My Family and Other Animals – Gerald Durrell

This is a book which most people would enjoy hugely. I read it in a Slightly Foxed Edition, but I am sure that it is easily available in many versions. It provided the basis for the recent tv version, which I haven’t seen yet, but will definitely try to now.

Image result for my family and other animals

There are three elements of this book; the Greek island of Corfu, the animals (and other creatures) which the narrator collects, and a singular family. I’m not always fond of books set in “the Abroad” as my TEFL tutor called it, but this sounds a beautiful place in which to explore, capsize boats, and discover some very wild wildlife. The creatures which Durrell describes so well have great personality, and acquire some great names, whether they be pregnant scorpions which deposit babies over brother’s beds, or a huge sea gull (not an albatross…) who gets loose under a table at an animal ridden party. The party is also enlivened by snakes in a bath; an obvious solution to a problem at the time, and the “Magenpies” who rearrange the tables. The Family are strange beasts themselves. I was not convinced by Margo, but the brothers who variously write mysterious manuscripts and shoot things are marvelously eccentric as young men. I will now go and track down some of Laurence’s actual books, which I do not believe are comedies…My favourite character is Mother. Delightfully vague, she is easily persuaded to buy smaller or bigger villas depending on whether they wish to encourage particular visitors or not, and accepts the somewhat challenging behaviour of her offspring calmly, even if it extends to burning down part of the house. Even she acquires  an animal, whose devotion to her upsets even more the already upset domestic arrangements. I was so glad to read the later, but no less funny, story about her in “Marrrying Off Mother ” which I wrote about recently.

I realise of course that everyone else has read an enjoyed this book years ago, but if you want a cheerful book set in a beautiful place that is genuinely funny, this is a great read. Oh, and there are many, many, animals.

Marrying Off Mother and other stories – Gerald Durrell

The first thing to say about these short stories is that it is not a sequel to “My Family and other Animals”. I am halfway through Slightly Foxed’s lovely edition of that book. https://foxedquarterly.com/shop/family-animals/   I did not manage to see the tv version (moving house etc). These stories are definitely for adults, as they include a horror story and extremely funny story  which even I found shocking…

This edition is in the new PanMacmillan series, which I have been picking up copies of books of for the last few months. I must admit that I have not spotted  a common theme for the choices, though the Winston Graham looks very promising.

Back to this book. The title story does refer to the original Durrell family, as the adult children decide that they want their mother to remarry, with some very funny results. Esmeralda the perfumed pig turns out to be a valued member off the family, while Moses the parrot has such a turn of phrase even dockers are embarrassed. Durrell is asked to  lecture in America, where cultural differences abound. Fred, the Butler, has a nice line in Biblical explanation, while Great Uncle Rochester continues to fight the rebel horde of Yankees. There are surreal moments in these 8 stories, some of which Durrell claims are true, some “semi true”. They are all well written and often funny. This is a super book for picking up and popping down over holiday expeditions, though rarely will you be in charge of transporting large predatory cats as in one story…

I seem to be turning to a lot of collections of short stories at the moment. I have a copy of Fay Weldon’s short stories, Mischief, which represent stories published throughout her career. They tend towards weary feminism at the start, at least. Dancing with Mr Darcy is a collection of stories inspired by Jane Austen selected by Sarah Waters in 2009. They are a very varied bunch! It is interesting contrasting stories by one author with a collection of stories by vastly different authors. While Durrell has a very picturesque style, Weldon stories seem very much of their time. The Jane Austen stories are touching, daft and funny, and a very mixed collection written by diverse authors. So, back to the collections of short stories…