When the Durrells could no longer endure the gray English climate, they did what any sensible family would do: sold their house and relocated to the sun-soaked island of Corfu.
As they settled into their new home, hilarious mishaps ensued as a ten-year-old Gerald Durrell pursued his interest in natural history and explored the island’s fauna. Soon, toads and tortoises, bats and butterflies—as well as scorpions, geckos, ladybugs, praying mantises, octopuses, pigeons, and gulls—became a common sight in the Durrell villa.
Uproarious tales of the island’s animals and Durrell’s fond reflections on his family bring this delightful memoir to life. Capturing the joyous chaos of growing up in an unconventional household, My Family and Other Animals will transport you to a place you won’t want to leave.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Gerald Durrell including rare photos from the author’s estate.
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My Family and Other Animals
The Corfu Trilogy, Book One
By Gerald Durrell
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1984 Gerald M. Durrell
All rights reserved.
The Unsuspected Isle
We threaded our way out of the noise and confusion of the customs shed into the brilliant sunshine on the quay. Around us the town rose steeply, tiers of multi-coloured houses piled haphazardly, green shutters folded back from their windows like the wings of a thousand moths. Behind us lay the bay, smooth as a plate, smouldering with that unbelievable blue.
Larry walked swiftly, with head thrown back and an expression of such regal disdain on his face that one did not notice his diminutive size, keeping a wary eye on the porters who struggled with his trunks. Behind him strolled Leslie, short, stocky, with an air of quiet belligerence, and then Margo, trailing yards of muslin and scent. Mother, looking like a tiny, harassed missionary in an uprising, was dragged unwillingly to the nearest lamp post by an exuberant Roger and forced to stand there, staring into space, while he relieved the pent-up feelings that had accumulated in his kennel. Larry chose two magnificently dilapidated horse-drawn cabs, had the luggage installed in one and seated himself in the second. Then he looked round irritably.
'Well?' he asked. 'What are we waiting for?'
'We're waiting for Mother,' explained Leslie. 'Roger's found a lamp post.'
'Dear God!' said Larry, and then hoisted himself upright in the cab and bellowed, 'Come on, Mother, come on. Can't the dog wait?'
'Coming, dear,' called Mother passively and untruthfully, for Roger showed no signs of quitting the post.
'That dog's been a damned nuisance all the way,' said Larry.
'Don't be so impatient,' said Margo indignantly; 'the dog can't help it ... and anyway, we had to wait an hour in Naples for you.'
'My stomach was out of order,' explained Larry coldly.
'Well, probably his stomach's out of order,' said Margo triumphantly. 'It's six of one and a dozen of the other.'
'You mean half a dozen of the other.'
'Whatever I mean, it's the same thing.'
At this moment Mother arrived, slightly dishevelled, and we had to turn our attentions to the task of getting Roger into the cab. He had never been in such a vehicle, and treated it with suspicion. Eventually we had to lift him bodily and hurl him inside, yelping frantically, and then pile in breathlessly after him and hold him down. The horse, frightened by this activity, broke into a shambling trot, and we ended in a tangled heap on the floor of the cab with Roger moaning loudly underneath us.
'What an entry,' said Larry bitterly. 'I had hoped to give an impression of gracious majesty, and this is what happens ... we arrive in town like a troupe of mediæval tumblers.'
'Don't keep on, dear,' Mother said soothingly, straightening her hat; 'we'll soon be at the hotel.'
So our cab clopped and jingled its way into the town, while we sat on the horsehair seats and tried to muster the appearance of gracious majesty Larry required. Roger, wrapped in Leslie's powerful grasp, lolled his head over the side of the vehicle and rolled his eyes as though at his last gasp. Then we rattled past an alley-way in which four scruffy mongrels were lying in the sun. Roger stiffened, glared at them, and let forth a torrent of deep barks. The mongrels were immediately galvanized into activity, and they sped after the cab, yapping vociferously. Our pose was irretrievably shattered, for it took two people to restrain the raving Roger, while the rest of us leaned out of the cab and made wild gestures with magazines and books at the pursuing horde. This only had the effect of exciting them still further, and at each alley-way we passed their numbers increased, until by the time we were rolling down the main thoroughfare of the town there were some twenty-four dogs swirling about our wheels, almost hysterical with anger.
'Why doesn't somebody do something?' asked Larry, raising his voice above the uproar. 'This is like a scene from Uncle Tom's Cabin.'
'Why don't you do something; instead of criticizing?' snapped Leslie, who was locked in combat with Roger.
Larry promptly rose to his feet, snatched the whip from our astonished driver's hand, made a wild swipe at the herd of dogs, missed them, and caught Leslie across the back of the neck.
'What the hell d'you think you're playing at?' Leslie snarled, twisting a scarlet and angry face towards Larry.
'Accident,' explained Larry airily. 'I'm out of practice ... it's so long since I used a horse whip.'
'Well, watch what you're bloody well doing,' said Leslie loudly and belligerently.
'Now, now, dear, it was an accident,' said Mother.
Larry took another swipe at the dogs and knocked off Mother's hat.
'You're more trouble than the dogs,' said Margo.
'Do be careful, dear,' said Mother, clutching her hat; 'you might hurt someone. I should put the whip down.'
At that moment the cab shambled to a halt outside a doorway over which hung a board with 'Pension Suisse' inscribed on it. The dogs, feeling that they were at last going to get to grips with this effeminate black canine who rode in cabs, surrounded us in a solid, panting wedge. The door of the hotel opened and an ancient bewhiskered porter appeared and stood staring glassily at the turmoil in the street. The difficulties of getting Roger out of the cab and into the hotel were considerable, for he was a heavy dog and it took the combined efforts of the family to lift, carry, and restrain him. Larry had by now forgotten his majestic pose and was rather enjoying himself. He leaped down and danced about the pavement with the whip, cleaving a path through the dogs, along which Leslie, Margo, Mother, and I hurried, bearing the struggling, snarling Roger. We staggered into the hall, and the porter slammed the front door and leaned against it, his moustache quivering. The manager came forward, eyeing us with a mixture of apprehension and curiosity. Mother faced him, hat on one side of her head, clutching in one hand my jam jar of caterpillars.
'Ah!' she said, smiling sweetly, as though our arrival had been the most normal thing in the world. 'Our name's Durrell. I believe you've got some rooms booked for us?'
'Yes, madame,' said the manager, edging round the still grumbling Roger; 'they are on the first floor ... four rooms and a balcony.'
'How nice,' beamed Mother; 'then I think we'll go straight up and have a little rest before lunch.'
And with considerable majestic graciousness she led her family upstairs.
Later we descended to lunch in a large and gloomy room full of dusty potted palms and contorted statuary. We were served by the bewhiskered porter, who had become the head waiter simply by donning tails and a celluloid dicky that creaked like a convention of crickets. The meal, however, was ample and well cooked, and we ate hungrily. As coffee was served, Larry sat back in his chair with a sigh.
'That was a passable meal,' he said generously. 'What do you think of this place, Mother?'
'Well, the food's all right, dear,' said Mother, refusing to commit herself.
'They seem a helpful crowd,' Larry went on. 'The manager himself shifted my bed nearer the window.'
'He wasn't very helpful when I asked for paper,' said Leslie.
'Paper?' asked Mother. 'What did you want paper for?'
'For the lavatory ... there wasn't any in there,' explained Leslie.
'Shhh! Not at the table,' whispered Mother.
'You obviously don't look,' said Margo in a clear and penetrating voice; 'they've got a little box full by the pan.'
'Margo, dear!' exclaimed Mother, horrified.
'What's the matter? Didn't you see the little box?'
Larry gave a snort of laughter.
'Owing to the somewhat eccentric plumbing system of the town,' he explained to Margo kindly, 'that little box is provided for the ... er ... debris, as it were, when you have finished communing with nature.'
Margo's face turned scarlet with a mixture of embarrassment and disgust.
'You mean ... you mean ... that was ... My God! I might have caught some foul disease,' she wailed, and, bursting into tears, fled from the dining-room.
'Most insanitary,' said Mother severely; 'it really is a disgusting way to do things. Quite apart from the mistakes one can make, I should think there's a danger of getting typhoid.'
'Mistakes wouldn't happen if they'd organize things properly,' Leslie pointed out, returning to his original complaint.
'Yes, dear; but I don't think we ought to discuss it now. The best thing we can do is to find a house as soon as possible, before we all go down with something.'
Upstairs Margo was in a state of semi-nudity, splashing disinfectant over herself in quantities, and Mother spent an exhausting afternoon being forced to examine her at intervals for the symptoms of the diseases which Margo felt sure she was hatching. It was unfortunate for Mother's peace of mind that the Pension Suisse happened to be situated in the road leading to the local cemetery. As we sat on our small balcony overhanging the street an apparently endless succession of funerals passed beneath us. The inhabitants of Corfu obviously believed that the best part of a bereavement was the funeral, for each seemed more ornate than the last. Cabs decorated with yards of purple and black crêpe were drawn by horses so enveloped in plumes and canopies that it was a wonder they could move. Six or seven of these cabs, containing the mourners in full and uninhibited grief, preceded the corpse itself. This came on another cartlike vehicle, and was ensconced in a coffin so large and lush that it looked more like an enormous birthday cake. Some were white, with purple, black-and-scarlet, and deep blue decorations; others were gleaming black with complicated filigrees of gold and silver twining abundantly over them, and glittering brass handles. I had never seen anything so colourful and attractive. This, I decided, was really the way to die, with shrouded horses, acres of flowers, and a horde of most satisfactorily grief-stricken relatives. I hung over the balcony rail watching the coffins pass beneath, absorbed and fascinated.
As each funeral passed, and the sounds of mourning and the clopping of hooves died away in the distance, Mother became more and more agitated.
'I'm sure it's an epidemic,' she exclaimed at last, peering down nervously into the street.
'Nonsense, Mother; don't fuss,' said Larry airily.
'But, dear, so many of them ... it's unnatural.'
'There's nothing unnatural about dying. People do it all the time.'
'Yes, but they don't die like flies unless there's something wrong.'
'Perhaps they save 'em up and bury 'em in a bunch,' suggested Leslie callously.
'Don't be silly,' said Mother. 'I'm sure it's something to do with the drains. It can't be healthy for people to have those sort of arrangements.'
'My God!' said Margo sepulchrally, 'then I suppose I'll get it.'
'No, no, dear; it doesn't follow,' said Mother vaguely; 'it might be something that's not catching.'
'I don't see how you can have an epidemic unless it's something catching,' Leslie remarked logically.
'Anyway,' said Mother, refusing to be drawn into any medical arguments, 'I think we ought to find out. Can't you ring up the health authorities, Larry?'
'There probably aren't any health authorities here,' Larry pointed out, 'and even if there were, I doubt if they'd tell me.'
'Well,' Mother said with determination, 'there's nothing for it. We'll have to move. We must get out of the town. We must find a house in the country at once.'
The next morning we started on our house-hunt, accompanied by Mr Beeler, the hotel guide. He was a fat little man with cringing eyes and sweat-polished jowls. He was quite sprightly when we set off, but then he did not know what was in store for him. No one who has not been house-hunting with my mother can possibly imagine it. We drove around the island in a cloud of dust while Mr Beeler showed us villa after villa in a bewildering selection of sizes, colours, and situations, and Mother shook her head firmly at them all. At last we had contemplated the tenth and final villa on Mr Beeler's list, and Mother had shaken her head once again. Brokenly Mr Beeler seated himself on the stairs and mopped his face with his handkerchief.
'Madame Durrell,' he said at last, 'I have shown you every villa I know, yet you do not want any. Madame, what is it you require? What is the matter with these villas?'
Mother regarded him with astonishment.
'Didn't you notice?' she asked. 'None of them had a bathroom.'
Mr Beeler stared at Mother with bulging eyes.
'But Madame,' he wailed in genuine anguish, 'what for you want a bathroom? Have you not got the sea?'
We returned in silence to the hotel.
By the following morning Mother had decided that we would hire a car and go out house-hunting on our own. She was convinced that somewhere on the island there lurked a villa with a bathroom. We did not share Mother's belief, and so it was a slightly irritable and argumentative group that she herded down to the taxi rank in the main square. The taxi drivers, perceiving our innocent appearance, scrambled from inside their cars and flocked round us like vultures, each trying to out-shout his compatriots. Their voices grew louder and louder, their eyes flashed, they clutched each other's arms and ground their teeth at one another, and then they laid hold of us as though they would tear us apart. Actually, we were being treated to the mildest of mild altercations, but we were not used to the Greek temperament, and to us it looked as though we were in danger of our lives.
'Can't you do something, Larry?' Mother squeaked, disentangling herself with difficulty from the grasp of a large driver.
'Tell them you'll report them to the British consul,' suggested Larry, raising his voice above the noise.
'Don't be silly, dear,' said Mother breathlessly. 'Just explain that we don't understand.'
Margo, simpering, stepped into the breach.
'We English,' she yelled at the gesticulating drivers; 'we no understand Greek.'
'If that man pushes me again I'll poke him in the eye,' said Leslie, his face flushed red.
'Now, now, dear,' panted Mother, still struggling with the driver who was propelling her vigorously towards his car; 'I don't think they mean any harm.'
At that moment everyone was startled into silence by a voice that rumbled out above the uproar, a deep, rich; vibrant voice, the sort of voice you would expect a volcano to have.
'Hoy!' roared the voice. 'Whys donts yous have someones who can talks your own language?'
Turning, we saw an ancient Dodge parked by the curb, and behind the wheel sat a short, barrel-bodied individual, with hamlike hands and a great, leathery, scowling face surmounted by a jauntily tilted peaked cap. He opened the door of the car, surged out onto the pavement, and waddled across to us. Then he stopped, scowling even more ferociously, and surveyed the group of silent cab drivers.
'Thems been worrying yous?' he asked Mother.
'No, no,' said Mother untruthfully; 'it was just that we had difficulty in understanding them.'
'Yous wants someones who can talks your own language,' repeated the new arrival; 'thems bastards ... if yous will excuses the words ... would swindles their own mothers. Excuses me a minute and I'll fix thems.'
He turned on the drivers a blast of Greek that almost swept them off their feet. Aggrieved, gesticulating, angry, they were herded back to their cars by this extraordinary man. Having given them a final and, it appeared, derogatory blast of Greek, he turned to us again.
'Wheres yous wants to gos?' he asked, almost truculently.
'Can you take us to look for a villa?' asked Larry.
'Sure. I'll takes yous anywheres. Just yous says.'
'We are looking,' said Mother firmly, 'for a villa with a bathroom. Do you know of one?'
The man brooded like a great, suntanned gargoyle, his black eyebrows twisted into a knot of thoughtfulness.
'Bathrooms?' he said. 'Yous wants a bathrooms?'
'None of the ones we have seen so far had them,' said Mother.
'Oh, I knows a villa with a bathrooms,' said the man. 'I was wondering if its was goings to be bigs enough for yous.'
'Will you take us to look at it, please?' asked Mother.
'Sure, I'll takes yous. Gets into the cars.'
We climbed into the spacious car, and our driver hoisted his bulk behind the steering wheel and engaged his gears with a terrifying sound. We shot through the twisted streets on the outskirts of the town, swerving in and out among the loaded donkeys, the carts, the groups of peasant women, and innumerable dogs, our horn honking a deafening warning. During this our driver seized the opportunity to engage us in conversation. Each time he addressed us he would crane his massive head round to see our reactions, and the car would swoop back and forth across the road like a drunken swallow.
Excerpted from My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. Copyright © 1984 Gerald M. Durrell. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
- The Speech for the Defence
- Part One
- The Migration
- 1 The Unsuspected Isle
- 2 The Strawberry-Pink Villa
- 3 The Rose-Beetle Man
- 4 A Bushel of Learning
- 5 A Treasure of Spiders
- 6 The Sweet Spring
- Part Two
- 7 The Daffodil-Yellow Villa
- 8 The Tortoise Hills
- 9 The World in a Wall
- 10 The Pageant of Fireflies
- 11 The Enchanted Archipelago
- 12 The Woodcock Winter
- Part Three
- 13 The Snow-White Villa
- 14 The Talking Flowers
- 15 The Cyclamen Woods
- 16 The Lake of Lilies
- 17 The Chessboard Fields
- 18 An Entertainment with Animals
- The Return
- Preview: Birds, Beasts and Relatives
- A Biography of Gerald Durrell
- A Message from Durrell Wildlife
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is absolutely, brilliantly funny. The wit and unique characterizations are woven with great descriptions of the animals and plants of Corfu. That Durrell can hold the attention of readers who have no interest in biology simply demonstrates what a fine work this is. Gerald's depiction of a larger-than-life expatriate family on a larger-than-life Greek island is a tremendous celebration of life. The variety of different Greek characters parading through this book rivals the variety of Corfu's flora and fauna. Absolute great read!
I absolutely loved this book because it was really funny. Durrell lovingly described each and every animal that he owned. He also told every detail of the settings, so I felt like I was really in Corfu.
Some parts (namely the garden scenes) can be a bit slow, but the eccentric nature and vibrant personalities of the family creates some of the most rib-bruising comedy I've ever read. I first read it when I was eleven, and I still have tears of myrth running down my face each time I read my favorite scenes! Every sentance (yes, even in the slower scenes) is written in a way that creates breathtaking images in your mind. There are very few writers who can stir such beautiful sights in the depths of my imagination. This is highly reccomended to anyone looking for a good laugh (particularly those with loud, loony families!).
If I could give this ten stars (out of five) , I would! :) It's one of the funniest books I have ever read. It has also made me look at the natural world in a different way, what a wonderful thing it must have been to be young and living this life in an island paradise. Gerald Durrell was a wonderful naturalist and storyteller and his family was so talented, his mother (I have heard from an old lady who knew her once, )was completely charming in real life, just like in the book,.
This book has been a family favorite for myself and three children. Perhaps a bit slow going in the beginning for a youngster, a ten to twelve-year-old can read it by themselves and enjoy it as well as a seasoned adult reader. Great for cold days as it evokes the shimmery heat of a Greek summer.
I first read this book when turning 12. Despite the fact that I read it in translation and could not relate to all the quirks of the lovely British family, it has completely won my heart over. It still remains one of my favourites - a book to turn too when some humour, love and good writing is needed in life. And some memorable quotes have become additions to our family jargon.
This book was given to me by my Uncle in 1980 for Christmas and it seemed as though that family could have been ours. (My father was British, mother Scottish, children Canadian, and we had a French poodle.) Coming from an eccentric British family, I can relate only all too well with the humour that this story possesses. I have given this book as a gift to all of my closest friends so that they might have a deeper insight into how our family operates. (Oddly at best) I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to take a vacation but can't get away. Some day I too will go to Corfu.
this is one of the funniest and most informative books i have ever read...all the characters in it were so alive for me that i was heartbroken when while i was halfway through the book, the newspapers advertised the passing away of the famous lawrence durrell (the author's brother and a main character in the book)...
Laugh out loud!
When the Durrell family decides to move to the Greek island Corfu in defiance of England's damp weather, hilarious adventures in both family life and natural history ensue. My Family and Other Animals, the first of Gerald Durrell's Corfu trilogy, was first published in 1956 and recounts the family's life from 1935¿39. Gerry was ten years old when the family arrived in Corfu, and the rich, varied fauna of the island stimulated his already-avid love for the natural world. It also provided what his family came to see as frequent near-death experiences (such as the incident with the baby scorpions in the cigar box...).In some ways it reminded me of James Herriot's books; both authors love to exaggerate the absurdities of their characters, and the result is quite funny. Both Herriot and Durrell also display a deep love for beauty and the natural world that never clashes with the humorous parts of their work. Yet despite these similarities somehow I find Herriot more congenial than Durrell. Maybe it's because Gerry is one of the unpredictable and unconventional characters, while Herriot is more of an observer of others' eccentricities. Do I feel more comfortable with Herriot as my guide? Probably. But the comparison is a good one, I think. No one does absurdity so delightfully as the Brits. This is a well-written, funny book and the exotic locale of Corfu is a pleasure to explore in Durrell's intelligent prose. But I couldn't completely warm to the tale, most likely because of the family's attitude toward Mother. Of course everything is exaggerated for the joke of it, but I am not comfortable with how the alternating patronizing and bullying are portrayed as amusingly cute. What we laugh at, we eventually accept. Nevertheless, I'd be interested in reading more from Durrell, and I'd recommend this to fans of Herriot, Clarence Day, and Frank Gilbreth. Good fun.
A laugh-out-loud funny semifictional memoir of the great naturalist's early life on the island of Corfu. Durrell deftly weaves descriptive accounts of the natural life of the island with hilarious stories of the escapades of his family, who are prototypical eccentric rich English. Simple enough to be read by a ten- or twelve-year old, but adults will certainly enjoy it as well. Highly recommended.
I think Amazon recommended this to me after I'd bought yet another James Herriot book. Not quite as laugh-out-loud funny, but charming, fascinating, a little sprawling, and dreamy. It makes me wonder why I don't live in Corfu, that's for sure! In addition, since we know Durrell grew up to be a dedicated zoologist, it's interesting (especially as a parent) to see how dedicated he was to that field even at age ten. (Similarly, his older brother Larry, who sounds a bit young and foolish about poetry and literature in the book, grew up to be a well- known author.) The prose can be a little thick at times; I'm not sure Durrell ever met an adjective he didn't like. But that fits well with the lush, abundant surroundings he describes, and in the dark of winter right now, you can tell me about all the translucent azure waters you'd like. I'd certainly read more of his work.
I loved this book! It was really quirky and funny, as the title suggests. I found it in my grandmother's basement and read it this past summer while lounging on my hammock in the shade. It literally made me laugh out loud at times. There were some slow parts but the rest of it made it worth the read.
I'd seen this mentioned several times asa favorite book, so I was really happy when redhouse agreed to atrade for it.And, now that I've just finished reading it, I must say that Iabsolutely loved this book. The characters are so distinctlydescribed that I could probably pick them out were I in Corfu.Durrell is a master at describing the setting in an amazinglydetailed and fascinating way. Most of all, I loved the conversationsDurrell set down on paper between family members; the conversationsperfectly reflect the personality of each character.Write this title down on your eventual TBR. I cannot imagine whowould not be enchanted by this book.
Gerald Durrell had a childhood many children can only dream of. This wonderful and brilliantly funny book takes us to the island of Corfu where his family moved to in 1935 in order to escape the damp, gray English climate. To the entire family, life in the island was a dream come true, and to 10-year old Gerald, it was the beginning of a lifelong affair with wildlife and nature. To the young intrepid explorer, the small island being a sanctuary of many small and interesting creatures, and with its marvelous array of flora and fauna, was a veritable museum of natural history. Between his explorations of the natural offerings of Corfu, we are introduced to his wacky family and their misadventures concerning the various animals Gerald kept bringing home to collect and observe. Scorpions in matchboxes, snakes in the bathtub are just a few of what the family had to put up with. An animal's antics or escape invariably leads to a riotous atmosphere, and with Durrell's striking prose, we find ourselves right in the middle of it. Gerald not only discovers nature in the island, but has found friends among the locals, including some memorable characters. This book is vibrant, full of life and not just literally. It's colourful, heartwarming, enchanting, and laugh-out-loud funny. By a wonderful turn of words, Durrell has turned the habits of our little animal friends into a subject which would otherwise hold no fascination for me. It also evokes a world that was still untouched by the impending clouds of war in Europe, a tiny world apart. I enjoyed this book very much, and if I had to reread something (which I almost never do), this book would be a strong contender. Which means I can't recommend it highly enough.
A light-hearted and humorous memoir of family and fauna. An idyllic break from the everyday.
I very rarely laugh out loud when I'm reading; it's not that I don't read funny books, or that I don't find funny books really all that funny, but rather something in the middle of the two. I would say that the humour in Durrell's classic work is more 'charming' than 'hilarious', although there's nothing wrong with that either. His family certainly is eccentric, the locals certainly are colourful, and his menagerie certainly is interesting and bizarre. I'm not sure I'll read the sequels though...
I enjoyed this book for its amusing and lyrical descriptions of young Gerry¿s time on the island of Corfu. Indulged by his mother, he surrounds himself with all manner of animals, including an owl, a gull, two magpies, two snakes and three dogs. His collection of human friends is no less eclectic. Theodore, a local scientist, gladly joins in Gerry¿s collecting trips, searching for insects, and his tutor, Kraflesky, teaches him as much about birds as he does any other subject. Gerry spends much of his time roaming the island with the dogs, Roger, Widdle and Puke, learning far more about nature and life than he ever would have learned in school. Anyone who has looked out a classroom window, wishing they were someplace else, can relate to Gerry¿s seemingly endless days of casual absorption in the one subject that mattered most to him. That he went on to a career as a wildlife conservationist, working to save endangered species, is a testament to the value of experiential education.
Why on earth are Gerald Durrell's books not better known? Or perhaps they are and I just didn't know much about them? I've never heard another reader mention this as a must read delight and yet that is exactly what it is. The book is based on his family's five years living on Corfu. It's hilarious, entertaining and even educational.It's 1935 and England is in the midst of a grey and dreary season. How does any good British family escape such? Why by picking up and moving to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu on the recommendation of the eldest son's friend, of course. And what a good British family it is. Mother is a widow, eccentric and a bit flighty in a charming way. Larry, the eldest, is a writer and a bit of a stuffed shirt know-it-all; yes, Larry is famed author Lawrence Durrell. Leslie is a stereotypical gun-mad hunter, frequently striding out of the copses and fields with dinner. Margot is the flirty sister, interested in the local and ex-pat men around. And our author Gerry? Well, he's significantly younger than his siblings (he's only ten at the start while they are all young adults) and he's obsessed with animals, adopting them and wreaking havoc in the house and grounds. He's also a gifted writer with the impeccable timing of a truly funny comic.Originally intended to be an account of the flora and fauna of Corfu, this is that and so much more. The antics of the Durrells and their good-natured bickering and tolerance of each others' foibles make this literally a laugh out loud book. Imagine Leslie coming downstairs in a towel immediately prior to a huge party, shivering and stammering because young Gerald has put a harmless snake in the tub with cool water to revive it from its heat stroke. There are Larry's elaborate machinations to keep Gerry's wild magpies, raised by him from babyhood, from going into Larry's room and capering about. The different colored birdie footprints in ink all across his manuscript is an image I'll be chuckling about for quite some time. There's the turtle that begs like a dog. A shallow-bottomed, oddly round boat made by Leslie named the Bootle-Bumtrinket. Two dogs named Widdle and Puke. I could go on and on.But not all of the animal observations come via mishaps in the family. Durrell recounts his delight at finding things in their natural habitat and the care he took in examining them there. His childish curiousity was fervent and infectious. He is completely enchanted by nature in all its forms and that enchantment oozes from the very pages of the book. When the reader isn't laughing, she is reading steadily and delighting in the atmosphere and the place that is Corfu between the wars. Gorgeously written, there is a bit of nostalgia in these pages, especially as the reader knows, from the outset, that at the end, the Durrells pack up their belongings and head back to the grey skies and drizzle of England. I can't recommend this book highly enough, especially for people who like animals but also for those who appreciate well written, pastoral sorts of books or those who cherish eccentric characters and the kind of childhood that seems to be long extinct.There's even a Masterpiece Theater production of this book. Methinks I'll have to hunt it down and and gather my family and assorted animals around to watch it in hopes it captures the wonder and the delight and the eccentricities of the book. And I will also, very definitely, be tracking down more of Mr. Durrell's books in hopes of sinking into similar, charming entertainments.
A perennial favourite. Durrell's depictions do evoke a 'comic slapstick opera'; his sense of timing and wit are impeccable, and his love for animals and the beauty of nature evident in every page. Sometimes the descriptions can be overwhelmingly over-the-top, but its preciousness gives the book its unique character.
This is a "comfort read". Durrell's description of the island and people of Corfu, of his family and of his collection of various animals as "pets" brought smiles and the feeling of reading curled up in a cozy corner even while bouncing along on the bus. It was particularly entertaining to read about his oldest brother, Larry, known to the world as the serious author, Lawrence Durrell.
This is one of the first books I remember my father strongly recommending me. I guess he'd already bought me many books, but they might have been adventure books that he himself had read when he was a kid, so was unenthusiastic about. For this book, however, he had an ongoing admiration, so it was one of the first times we got to share an enthusiasm in a book. Besides, he's a naturalist turned chemical engineer (and gone back to natural sciences since his retirement) so obviously he likes Gerry Durrell. It's only recently I found this second-hand copy in English in the antique bookshop of the Galerie Vivienne, in Paris. I'd only ever read Durrell's books in Italian up to this one, for they were linked to my early adolescence. But it's not one of those books that suffers badly from translation, in my opinion.
I think this is the best of Gerald Durrell's books, full of the gentle wit and charm that make him so enjoyable.
This is my comfort book, if I'm a bit fed up this cheers me up.
Very funny true story about the author's life when he was 10 and they went to island of Corfu to live in 1934.