sahira some kindness, and got emotional at even the smallest acts of kindness shown to her, such was the amount of empathy I felt for her plight. I don't know if it is because I am a parent or because I am a teacher, but I just really felt for her.
As I read the book I became more drawn into the world of Georgian London and became more and more invested in Sahira and the array of characters that were to become her friends (and enemies). Sahira embodied the character of her tigers through the story and showed fierce determination in trying to keep them safe, fierce determination as well in the will to not give into the bullies who only showed her cruelty and spite.
At it's heart this is a story about finding your place in the world, it's about character and staying true to what is right, it's about family and friendship. Through the story Sahira learns to deal with her plight and the message that people adapt and are resilient sings through clearly.
The story is beautifully written and evokes the feeling of the time vividly. The world of the Tower of London menagerie is one I know little about (only what I have read whilst visiting the Tower on a trip to London a few years ago) but it is absolutely fascinating. Also seeing famous characters like the Duke of Wellington and Robert Peel brought to life (however briefly they were in the story) was a bit of a thrill for me.
What really made the story for me though was the characters. Apart from Sahira herself, there are the people who befriend her including Mr Cops the head of the Menagerie, Ned the bootboy, Bobby, son of Robert Peel and a few others. They become almost an adopted family for Sahira and show their true value towards the end of the story.
I'm unashamed to say that I had a lump in my throat by the end of this book. Reading it was tense at times, but only because my heart ached with the cruelty that had been shown to Sahira by the Newton twins and Mr Pence, who ran the orphanage that Sahira found herself in. I spent the first half of the story cheering at every show of strength and defiance from Sahira as she showed the same fierceness as her tigers and refused to bow to her tormentors and the second half of the story desperately hoping that there would be hope for Sahira and an end to the cruelty that had been directed towards her. I won't spoil the ending of the story for you but it was a faced paced whirlwind of a ride by the end and I was left extremely satisfied by the conclusion.
This book would be perfect for aged 9+ but I am sure some children slightly younger would enjoy it as well. The language is rich and vibrant and really evokes the times and characters. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a character rich story, especially if they are also fans of historical fiction.
Here is a link to where you can buy the book if you are interested:
(If you are going to buy the book please consider buying from an independent bookshop rather than the large online retailers that people use. Authors make very little from book sales and from places like Amazon it can be as little as 12p per book. If you use an independent book shop the author makes more money and you also support some of the fabulous people that keep the book industry going).