- File Size: 9478 KB
- Print Length: 292 pages
- Publisher: Open Road Media (October 11, 2016)
- Publication Date: October 11, 2016
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01LYWHFSR
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,626 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Digital List Price:||$17.99|
|Print List Price:||$12.99|
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My Family and Other Animals (The Corfu Trilogy Book 1) Kindle Edition
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“A lot of frolic, fun, and charming ribaldry, as well as the warm feeling of having been transported to a lovely spot where worry is unknown and anything is believable.” —The New York Times
Praise for Gerald Durrell
“Animals come close to being Durrell’s best friends. . . . He writes about them with style, verve, and humor.” —Time on The Whispering Land
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given away many copies, I was delighted to be able to get it on my Kindle and read it once again. I find it has lost none of it's enchantment over
the years, in fact, because it of a simpler time, it may be even more enjoyable. By getting to know the young Gerald Durrell and his unusual and
charming family, it is easy to see how he became such an animal expert and conservator.
While serving as much of the source for the TV show, this book alone still manages to be as different from the TV show as it is from the reality depicted in Haag's biography of the Durrell family "The Durrells In Corfu", which I bought along with "My Family And Other Animals". The writing is not great---apparently Gerry Durrell never went to school after the last effort, forced on him at age 9 or so, but it has a certain British sense of humor that is engaging. I enjoyed reading it, and am finding the biography just as entertaining.
One can only wonder what might have happened if formal education and better discipline had played a greater role in the Durrell family's upbringing, but as they are all dead, and we are left with the rather fanciful story of their life on this enchanted island, in the sunset of it's pre-tourist idyll, we can only sit back and go along for the ride and it's a fun ride.
Top international reviews
However……..at the time I read this, Durrell’s sensibilities gave me clear indication that I was, after all, not going to be cut out to be a naturalist myself. Although a clear lover of the wild, unconfined, natural world, and of the animal kingdom, he quickly made me realise that I was a definitely restricted speciesist – plants were wonderful, but my real love was for the warm-blooded furred and feathered creatures. Durrell delights in all of it, the slithering, the buzzing, the finny, the scaled, and anything which scuttles on somewhere between 6, 8 and a multiplicity of uncountable legs.
I had utterly forgotten (carefully buried the memory) from whence my shrieking horror of a species I have never met, in the flesh, came from:
“Up on the hills among the dark cypress and the heather shoals of butterflies danced and twisted like wind-blown confetti, pausing now and then on a leaf to lay a salvo of eggs. The grasshoppers and locusts whirred like clockwork under my feet, and flew drunkenly across the heather, their leaves shining in the sun. Among the myrtles the mantids moved, lightly, carefully, swaying slightly, the quintessence of evil. They were lank and green, with chinless faces and monstrous globular eyes, frosty gold, with an expression of intense, predatory madness in them. The crooked arms, with their fringes of sharp teeth, would be raised in mock supplication to the insect world, so humble, so fervent, trembling slightly when a butterfly flew too close”
It is (I hope) clear what a wonderfully observant, carefully crafting writing Durrell is, as well as, of course, ditto, a naturalist. He regarded his older brother, Laurence, as the writer of the family, and only began his own (highly successful) books about his idyllic, (in his eyes, as a young naturalist) eccentric, anarchic time on Corfu, and his later books about his zoological expeditions around the world as an adult, in order to make money to finance them, and his own zoo.
That quoted paragraph shows also a rather assured and filmic, dramatic sense. He surely knows how to craft a scene, to build narrative, climax, change of pace and mood. I was lulled into a deceptively tranquil, dreamy, Edenic scene, with those wafts of butterflies, before the scene darkens, and the reader can almost feel a tension rising mood music, ratcheted up to the insecty equivalent of that shower scene in Psycho!
Durrell is a wonderful writer. Here there is a mixture of no doubt absolutely precise observation of the natural world and a certain amount of writerly shaping to emphasise the entertaining aspect provided by his strongly defined, individual, family members: remarkably tolerant Mother, the almost comically artistic/intellectual elder brother Larry, with his equally Bohemian ‘set’ paying visits to what Larry was offering as open house artistic colony with sunshine, vino, and food on tap. Gerry’s other brother Leslie, the practical one, happily tinkering with building boats, cleaning guns, and shooting the wildlife, and sister Margo, defined as romantic and a bit of a magnet for local and visiting swains. There are various brilliantly structured set pieces around Gerry and a succession of arriving and departing tutors, vainly trying to find ways to teach the budding naturalist the basics of an academic syllabus, spicing the dull stuff, ‘If it takes x number of men x hours to dig a trench’ with inserts culled from the natural world – forget men and trenches, substitute tortoises looking to safely lay their eggs.
Best of all is an extended dramatic French farce sketch, involving snakes and renegade birds discovered in unlikely places, during a huge all day party, for family, visiting friends and locals. This had me snorting, chuckling and guffawing in an otherwise silent tube carriage. Irrepressibly joyous writing.
“Tea would arrive, the cakes squatting on cushions of cream, toast in a melting shawl of butter, cups agleam, and a faint wisp of steam rising from the teapot spout”
This book, and its sequels, was turned into a successful TV mini-series in the late 80s. One I felt unable to watch. The power of Durrell’s writing creating those images of mantid malevolence meant I was scared in case they featured in the natural history bits!
There is such joy, such delight, such warmth in the writing, and, like the family, falling under the spell of the landscape, the reader falls in love with Durrell’s gloriously unclichéd, visceral evocation
“Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen. Each day had a tranquillity, a timelessness, about it, so that you wished it would never end. But then the dark skin of night would peel off and there would be a fresh day waiting for us, glossy and colourful as a child’s transfer and with the same tinge of unreality”
The Corfu Tourist board must love this book......it really makes you want to jump on a plane!
Whimsically written and with great atmosphere, it was a delight to re-read. These little Macmillan hardbacks are super to collect and just the right size to carry in your handbag. ( Some of use bookworms still love to turn a real page).
Gerald Durrell excels at transporting us to a world of childish innocence and wonder, and I found myself smiling and laughing as I read my way through.
I loved the descriptions of the characters - pompous and irritating Larry, larger than life Spiro, hypochondriac Lugaretzia.... It felt as though you were there with them, and could feel Gerry's exasperation and fondness for them all.
The animals, of course, play a major part in the tale and again the child like amazement at them all is wonderful and heart warming to read.
Although the book is fairly old now, and set in a bygone era, it doesn't feel that way at all, and I am really looking forward to reading Durrell's other works.
Some have said I should watch the TV adaptations of this book, but I doubt I will as I've enjoyed the book so much I don't want to tarnish what I have in my mind.
I can't recommend this enough!
What a treat a treat for the senses this book is! I don't think I have ever highlighted so may passages and for such a variety of reasons; some for the meticulously observed accounts of animal behaviour, others for their humour but the majority for the truly exquisite descriptions of Corfu, evoking the sounds and smells as the sights of the island and often the emotions of the family who experienced them.
If you have not read this book, do try it; if you read it as a child or teenager, read it again - I certainly did not fully appreciate its beautiful writing the first time round.