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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Read July 2014.
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.