Birds, Beasts and Relatives

by Gerald Durrell

Paperback, 1978

Call number

590 DUR



Fontana Books (1978)


Part coming-of-age autobiography and part nature guide, Gerald Durrell's dazzling sequel to My Family and Other Animals is based on his boyhood on Corfu, from 1933 to 1939. Filled with charming observations, amusing anecdotes, boyhood memories and childlike wonder.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Raven
Reading this book ten years after My Family and Other Animals - it was out of print for a long time, and I only just acquired a second-hand copy - I wouldn't say it was worth the wait, so much as something I knew I would have enjoyed greatly ten years ago, and did today, as well. It is, as expected, just lovely. Like My Family..., it is a collection of stories about the author and the five years he and his eccentric family spent on the Greek island of Corfu, where they moved when Durrell was ten. Mostly, it focuses on the animal life of the island, but detours into the family's various, gently hilarious mishaps and misadventures. Strictly speaking, this isn't a sequel to the earlier book, as it covers the same five-year period, merely telling different stories. And for that reason, I think it lacks something, as it can't by necessity tell the story of how the family arrived on the island, and why they live in three different villas while they're there, and thus it lacks the overarching structure of My Family and Other Animals, which I think is a better book in absolute terms.

However, it is charming. It's full of delightful detail, it is occasionally very very funny, and it does an immaculate job of evoking a lost, idyllic world of perfect sunshine and deep blue water. It is the perfect book to read on a sunny afternoon in the sunshine. And it is saved from the charge of being slight by its very last line; unlike its predecessor, it doesn't omit the reason the family were forced to leave their idyllic existence and return - 1939, and the outbreak of war. Relating how the family return by sea from a perfect summer evening, Durrell writes of, tragically, "...the beautiful sunlit days that were not to be."
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LibraryThing member Bowerbirds-Library
Written around 10 + years after the highly successful 'My Family and Other Animals', Gerald Durrell returns to his childhood on the sun-drenched island of Corfu. Here we again meet the wonderful characters of the first book (with some delightful additions) but in new and often hilarious situations. This book is not so much a continuation of the first book as an addition, with scenes slotting into the structural narrative of the previous story. Again it is warm and funny and full of the joie de vivre. More laugh out loud moments – for me the incident of Gerry finding a large Turtle in the sea and what happens next was truly memorable. The way that Gerry's reaction to this incident (and of course his family's) is described reminded me somewhat of how 'William' from the Richmal Crompton stories might have been.
Although 'My Family and Other Animals' did conclude with the family leaving the island in 1939 ostensibly to carry on Gerry's education in England, it is the ending of this story with the family on a beautiful moonlit excursion on a freshly painted benzina with numerous hampers of food and wine, enjoying the last of the summer and dreaming of 'brilliant days that were not to be' that is the more poignant.
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LibraryThing member reading_fox
Not quite as funny, or as well constructed as Other Animals, this is still a superb book, gentle humerous in Gerry's best style, full of creatures, people and life. Technically the 2nd book in the Corfu 'trilogy' of memoirs, it is almost certainly very readable on it's own, although the prior book 'My family and other animals' does introduce the family, the settings and some of the key other characters.

I'm not sure how old Gerry was when he wrote this, it features life from his childhood aged 10 or so, but contains some very well remembered conversations, which I assume must be approximations to the real events. Some event however sound likt he sort of thing that can never be forgotton!

It fairly quickly becomes apparent that onlike Other Animals, this is a more disordered selection of anecdotes, rather than a chronological recounting. However each incident is just as wonderfully described, whether it is the choas of being given a donkey for his birthday, the celebration of local birth, or just the investigation of the life cycle of water spiders.

Gerald had no favour when it came to creatures, bird or beast, insect or reptile from water fleas to giant turtles, every living thing was of interest. Maybe insects where easier to find, and mammels make better pets, and so claim most of the attention, but truly he was an all rounder.

The family also feature strongly in many ancedotes, especially where they get on the wrong side of one of Gerry's many pets - or the smell of the disected turtle! However they come thorugh with laughter and humour as a supportive companions. Maybe the most interesting insights are those brief glimpses of life amount the locals. Peasant families living an almost subsistance lifesty;e still managed to share good times and surplus when it was available.

Overal entertaining acounts of a young boy growing up surrounded by nature and an inquisitive mind, the like of which too few children have the opportunity to do today.
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LibraryThing member AliceaP
Remember when I reviewed Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals? Well, I was so impressed by it that I went ahead and requested the second in the trilogy (did I mention it was a memoir trilogy?) and it was a pretty good time. Birds, Beasts, and Relatives contains more anecdotal tales of the Durrell family when they lived in Corfu, Greece in the 1930s. I loved how it started with the family discussing the popularity of the first book and how embarrassed they were at how Gerald aka Gerry portrayed them all...and then he wrote a follow-up. #troll (Yes, I used a hashtag. Hashtags are hilarious.) The family dynamics highly amuse me as well as the antics that they all get up to as foreigners in a seemingly idyllic setting. (You saw the photo at the top of the post so you know I'm not lying.) I will warn you that because of the time period that this was written there are a few problematic moments such as the discussion of individuals of different skin colors and sexual orientations. If you can look at it through the lens of 'this was written back in the day' then you'll be fine as the mentions are sporadic and brief (and don't really make a huge impact on the story as a whole since each chapter can be read separately). If you're looking for a really quick story about a quirky family living somewhere that almost seems mythical then you can't go wrong with Birds, Beasts, and Relatives.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookheaven
More funny stories about the author's life on Corfu. Love the sarcastic comments his brother Larry makes.
LibraryThing member FicusFan
This book is a sequel of sorts to the first book My Relatives and Other Animals. Both are charming, heartwarming, and funny.

This book continues the stories of growing up in a foreign culture, in a warm wonderful place, and a with a fascination of the natural world.

Durrell has such charming ways of describing the various bugs, beasts and fish, including their inner thoughts and dialog. His descriptions evoke the simpler time of childhood. His family is well done too. Very funny and long suffering.… (more)
LibraryThing member leore_joanne
Again, Durrell's beautiful luscious writing, and his ability to describe things so clearly and yet originally makes this book a gem.

He describes both his menagerie and his family with a cruel and biting pen, and brings the whole island of Corfu to life. I was *in love* with Gerry when I was a kid, ever since I got one of his books as a present for my tenth birthday. I used to read and reread his books again and again and take notes.

If you read his later books, you'll learn what this bug happy collecting boy grew up to be, and how he buit a Zoo of his own, which specailizes in conservation of endangered species.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
A welcome sequel to My Family and Other Animals.
LibraryThing member trinityofone
I adore Gerald Durrell. This is definitely on the list of Books That Have Made Me Emit Embarrassingly Loud Snorting Noises in Public. And I'm probably in the minority here, but I actually like this one more than "My Family and Other Animals."
LibraryThing member akswede
Some funny stories, but this doesn't hold a candle to the first book.
LibraryThing member lorge
I read the books of g Durell when I was about 14 or 15 . They where so funny I still remember me laughing in the library. Finding then here again makes me want to read them again ant to offer them to other teenagers
LibraryThing member iftyzaidi
Hilarious follow-up to 'My Family and Other Animals'. Once again Gerald Durrell writes captivatingly and evocatively about Corfu, his family and the birds, beasts and insects that inhabit his childhood.
LibraryThing member gbelik
I didn't enjoy this quite as much as I did My Family and Other Animals. Perhaps with the earlier book it was the surprise of discovery. Nevertheless, the family continues on at Corfu in this volume of short essays, and young Gerald continues his fascination with the animals on the island.
LibraryThing member kraaivrouw
This is the second in a trilogy of books about his childhood on Corfu that Gerald Durrell wrote in part to subsidize his collecting habit (and when I say collecting I mean collecting of animals). Durrell, the brother of Lawrence Durrell, was an author, naturalist, and conservationist. He founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo.

I was first introduced to him by my Seattle grandparents, Wayne and Lorene, who I remember sitting up in their big king-sized bed with me, all of us reading Gerald Durrell books and laughing and stopping to read bits aloud to each other. That's a really great memory.

These books gave me my long-time not-so-secret desire to run away to live on Corfu. Maybe some day I'll get to do that.

Durrell writes wonderfully about animals and about his hilarious family and their friends. These books will make you laugh out loud and will teach all kinds of things you didn't know about all kinds of animals. I turned my son on to these books when he was 10 and recommend them often.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
As the author’s family feared, Gerald Durrell had many more stories of their life in Corfu to tell, and in Birds, Beasts and Relatives, the second of his Corfu Trilogy, he delivers a few of his favorites ones. As always this interesting clan with their varied interests, vague mother and Gerry’s assorted creatures makes for delightful reading.

Extremely entertaining, this short volume is chock full of stories that are both humorous and informative. Whether he is making discoveries of curious creatures like the strange spider crabs or dancing with Pavlo the bear, Gerry is living a childhood that we all wish could have been ours.

And with all of his humorous tales and vivid descriptions the beautiful sun-drenched island of Corfu comes alive. Gerald Durrell had a wonderful time in the years he spent there and his Corfu Trilogy lets us all in on his adventure.
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives is one of those books that keeps the party going. As the second book in the Corfu trilogy, Birds includes stories previously untold in My Family and Other Animals. While the Durrell family only spent four years on the Greek island of Corfu, Gerald was able to dig around in his memory and find always humorous and sometimes outrageous and obviously exaggerated situations to share, much to his family's chagrin. They usually involved young Gerald coming across some wild animal and insisting it become part of the family as an honorary pet (such as an owl, given to Gerald by an eccentric Countess).… (more)
LibraryThing member mbmackay
The follow-up to My Family and Other Beasts, and very much more of the same. More recollections of a nascent naturalist and collector and more humorous tales of the family in Corfu.
Read July 2014.
LibraryThing member sterlingelanier
In a way, the most poetic Durrell and saddest. SEL
LibraryThing member IonaS
This is the second volume of the author´s delightful Corfu trilogy.

I´ve presented an overview of some of the main characters in this trilogy in my review of the third volume, “The garden of the Gods”.

In the present book Margo, Mother and Gerald take a trip to the home country to seek treatment for Margo´s glandular condition, though Larry says it´s just puppy fat. In England Margo experiments with spiritualism and has a spirit guide called Mawake.

The family returns to Corfu, and we are introduced to Theodore, who is extremely erudite; he is a medical doctor, biologist, poet, author, etc, etc, but first and foremost, from the point of view of Gerry, an expert in natural history.

Theodore begins to visit the family every week and is loved by all; he is a walking encyclopedia.

Much of the book is devoted to Gerry´s naturalist observations, which are by no means dull, in fact quite absorbing, even for those of us with no predilection for natural history.

We meet Sven, who plays the accordion and is a homosexual but otherwise in no way resembles the slim, handsome Sven portrayed in the TV series “The Durrells”, he being an “enormous” man “with a facial resemblance to ---- Neanderthal Man”.

It is in this volume that we are given the story of Leslie`s court appearance for some unfortunate misdemeanours he has committed. The family´s friend Spiro helps Leslie out of a difficult situation by bribing the judge.

This is another delightful, side-splitting book on a par with the other two volumes of the trilogy, and I highly recommend that you read it.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
Gerald Durrell proves that he was no one-trick pony with this delightful follow-up to 'My Family and Other Animals' The gorgeous islands of Corfu are still untouched by modernity and the ravages of the war soon to come, and young Gerald spends his days exploring every inch of the terrain in search for new captures for his bedroom zoo. The detail is loving, the descriptions delightful, and yet as beautiful as the creatures all certainly are, it is the people who populate this book that make it so fantastically memorable.… (more)
LibraryThing member addunn3
This is the second in trilogy of the Durrell’s on the Greek island of Corfu. Gypsies, winery, a bear.
LibraryThing member leslie.98
This second book of Gerald Durrell's Corfu trilogy isn't quite as good as the first one ("My Family and Other Animals"). However, if you like his style of writing this is worth reading. It has plenty of natural history, funny anecdotes and quirky personalities, making it a pleasant and quick read.
LibraryThing member Lindoula
Some funny stories, but this doesn't hold a candle to the first book.
LibraryThing member milti
Non-stop humour and laughs. Any family would be flattered to be painted with such colours!


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