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My Family and Other Animals PDF, ePub eBook When the unconventional Durrell family can no longer endure the damp, gray English climate, they do what any sensible family would do: sell their house and relocate to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu. My Family and Other Animals was intended to embrace the natural history of the island but ended up as a delightful account of Durrell’s family’s experiences, from the many ecce When the unconventional Durrell family can no longer endure the damp, gray English climate, they do what any sensible family would do: sell their house and relocate to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu. My Family and Other Animals was intended to embrace the natural history of the island but ended up as a delightful account of Durrell’s family’s experiences, from the many eccentric hangers-on to the ceaseless procession of puppies, toads, scorpions, geckoes, ladybugs, glowworms, octopuses, bats, and butterflies into their home.

30 review for My Family and Other Animals

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Ansbro

    A delightful, lyrical and altogether MAGICAL read. *ADVANCE WARNING* Review includes mention of tortoise sex! It's usually a huge mistake to return to a childhood favourite, hoping it would be just as good the second time around. So, when I found this book in the attic, with its dog-eared cover held together with Sellotape and its pages jaundiced with age, I had mixed feelings about reading it again. (A side note to any fellow Brits who once strode majestically in platform shoes: the price on the b A delightful, lyrical and altogether MAGICAL read. *ADVANCE WARNING* Review includes mention of tortoise sex! It's usually a huge mistake to return to a childhood favourite, hoping it would be just as good the second time around. So, when I found this book in the attic, with its dog-eared cover held together with Sellotape and its pages jaundiced with age, I had mixed feelings about reading it again. (A side note to any fellow Brits who once strode majestically in platform shoes: the price on the book was a nostalgic three shillings and sixpence). My Family and Other Animals is the semi-autobiographical account of prepubescent Gerald's expat life on the Greek island of Corfu with his upper crust, and eccentric, English family. Happily, this entertaining book far-exceeded my expectations. I rediscovered the same Mediterranean island from my boyhood wish list; a sun-drenched idyll of olive groves, cypress trees and hidden coves. Durrell is better-known as a leading naturalist and conservationist, but it would be a huge mistake to disregard his skill as an author. Without a shadow of a doubt he is a formidable storyteller and his command of the English language would shame a lot of modern-day scribblers. Not only this, but his human imagery is up there with the best (Salman Rushdie has followed on in a similar vein). Like Rushdie, Durrell generates genuinely laugh-out-loud moments via his impish, descriptive humour: his sister Margot's acne-ridden face, for example, is described as being "swollen up like a plate of scarlet porridge". Animals on the island are cheerfully anthropomorphised, including Geronimo, the gecko, Quasimodo, the pigeon, plus Widdle and Puke, the 'gambolling' puppies. Durrell's overuse of similes and adjectives might cause some readers to grind their teeth to powder, but I personally adore this overkill of descriptive imagery. The author's personification of animals extends to goats, whose "udders swing like bagpipes" and also in respect of some tortoise-shagging (the tortoises with each other, not any deviant behaviour on Durrell's part). Set in the 1930s, before the hedonism of mass tourism had descended on the Greek islands, Gerald Durrell put the 'Cor!' into Corfu. This is not just a novel for bookish school kids. I enjoyed it as a boy and I relished it even more as an adult. It was three shillings and sixpence well spent!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a veterinarian someday. I loved learning about animals. We were never without a cat and a dog. We were the proud owners of some clever parakeets. One of them would perch on the back of the dog and hitch a ride around the living room. Hobie the poodle was less enthused than Cocoa the bird. I loved reading books about four-legged critters. Looking back, none of these things were all too astonishing – didn’t every little kid have pets and a desire to When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a veterinarian someday. I loved learning about animals. We were never without a cat and a dog. We were the proud owners of some clever parakeets. One of them would perch on the back of the dog and hitch a ride around the living room. Hobie the poodle was less enthused than Cocoa the bird. I loved reading books about four-legged critters. Looking back, none of these things were all too astonishing – didn’t every little kid have pets and a desire to be a vet? However, my parents drew the line at these domesticated, household pets. Certainly a tortoise was out of the question, as was a lizard or a gecko. A scorpion would not even have crossed my mind. In fact, about five years ago I was cleaning out the basement, yanking down boxes that had traveled with my husband from his childhood home to his first home to the home we now share together. There was a curious little wooden box among some of his old letters and cards to and from old teen aged flames (yes, I peeked at these!) I opened the wooden box expecting to see a piece of jewelry or some curious memento from one of these girls. Instead, what I found was the shell of a scorpion! I’m certain this would not have fazed Gerry Durrell in the least; I, however, ceased my snooping for the day. I later found out that this had been a treasured pet while my husband was away at college. Cats and dogs weren’t allowed in the dormitory, but apparently there were no rules about keeping a scorpion. Gerry would have approved. This book is the first in Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy. It’s a memoir of his time as a youngster spent on that enchanting Greek island along with his mother and siblings. It highlights his love for wildlife, his affinity with the natural world. We get a glimpse of this conservationist and writer’s first encounters with the animals he grew to cherish and protect on a professional level. He tells his story with clarity and humor. His family gets mixed up in the stories along the way, and this just added to the charm of the book. I love the way he explains his intentions in the introduction: "It was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic account of the natural history of the island, but I made a grave mistake by introducing my family into the book in the first few pages. Having got themselves on paper, they then proceeded to establish themselves and invite various friends to share the chapters. It was only with the greatest difficulty, and by exercising considerable cunning, that I managed to retain a few pages here and there which I could devote exclusively to animals." I laughed at so many of the personal anecdotes, savored the beautiful descriptions of the island, and was entertained by his interactions with many of the island locals. The encounter with the Rose-beetle Man (what a fantastic figure this man must have been!), a meeting with a convict let out for a temporary jaunt, and the appointments with various tutors (including one with quite the impressive bird collection) all pointed to the fact that Gerry lived quite an extraordinary young life. I expected to be amused by and pleased with this story, but what I found to be a pleasant surprise was that Gerald Durrell could really write! I didn’t just highlight the funny stuff (although there are loads of those bits marked up too), but passages like this one left me gaga over his choice of words: "Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen. Each day had a tranquility, 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." Naturally, the stars of this memoir were the animals – from Roger his faithful dog, to a pair of water snakes, to a tortoise ‘wedding’ and ‘honeymoon’ (rated PG-13), to a ferocious battle to the death between a praying mantis and a gecko, Gerry’s descriptions are hilarious and compelling. I loved the way he personified all of his creatures. You can tell instantly that these are not ‘just animals’ but an important and vibrant part of his life. Don't forget that Roger is a dog: "Roger and I would squat by the hour in the heather, watching the tortoise knights in their ill-fitting armour jousting for the ladies, and the contests never failed to entertain us. Sometimes we would lay bets with each other as to which one was going to win, and by the end of the summer Roger had backed so many losers that he owed me a considerable amount of money." Check out this rendezvous with a pair of toads: "They squatted there like two obese, leprous Buddhas, peering at me and gulping in that guilty way that toads have. Holding one in each hand, it was like handling two flaccid, leathery balloons, and the toads blinked their fine golden filigreed eyes at me, and settled themselves more comfortably on my fingers, gazing at me trustfully, their wide, thick-lipped mouths seeming to spread in embarrassed and uncertain grins." There are plenty of other tales for you to discover on your own, should you choose to pick up this book – which I highly recommend! It’s a wonderful diversion and was just what I needed at the moment. It may be considered ‘light’ reading – yes, it is – but it is certainly not without value! I was rather interested to learn that Gerald Durrell was dedicated to protecting endangered species during his adult life. An admirable endeavor indeed.

  3. 4 out of 5

    dream

    The first from the trilogy and the first of Durrel's I've ever read. No words can express my love for this author and his immense sense of humor, pure and light, nothing topical or scathing beneath. I remember vividly laughing out loud on the streets and on buses while reading it, so wisely consider your reading spot! Howling with laughter in public places might cause you troubles, but the best part - you won't care a bit and will always consider it worthy!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jola

    I loved 'My family and Other Animals'(1956) by Gerald Durrell from start to finish, thoroughly and in detail. That's why I will tell you about it from A to Z. A is for animals The way Gerald Durrell describes them is unbeatable. He casts a spell on you not only when he portrays quite spectacular species but also quite prosaic ones. Gerry Durrell. [Image source] B is for bathing-costume The chapter in which mother purchases an extravagant garment, 'covered from top to bottom with hundreds of frills an I loved 'My family and Other Animals'(1956) by Gerald Durrell from start to finish, thoroughly and in detail. That's why I will tell you about it from A to Z. A is for animals The way Gerald Durrell describes them is unbeatable. He casts a spell on you not only when he portrays quite spectacular species but also quite prosaic ones. Gerry Durrell. [Image source] B is for bathing-costume The chapter in which mother purchases an extravagant garment, 'covered from top to bottom with hundreds of frills and pleats and tucks', is one of my absolute favourites. Just to give you a foretaste: ‘What is it?’ asked Larry at length. ‘It’s a bathing-costume, of course,’ said Mother. ‘What on earth did you think it was?’ ‘It looks to me like a badly skinned whale,’ said Larry, peering at it closely. C is for Corfu 'Here in Corfu,’ said Theodore, his eyes twinkling with pride, 'anything can happen.' A picturesque Greek island Gerry (aged ten) and his family (mother, two older brothers and one sister) moved to from Britain. They lived there from 1935 to 1939. The beauty of the place depicted by Durrell is dazzling, in all seasons, in all times of the day. Nowadays Corfu probably looks quite different, with thousands of tourists, but I’m sure the magic captured in 'My Family and Other Animals' still lingers there: 'Outside, the island was striped and patched in black and silver by moonlight. Far down in the dark cypress trees the owls called to each other comfortingly. The sky looked as black and soft as a mole-skin covered with a delicate dew of stars. The magnolia tree loomed vast over the house, its branches full of white blooms, like a hundred miniature reflections of the moon, and their thick, sweet scent hung over the veranda languorously, the scent that was an enchantment luring you out into the mysterious, moonlit countryside.' The enchantment really works. Since I finished 'My family and Other Animals', I have been dreaming of going to Corfu. Herbert List, Ionian island of Pondikoisi seen from Kanoni, Corfu. 1937. [Image source] D is for Dandy Dinmont Terrier Mother's dog. Dodo constantly challenges beauty standards. Affectionately called by Larry 'that canine Frankenstein'. E is for education Gerry doesn’t attend any schools on Corfu, he has lessons with tutors. I’m sure you will be astonished by the gallery of his eccentric teachers. F is for family The most obvious thing you are attracted to are the adventures of the Durrells and their portrayals but there is something not so obvious worth exploring also. I mean the relationships between the members of the family, full of warmth and tolerance. One of the keys to the success is probably the fact that they are communicating almost all the time: 'we seemed unable to extract the full flavour of our letters and magazines unless they were shared.' The siblings are nasty to each other at times but even the most malicious remarks have a cordial lining. Gerry Durrell and a part of his family, 1936. The Daffodil Yellow Villa in the background. [Image source] G is for guests Mostly neurotic artists and writers. Invited spontaneously, in large amounts: 'Sometimes the fresh load of guests would turn up before we had got rid of the previous group, and the chaos was indescribable'. H is for humour Ubiquitarian! It's one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read. I would have never guessed that Durrell was seriously ill while writing 'My family and Other Animals' - he was recovering from jaundice. If you think it's sensible enough not to read this book in public places to prevent bursts of uncontrollable laughter, you are wrong. And I'm speaking from experience. It is enough to recall some scenes to get hysterical while you are for example travelling on a bus or doing shopping. You will encounter various kinds of humour: funny situations, chucklesome comments, cranky personalities, elements of black humour or a comedy full of gags: 'Living in Corfu was rather like living in one of the more flamboyant and slapstick comic operas.' I is for I am grateful! Three Goodreads friends inspired and convinced me to read this ludicrous book. Thanks from the bottom of my heart to Jennifer B., Julie and Roman Clodia. I will always associate them with this uproarious, amazing read and it will make my memories even lovelier. If you check the Goodreads shelves of these three exceptional ladies – which I strongly recommend - the first thing you will probably notice is the diversity of their literary tastes. It goes to show that Durrell adequately caters for a variety of readers' needs and preferences. Gerry Durrell. [Image source] J is for just perfect ...for a rainy day. Or a day when you want to forget about your worries. Or a day when you get bad news. Or a day when you are just feeling blue with no reason. From now on 'My family and Other Animals' will make an indispensable part of my bookish first aid kit. Durrell takes care of his readers' well-being in a truly touching way: the real cause why the family decided to come back to Britain was the war, while it's not mentioned in the story even once. K is for Kralefsky Gerry's teacher. One of the most comical characters in the book. Known for his chivalry and wrestling skills. Which turned out to be quite virtual. L is for Lugaretzia A Greek housekeeper who continuously moans and entertains the Durrells’ guests with generous displays of her gums. 'There was only one thing in life that could bring a smile to Lugaretzia’s gloomy countenance, a glint to her spaniel eyes, and that was a discussion of her ailments.' M is for Mother Patient. Practical. Sane which seems to be quite an exception in this family. Adorable. You might try not to love her but you won't stand a ghost of a chance. Her hobbies are cooking and gardening. Gerald (aged eight) and Mother. [Image source] N is for Nirvana The state Mother has gradually reached: 'that happy Nirvana where nothing shocks or startles is exemplified by the fact that one weekend recently, when all alone in the house, she was treated to the sudden arrival of a series of crates containing two pelicans, a scarlet ibis, a vulture, and eight monkeys. A lesser mortal might have quailed at such a contingency, but not Mother.' O is for other family members We meet only Gerry, his siblings and mum but no doubt other family members are remarkable too, for instance 'Aunt Bertha, keeping flocks of imaginary cats' or 'Great-Uncle Patrick, who wanders about nude and tells complete strangers how he killed whales with a penknife…' P is for pink Strawberry pink, to be exact. The colour of the first house the Durrells rented on Corfu. The villa had an air of pink-faced determination. Q is for quirky Most people would probably find the Durrells and their pets quite bizarre. When they were coming to England by train a ‘disgracefully efficient official’ at the Swiss frontier described them in a form: 'One travelling Circus and Staff'. R is for Roger Gerry’s dog and companion. One of the most candid and poignant canine portraits I have encountered in literature so far. S is for Spiro A taxi driver, devoted friend of the Durrells who speaks unconventional English, adding 's' at random. Gerry and Spiro. [Image source] T is for tortoise Achilles, one of the first pets the Durrells had on Corfu. A connoisseur of wild strawberries. U is for universal Chances are this book will be loved by readers from about 9 years old to infinity. Most children will probably focus on crazy adventures while more mature audience will indulge in Durrell's irony and beauty of his writing style. I think the omnipresent humour is the strength of the book but its weakness at the same time: if it's not compatible with yours, you will probably get bored and frustrated. V is for veracity According to Gerald Durrell 'all the anecdotes about the island and the islanders are absolutely true'. Am I the only one who has the impression that the author is winking now? The sad part is that the idyllic image of his family in the book seems to be highly idealised. Gerry and Roger, 1935. [Image source] W is for writer Larry, up-and-coming man of letters, one of Gerry’s brothers, later famous for 'Alexandria Quartet'. Twenty-three years old, dreaming of literary career. He considers himself a genius who has to cope with cruel reality and is not always successful: 'I assure you the house is a death-trap. Every conceivable nook and cranny is stuffed with malignant faunae waiting to pounce. How I have escaped being maimed for life is beyond me. A simple, innocuous action like lighting a cigarette is fraught with danger. Even the sanctity of my bedroom is not respected. First, I was attacked by a scorpion, a hideous beast that dripped venom and babies all over the place. Then my room was torn asunder by magpies. Now we have snakes in the bath and huge flocks of albatrosses flapping round the house, making noises like defective plumbing.' I was surprised when I found out that real Lawrence, was married and lived on Corfu with his wife. There’s no trace of her in the book. X is for xenophobia Fortunately not present at all! The hospitality of Corfiots was really moving. Kind and generous, they offered delicious food to Gerry and made his family feel at home. Y is for yes Yes, I’m definitely going to read the other two parts of 'The Corfu Trilogy'. Z is for Zatopec An elderly Armenian poet, one of the peculiar guests: 'His voice shook the house like a sirocco as he swept into it, his cloak rippling, his arms full of bottles'. Notorious for his enthusiasm for the opposite sex, forlorn Lugaretzia included. Now you know my ABC, Next time won't you read with me? Gerry Durrell. [Image source]

  5. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    This is a perfectly charming memoir written by Gerald Durrell, a well known British naturalist and zookeeper. It's charming because it chronicles his experiences with his family on Corfu, as a 10-year-old animal enthusiast. It's charming because it is beautifully written. It's charming because it is humorous. It's charming because his family is so colonial and ooze Englishness but at the same time are quite unconventional. For all those reasons, I would recommend this book and indeed, I had a fe This is a perfectly charming memoir written by Gerald Durrell, a well known British naturalist and zookeeper. It's charming because it chronicles his experiences with his family on Corfu, as a 10-year-old animal enthusiast. It's charming because it is beautifully written. It's charming because it is humorous. It's charming because his family is so colonial and ooze Englishness but at the same time are quite unconventional. For all those reasons, I would recommend this book and indeed, I had a few chuckles over the antics of the various animals. I had more chuckles when the humans were involved, though, as I found the family dynamics really funny, if not entirely realistic. It's a lovely palette cleanser between the heavy literary fiction I've been reading, that is certain. It's an escape to not only another country and time, but also from reality. This story, while having a certain truth that comes with memoirs, has been distinctly sanitised. If this is to be believed, this family's biggest troubles are that one of their dogs' hips comes out of place from time to time, or that they've argued over the naming of a homemade boat, or that they had too many guests to comfortably accommodate. It's a sweet, Winnie-The-Pooh world. It's an uncomplicated, kind rendering of all characters and animals within. If you can settle into this, you will no doubt enjoy yourself. If you are looking for anything beyond, you'll find yourself looking longingly over your TBR list, where the complexities of Updike, Franzen, Laurence, Atwood, and many others beckon. 3.5 stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    "I would like to make a point of stressing that all the anecdotes about the island and the islanders are absolutely true. Living in Corfu was rather like living in one of the more flamboyant and slapstick comic operas." - thus claims Gerald Durrell in his Speech of Defense - or as other authors would prefer to call it: The Foreword or Introduction. Gerard Durrell: My grateful thanks then to: My wife, who pleased me by laughing uproariously when reading the manuscript, only to inform me that it was "I would like to make a point of stressing that all the anecdotes about the island and the islanders are absolutely true. Living in Corfu was rather like living in one of the more flamboyant and slapstick comic operas." - thus claims Gerald Durrell in his Speech of Defense - or as other authors would prefer to call it: The Foreword or Introduction. Gerard Durrell: My grateful thanks then to: My wife, who pleased me by laughing uproariously when reading the manuscript, only to inform me that it was my spelling that amused her. Sophie, my secretary, who was responsible for the introduction of commas and the ruthless eradication of the split infinitives Split infinitives was a popular vice for authors such as Daniel Defoe, Benjamin Franklin, William Wordsworth, Abraham Lincoln, George Eliot, Henry James, and Willa Cather. (view spoiler)[Pardon me, I never even realized that I might ruffle a few feathers by using it myself! That's beside the point. (hide spoiler)] And so begins a memoir spanning over the five years of living on the Greek island of Corfu pre WWII, by the author and his family. A slapstick, comic opera it was for sure. The author was a young boy of around ten years old when his widowed mother with her four children, three boys and a girl, decided to leave Britain for a place with sunshine, clean air and open spaces. What ensued made great fodder for several books, an opera and ultimately a CBS series (The Durrells) in the end. I briefly watched a few episodes, but turned back to the books. The series captured the atmosphere and background of the Corfu trilogy well, but lost the soul of the author's writing completely. It is challenging to get animals to do on film what they did in the book after all. The choice of actors did not represent the characters on the island quite the same, and that's a mild diplomatic statement. Nevertheless, Gerry and his menagerie of fauna brought much laughter and mayhem into his family's life. The magpies had their moment of glory during a luncheon to which the family, who overflowed with human kindness invited everyone they could think of, including people they cordially disliked. There was something decidedly queer about the culprits, I decided; instead of flying away as quickly as possible they remained squatting among the tattered flowers, swaying rhythmically, their eyes bright, uttering tiny chucks of satisfaction to each other. Having gazed at me with rapt attention for a moment, one of them walked very unsteadily across the table, a flower in his beak, lost his balance on the edge of the cloth, and fell heavily to the ground. The other one gave a hoarse cluck of amusement, put his head under his wing, and went to sleep. I was mystified by this unusual behaviour. Then I noticed a smashed bottle of beer on the flagstones. It became obvious that the Magenpies had indulged in a party of their own, and were very drunk. I caught them both quite easily, though the one on the table tried to hide under a butter-bespattered napkin and pretend he was not there. It was also the day Dodo the other dog came into season and had just about the entire island's dogs bursting through the front door to be of service to her. There were the two water-snakes in the bath tub who needed resuscitation after being left out in the sun for too long. It resulted in Leslie almost losing the towel around his loins and his dignity running out the front door and in front of the guest as he tried to describe the size of the monsters in the bath. They were suffering from sunstroke, poor things, said Mrs. Durrell. The whole circus resulted from obtaining Old Plop, a regal and ancient terrapin, who did not do well residing with the snakes in the same pond. Old Kosti, the man who murdered his wife and who received only three years of imprisonment, was Gerry's fishing mate and partner in passion in collecting rare and endangered fauna species. So by the way, a five year prison sentence was regarded much more important and only meant for people who dynamited fish - a very serious offense. The four siblings had a daunting task. As Larry, Gerry's oldest sibling put it, the four children had to bring up their mother. In the end she was a credit to them all. Mrs. Durrell, as she was addressed on the island, had a few mountains to climb, a number of surprises to address, and a hungry family to feed while establishing themselves in the Strawberry-pink villa. Life brought lessons for a courageous, even-tempered woman who brilliantly and successfully navigated through it all. Most of the animals became characters in the tale. Quasimodo, the pigeon, refused to inhabit the specially constructed pigeon-loft. He demanded to sleep on Margo's bed. When she turned in her sleep, he would hobble up the bed, perched on her face, cooing loudly and lovingly. Quasimodo became embittered, sullen and irritable when he woke up one morning and saw the egg he laid between the cushions during the night. When the same thing happened the next night, another egg, his personality changed completely... Gerry was tutored by various men on the island. But the young boy did not deem education very important. In fact, he regarded education as an imminent danger. I said I liked being half-educated, you were so much more surprised at everything when you were ignorant... A family friend became the tutor and quickly realized that young Gerry is only willing to study anything if a zoological tinge is added to the lessons.Geography: We would draw giant maps, wrinkled with mountains, and then fill in the various places of interest, together with drawings of the more exciting fauna to be found there. Thus for me the chief products of Ceylon were tapirs and tea; of India tigers and rice; of Australia kangaroos and sheep, while the blue curves of currents we drew across the oceans carried whales, albatross, penguins, and walrus, as well as hurricanes, trade winds, fair weather and foul. Our maps were works of art... History. George discovered that by seasoning a series of unpalatable facts with a sprig of zoology and a sprinkle of completely irrelevant detail, he could get me interested. Thus I became conversant with some historical data which, to the best of my knowledge, have never been recorded before. Breathlessly, history lesson by history lesson, I followed Hannibal’s progress over the Alps. His reason for attempting such a feat, and what he intended to do on the other side, were details that scarcely worried me. No, my interest in what I considered to be a very badly planned expedition lay in the fact that I knew the name of each and every elephant. I also knew that Hannibal had appointed a special man not only to feed and look after the elephants, but to give them hot-water bottles when the weather got cold. This interesting fact seems to have escaped most serious historians...The lectures were attended by Gerry, his dog Roger, Achilles the tortoise and Quasimodo the pigeon. The four musketeers doted on the juicy big grapes of Corfu. Achilles loved the wild strawberries the best though. Outdoor tutoring brought the best results. In the shallow water on the beach, lying spread-eagled in the sun, Gerry learnt: 'So the French and British Fleets were slowly drawing together for what was to be the decisive sea battle of the war. When the enemy was sighted. Nelson was on the bridge bird-watching through his telescope … he had already been warned of the Frenchmen’s approach by a friendly gull … eh? … oh, a greater black-backed gull I think it was … well, the ships manoeuvred round each other … of course they couldn’t move so fast in those days, for they did everything by sail … no engines … no, not even outboard engines … The British sailors were a bit worried because the French seemed so strong, but when they saw that Nelson was so little affected by the whole thing that he was sitting on the bridge labelling his birds’-egg collection, they decided that there was really nothing to be scared about …’ The characters on the island were as picturesque as the prose. There was Yani, the goat shepherd. The old shepherd, as I expected, was in the tattered shade of the vine that sprawled on its iron trellis-work above my head, but to my intense annoyance he had not woken up. He was sprawling in a plain deal chair, which was tilted back against the wall at a dangerous angle. His arms dangled limply, his legs were spread out, and his magnificent moustache, orange and white with nicotine and age, lifted and trembled with his snores, like some strange seaweed that is raised and lowered by a gentle swell. 'Today I should have taken my goats to Gastouri. But it was too hot, much too hot. In the hills the rocks will be so hot you could light a cigarette from them. So I went instead and tasted Taki’s new white wine. Spiridion! what a wine … like the blood of a dragon and as smooth as a fish … What a wine! When I came back the air was full of sleep, so here I am.’ There was Spiros who took the family under his wing upon their arrival on the island and who would become a big influence in the author's life. Yous English? Thought so … English always wants bathrooms … I gets a bathroom in my house … Spiro’s my name, Spiro Hakiapoulos … they alls calls me Spiro Americano on accounts of I lives in America … Yes, spent eight years in Chicago … That’s where I learnt my goods English … Wents there to makes moneys … Then after eight years I says: “Spiros,” I says, “yous mades enough …” sos I comes backs to Greece … brings this car … best ons the islands … no one else gets a car like this … All the English tourists knows me, theys all asks for me when theys comes here … Theys knows theys wonts be swindled … I likes the English … best kinds of peoples … Honest to Gods, ifs I wasn’t Greek I’d likes to be English.’ Don't you just love the title of this book? It caused a few giggles on this side of the equation. Gerald Durrell wrote autobiographical accounts of his family and all the animals in his life. Wikipedia describes his work as of such kind — characterised by a love for nature and animals, dry wit, crisp descriptions, and humorous analogies of human beings with animals and vice versa. I like the idea of 'crisp descriptions'. That it was for sure. Gerald Durrell reminds me so much of William Smith as Smith is depicted in a biography: The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester. Smith spent twenty-two years piecing together the fragments of this unseen universe to create an epochal and remarkably beautiful hand-painted map. His discoveries of fossils in 1793, while digging a canal in Britain, enabled (in a nutshell) for Charles Darwin(1809-1882) to become famous. This memoir is the first in the Corfu trilogy: My Family and Other Animals (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1956) Birds, Beasts, and Relatives (Collins, 1969) The Garden of the Gods (Fauna and Family) (Collins, 1978) Did I mention that I LOVED this experience? Well, there you have it. Brilliant. The reader became part of the family, of the picturesque island, of all the peasant neighbors and every single adventure by the lure of the prose. One of the best memoirs I have read in a very long time. Poking fun at himself, first and foremost, and then at his nuclear blood relations, as well as his adopted island 'family', just made this an adorable, wonderful, charming, delightful read. I read the 2004 edition. Gerald Durrell was an internationally well-known naturalist who spend his entire career in saving endangered animal species. He was way ahead of his times. This spoiler contains all the honors bestowed on this remarkable man. (view spoiler)[Honours and legacy **Statue of Gerald Durrell at Jersey Zoo, Jersey, sculpted by John Doubleday **Durrell was awarded the Order of the Golden Ark by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in 1981. **In 1981, Durrell became a founding member of the World Cultural Council.[13] **Durrell received the OBE in 1982. **Durrell was a subject of the television programme This Is Your Life in 1983 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews. **The National Youth Music Theatre performed the musical theatre The Carnival of the Animals at Fort Regent, Jersey as a tribute to Gerald Durrell in 1984. **Durrell featured in the United Nations' Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement in 1988, becoming part of 500 people ("Global 500") to be given this honour in the period 1987–92. **The University of Kent started the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) in 1989, the first graduate school in the United Kingdom to offer degrees and diplomas in conservation and biodiversity. **The journal Biodiversity and Conservation brought out a special volume of the journal in tribute to Gerald Durrell, on the theme of "The Role of Zoos" in 1995, following his death. **The Gerald Durrell Memorial Funds, launched in 1996, are granted in the field of conservation by the Wildlife Trust every year. **The statue park in Miskolc Zoo, created a bust of Gerald Durrell in 1998. Whipsnade Zoo also unveiled a new island for housing primates dedicated to **Durrell in 1998.[14] **The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife, gives the Gerald Durrell Award for the best photograph of an endangered species, starting from 2001. **The Durrell School in Corfu, established in 2002, offers an academic course and tours in the footsteps of the Durrells in Corfu. Botanist David Bellamy has conducted field trips in Corfu for the school. **The town hall of Corfu announced in 2006 that it would rename Corfu Bosketto (a park in the city of Corfu) Bosketto Durrell, after Gerald and Lawrence Durrell as a mark of respect.[15] **Wildlife Preservation Canada established the Gerald Durrell Society in 2006 as recognition for individuals who have made legacy gifts. **The Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary in the Black River Valley in Mauritius, is the home of the Mauritius Wildlife Appeal Fund's immensely successful captive breeding programme for the Mauritius kestrel, pink pigeon and echo parakeet. **The Durrell Wildlife Park has a bronze statue of Gerald Durrell by John Doubleday, cast along with a ruffed lemur at his knee and a Round Island gecko at his feet. **Jersey brought out stamps honouring the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust and Mauritius brought out a stamp based on a race of a rare gecko named after Durrell. **The de-rodentification of Rat Island in St. Lucia by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust to create a sanctuary for the Saint Lucia whiptail lizard on the lines of Praslin Island has caused an official change in name for Rat Island. It is in the process of being renamed Durrell Island. **The Visitors' Centre at the Belize Zoo is named the Gerald Durrell Visitors' Centre in honour of Durrell. Numerous individual animals of rare species born in captivity have been named "Gerry" or "Gerald" as homage to Durrell, among them the first Aldabra giant tortoise born in captivity. **Cornwall college Newquay's centre for applied zoology has two buildings, one the Durrell Building, opened by his wife Lee Durrell in 2007 (hide spoiler)]

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Terrington

    I went back and decided to write a review on this non-fictional novel/memoir (not all events are fully true I believe) which is considered by some to be a modern classic. I remember finding a box of Gerald Durrell stories on the shelf as a twelve year old and reading them in luxury. They captivated me as Durrell told the story of his childhood in Corfu hunting animals. Not only was it full of interesting facts about the animals he caught but also about the people in his life. Told with wit, humo I went back and decided to write a review on this non-fictional novel/memoir (not all events are fully true I believe) which is considered by some to be a modern classic. I remember finding a box of Gerald Durrell stories on the shelf as a twelve year old and reading them in luxury. They captivated me as Durrell told the story of his childhood in Corfu hunting animals. Not only was it full of interesting facts about the animals he caught but also about the people in his life. Told with wit, humour and the pure ability of a natural storyteller this is a sort of autobiography that you can read as a novel full to the brim with short stories. If there's one thing Durrell does exceptionally well it's write description. And my thought has always been that a gifted writer is a master of description. His descriptive writing almost drips from the page so that you feel every detail in your imagination as a real sense. However I would recommend this book and his other works because of the memories they'll leave with you after reading. You'll laugh at the outrageous characters he meets, the wacky things his family gets up to and be fascinated by the details of everyday life magnified to an extraordinary degree.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    My Family & Other Animals, Gerald Durrell My Family and Other Animals (1956) is an autobiographical work by British naturalist Gerald Durrell. It tells of the years that he lived as a child with his siblings and widowed mother on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939. It describes the life of the Durrell family in a humorous manner, and explores the fauna of the island. It is the first and most well-known of Durrell's 'Corfu trilogy,' together with Birds, Beasts, and Relatives (1969 My Family & Other Animals, Gerald Durrell My Family and Other Animals (1956) is an autobiographical work by British naturalist Gerald Durrell. It tells of the years that he lived as a child with his siblings and widowed mother on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939. It describes the life of the Durrell family in a humorous manner, and explores the fauna of the island. It is the first and most well-known of Durrell's 'Corfu trilogy,' together with Birds, Beasts, and Relatives (1969) and The Garden of the Gods (1978). تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1996 میلادی عنوان: خانواده من و بقیه حیوانات؛ نویسنده: جرالد مالکوم دارل؛ مترجم: گلی امامی؛ تهران، نشر نو، 1363؛ در در 323 ص؛ چاپ دیگر: نشر چشمه، 1376، در 326 ص؛ شابک: 9646194338؛ چاپ دیگر: 1386؛ چاپ سوم 1393؛ چاپ چهارم 1395؛ شابک: 9789646194335؛ چاپ پنجم 1397؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - سده 20 م کتاب «خانواده‌ من و بقیه‌ حیوانات» با الهام از یادمانهای نویسنده: «جرالد دارل»، از پنج سال زندگی خویش، در جزیره‌ «کورفوی یونان» بنوشته است. در میان این یادمانها، علاقه فراوان نویسنده به طبیعت، و جانوران بسیار مشهود است. زمانی که خانواده «دارل» از اقلیم نمناک و خاکستری انگلستان به ستوه می‌آیند، خانه‌ شان را می‌فروشند، و راهی جزیره آفتابی «کورفو» در «یونان» می‌شوند. کتاب «خانواده من و بقیه حیوانات» قرار بوده، کتابی درباره ی تاریخ طبیعی جزیره ی «کورفو» باشد، اما در انتها، به کتابی درباره ی تجربه‌ های بی‌نظیر خانواده «دارل» با: «عقرب‌»ها، «کفشدوزک‌»ها، «لاروهای شب‌تاب حشرات»، «اختاپوس‌»ها، «خفاش‌»ها، «وزغ‌»ها، «پروانه‌»ها و «مارمولک‌»ها در خانه‌ شان، در جزیره تبدیل می‌شود. «جرالد» ده ساله سفرش به «کورفو» را، با تمام وسایلی که به نظرش برای چنین سفری ضروری است، آغاز می‌کند: یک تور حشره‌ گیری، یک سگ، و یک شیشه، پر از کرم پروانه، که هر لحظه ممکن است پیله ببندند. در زمان زندگی در جزیره، «جرالد» چندان دلیل غرغرهای برادرها، و خواهر بزرگ‌ترش را، درباره ی پیدا شدن «مار» در وان حمام، یا «عقرب» روی میز غذاخوری، درک نمی‌کند. کتاب «خانواده من و بقیه حیوانات» کتابی سرشار از لحظات طنز، از مواجهه ی خانواده متنوع «دارل» با طبیعت جزیره «کورفو» است. ا. شربیانی

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I just finished My Family and Other Animals. It's VERY, very good. It's light, it’s fun and in fact what it teaches about animals, human beings included, is absolutely spot-on! It teaches about animals which a lay person doesn't usually get all that inspired about - snakes and lizards and turtles and bugs. Some special birds too. I was running to Wiki time and time again to see these creatures. One can't help but be drawn in because the stories about the strange bugs and beasts are so bizarre! F I just finished My Family and Other Animals. It's VERY, very good. It's light, it’s fun and in fact what it teaches about animals, human beings included, is absolutely spot-on! It teaches about animals which a lay person doesn't usually get all that inspired about - snakes and lizards and turtles and bugs. Some special birds too. I was running to Wiki time and time again to see these creatures. One can't help but be drawn in because the stories about the strange bugs and beasts are so bizarre! Fun stories based on the author’s own diaries, begun when he was ten, visiting Corfu with his family for the first time. Stories both about his strange pets and the bedlam that repeatedly arises in this very special family. The eruptions of total bedlam will surely have you reminiscing about your own familial calamities. OK, so have your read books by Gerald’s brother, Lawrence Durrell? These two brothers don’t write the same at all! I was curious to see the two authors side by side. Larry/Lawrence is drawn by Gerald as a younger brother might. Lawrence is thirteen years Gerald’s senior and not the naturalist or conservationist his brother came to be! The tone never gets nasty; the ensuing events are simply related as they happened. The whole family, quirks and all, is viewed through the author’s observant ten-year-old eyes. Lawrence was highbrow even back then, always giving advice, inviting friends over, eating and drinking and telling others what they should do. I think I see the Lawrence Gerald draws in Lawrence’s own books; I think he has drawn him to a tee. I read the first two books of Lawrence’s well-known The Alexandria Quartet and decided I had had enough. Too highbrow for me. I think this, the first of the author’s Corfu Trilogy is better than the second, Birds, Beasts and Relatives. In the near future I will be picking up the third, The Garden of the Gods. I simply have to check it out. What if it is as good as the first?! Don't get me wrong, the second is good too, but just not as good as this. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Nigel Davenport. It is easy to follow and very well done. This is really a very good light read. Everyone needs books like these on and off. Lots to laugh about - concerning both humans and animals. Don’t disregard the interesting details on flora and fauna. Look at the title. It’s a perfect fit for the book. Some of the writing is simply gorgeous. You will want to visit Corfu.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    Gerald Durrell is pure pleasure to read - the ideal medicine if you are stressed out or down in the dumps. Like P. G. Wodehouse, he is guaranteed to lift up your spirits. This book is slightly different from his usual tales about zoos and animal collecting, though - humans actually take up a large part of it. As Durrell says in the introduction: This is the story of a five-year sojourn that I and my family made on the Greek Island of Corfu. It was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic accou Gerald Durrell is pure pleasure to read - the ideal medicine if you are stressed out or down in the dumps. Like P. G. Wodehouse, he is guaranteed to lift up your spirits. This book is slightly different from his usual tales about zoos and animal collecting, though - humans actually take up a large part of it. As Durrell says in the introduction: This is the story of a five-year sojourn that I and my family made on the Greek Island of Corfu. It was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic account of the natural history of the island, but I made the grave mistake of introducing my family into the book in the first few pages. Having got themselves on paper, they then proceeded to establish themselves and invite various friends to share the chapters. It was only with the greatest difficulty, and by exercising considerable cunning, that I managed to retain a few pages here and there which I could devote exclusively to animals. Well I, for one, am not complaining. Durrell's family is as funny and eccentric as his animals; and even the friends they pick up seem to inhabit the twilight zone between amusing eccentricity and brilliant lunacy. The Family Larry, the eldest brother (the famous author Lawrence Durrell), who is so puffed up with importance about his literary talents that he cannot avoid behaving like a pompous ass; Leslie, the typical gun-toting, empire-building Englishman whose life revolves around guns and shooting; Margo, whose interests centre exclusively around her well-being and looks, and (of course!) the young men who wander into her sphere of attraction; Gerry, interested only in filling up the domicile with various types of fauna; and Mother, obsessed with herbs and cooking, who loves her family unconditionally with all their eccentricities. The Friends Spiro, the brutally efficient taxi-driver who "adopts" the Durrell family the moment they land on Corfu, who can even steal goldfish from the King's house to satisfy Gerry; Theodore, an "expert" on most sciences, but more importantly, Gerry's mentor on zoology and botany; George, Gerry's first tutor who converts each lesson into a zoological adventure to keep his pupil interested, and practices his fencing as his charge is wrestling with arithmetic; Kafelsky, another one of Gerry's tutors who is an ornithologist too in his spare time - and his old mother, who talks to flowers... ...and many more. The Animals Quasimodo the pigeon who later turned out to female; Achilles the tortoise who met his sad demise at the bottom of a well; the dog contingent - Roger, Widdle, Puke and Dodo, always ready for a bit of adventure; the redoubtable "Magenpies" who play havoc with Larry's literary efforts; Alecko the ill-tempered gull who, Larry insists, is an albatross... ...and many, many more. The story is filled with exciting happenings. The fight between Geronimo the gecko and Cicely the praying mantis; Larry's attempt to do some hunting which lands him head first in the swamp; the love-sick Margo, trying to row a boat in a sirocco with eyes swollen shut by sunburn; a drunken Larry almost setting fire to the house... all these and many more, most of them triggered by Gerry's ever-increasing animal collection. The fitting finale is provided by a sort of "Mad Tea Party", where most of the islanders congregate at the Durrell household for a day of festivities which are duly disrupted by the household menagerie. Gerald Durrell uses the time-tested technique of underplaying the momentous and exaggerating the humdrum to brilliant effect. We know that this is a fictionalised account and has to be taken with a large lump of salt - yet we feel it should be like this: that even if such an eccentric family didn't exist, it should.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    1/2010 Review: I inhabit this book. I walk through the olive groves and swim in the crystal seas of pre-war Corfu. I think I can never go to Greece because of this book. I would want the taxis to be horse-drawn, and the small boys to be ranging freely about the island. I love so much about this book it's hard to pick and choose. I love that Gerry was so devoted to animals from the very beginning. I love the self-centered, irascible Larry (who grew into the genius Lawrence Durrell). I love Mother, 1/2010 Review: I inhabit this book. I walk through the olive groves and swim in the crystal seas of pre-war Corfu. I think I can never go to Greece because of this book. I would want the taxis to be horse-drawn, and the small boys to be ranging freely about the island. I love so much about this book it's hard to pick and choose. I love that Gerry was so devoted to animals from the very beginning. I love the self-centered, irascible Larry (who grew into the genius Lawrence Durrell). I love Mother, in all her well-meaning but vague glory. And who can forget Theo, the natty naturalist? The people are hilarious, and then just when one is weak from laughing, the viewpoint shifts, and there's a tortoise to observe, a cyclamen to watch bloom or a scorpion to secrete in a matchbox. This is such a gem. 2/2006 Review: Perhaps my favorite comfort read. This is the book I turn to when I'm blue and need to laugh. Hilarious chronicle of a budding naturalist and his eccentric family when they are living on the lovely island of Corfu. My favorite part, the part that reminds me most of my own house, my own boy is this: "Then one day I found a fat female scorpion in the wall wearing what at first glance appeared to be a pale fawn fur coat. Closer inspection proved that this strange garment was made up of a mass of tiny babies clinging to the mother's back. I was enraptured by this family, and I made up my mind to smuggle them into the house and up to my bedroom so that I might keep them and watch them grow up. With infinite care I manoeuvred the mother and family into a matchbox, and then hurried to the villa. It was rather unfortunate that just as I entered the door lunch should be served; however I placed the match box carefully on the mantelpiece in the drawing-room, so that the scorpions should get plenty of air, and made my way to the dining-room and joined the family for the meal. Dawdling over my food, feeding Roger surreptitiously under the table and listening to the family arguing, I completely forgot about my exciting new captures. At last Larry, having finished, fetched the cigarettes from the drawing-room, and lying back in his chair he put one in his mouth and picked up the matchbox he had brought. Oblivious of my impending doom I watched him interestedly as, still talking glibly, he opened the matchbox. Now I maintain to this day that the female scorpion meant no harm. She was agitated and a trifle annoyed at being shut up in a matchbox for so long, and so she seized the first opportunity to escape. She hoisted herself out of the box with great rapidity, her babies clinging on desperately, and scuttled on to the back of Larry's hand. There, not quite certain what to do next, she paused, her sting curved up at the ready. Larry, feeling the movement of her claws, glanced down to see what it was, and from that moment things got increasingly confused. He uttered a roar of fright that made Lugaretzia drop a plate and brought Roger out from beneath the table, barking wildly. With a flick of his hand he sent the unfortunate scorpion flying down the table, and she landed midway between Margo and Leslie, scattering babies like confetti as she thumped on the cloth. Thoroughly enraged at this treatment, the creature sped towards Leslie, her sting quivering with emotion. Leslie leapt to his feet, overturning his chair and flicked out desperately with his napkin, sending the scorpion rolling across the cloth towards Margo, who promptly let out a scream that any railway engine would have been proud to produce. Mother, completely bewildered by this sudden and rapid change from peace to chaos, put on her glasses and peered down the table to see what was causing the pandemonium, and at that moment Margo, in a vain attempt to stop the scorpion's advance, hurled a glass of water at it. The shower missed the animal completely, but successfully drenched Mother, who, not being able to stand cold water, promptly lost her breath and sat gasping at the end of the table, unable even to protest. The scorpion had now gone to ground under Leslie's plate, while her babies swarmed wildly all over the table. Roger, mystified by the panic, but determined to do his share, ran around and round the room, barking hysterically. "It's that bloody boy again ..." bellowed Larry. "Look out! Look out! They're coming!" screamed Margo. "All we need is a book," roared Leslie; "don't panic, hit 'em with a book." "What on earth's the matter with you all?" Mother kept imploring, mopping her glasses. "It's that bloody boy ... he'll kill the lot of us ... Look at the table ... knee deep in scorpions ..." "Quick ... quick ... do something ...Look out, look out!" "Stop screeching and get me a book, for God's sake ... You're worse than the dog ... Shut up, Roger ..." "By the Grace of God I wasn't bitten ..." "Look out ... there's another one ... Quick ... quick..." "Oh, shut up and get me a book or something ... " "But how did the scorpions get on the table, dear?" "That bloody boy ... Every matchbox in the house is a deathtrap ..." "Look out, it's coming towards me ... Quick, quick, do something ..." "Hit it with your knife ... your knife ... Go on, hit it ..." Since no one bothered to explain things to him, Roger was under the mistaken impression that the family was being attacked, and that it was his duty to defend them. As Lugaretzia was the only stranger in the room, he came to the logical conclusion that she must be the responsible party, so he bit her on the ankle. This did not help matters very much. By the time a certain amount of order had been restored, all the baby scorpions had hidden themselves under various plates and bits of cutlery. Eventually, after impassioned pleas on my part, backed up by Mother, Leslie's suggestion that the whole lot be slaughtered was quashed. While the family, still simmering with rage and fright, retired to the drawing-room, I spent half an hour rounding up the babies ..." MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS © Gerald Durrell 1956

  12. 4 out of 5

    Otis Chandler

    I got hooked on the show which was amazing, and was recommended to read the book, which I'm glad I did because it's equally amazing yet different. The Durrell's story is an escape from ordinary life in a way that I can't articulate but I kind of love. It's also hilarious - what a family! I really feel like I got to know Larry, Leslie, Margo, Mother, Spiro, even Lugaretzia. One of my favorite quotes: Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen. Each day had I got hooked on the show which was amazing, and was recommended to read the book, which I'm glad I did because it's equally amazing yet different. The Durrell's story is an escape from ordinary life in a way that I can't articulate but I kind of love. It's also hilarious - what a family! I really feel like I got to know Larry, Leslie, Margo, Mother, Spiro, even Lugaretzia. One of my favorite quotes: 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hayes

    It gets better every time I read it. Thank Heavens Durrell didn't get much formal schooling, or they might have educated his writing ability right out of him. The chapter about the moonless midnight swim, with the fire flies flickering, and the porpoises making trails in the phosphorescence, and the millions of stars shining overhead was so incredibly beautiful that it brought real tears to my eyes.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Annelies

    Never before were animals (and yes, also insects) as funny and interesting as in this book. Insects will never be boring again after reading this book. Nor will birds or frogs or... Durrell handles them all with a lot of humour in the stories in this book. Exhilarating!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Imagine that you receive a phone call that your eccentric uncle has passed away and you, his niece or nephew who barely knew him, have been tasked with the dreaded job of wading through some eighty years of his belongings. Days later, you find yourself in his dusty home, making piles of old pants for Goodwill, and in doing so, you discover a tall column of meticulously organized journals. What's this? Next thing you know, you're down on the floor, reading through page after page of fascinating not Imagine that you receive a phone call that your eccentric uncle has passed away and you, his niece or nephew who barely knew him, have been tasked with the dreaded job of wading through some eighty years of his belongings. Days later, you find yourself in his dusty home, making piles of old pants for Goodwill, and in doing so, you discover a tall column of meticulously organized journals. What's this? Next thing you know, you're down on the floor, reading through page after page of fascinating notes about creatures from the island of Corfu, in Greece, and, even though you've never been particularly interested in the mating habits of the scorpion, you can't stop reading. And, it turns out. . . Uncle wasn't merely a dedicated observer of the natural world of animals, he was a keen recorder of his family of origin as well. And it's freaking hilarious. Like, when the family moves into a new villa on the island, and they inherit a Greek housekeeper named Lugaretzia, who is known for her ailments, and your Uncle writes: Shortly afterwards, to our relief, Lugaretzia's stomach got better, but almost immediately her feet gave out, and she would hobble pitifully round the house, groaning loudly and frequently. Larry said that Mother hadn't hired a maid, but a ghoul, and suggested buying her a ball and chain. He pointed out that this would at least let us know when she was coming, and allow us time to escpe, for Lugaretzia had developed the habit of creeping up behind one and groaning loudly and unexpectedly in one's ear. Your Uncle didn't write with cliff hangers or drama, and his style and wit are subtle and soft and so very welcome in this fast-paced world. His stories unfold in the style of Enchanted April or Under the Tuscan Sun and, it turns out, you'll treasure his words for years to come.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    What a delightful book and what a quirky family. Durrell is a natural born storyteller, he does such a great job with the visuals. I could really experience Corfu through his writing and some of the visulas were darn near hysterical. A turtle for a pet, a turtle who will come when called and loves strawberries. A baby pigeon who they hand feed and who than doesn't learn how to fly but follows them everywhere, running behind them and cooing. A traveler trader who has beetles tied around their wai What a delightful book and what a quirky family. Durrell is a natural born storyteller, he does such a great job with the visuals. I could really experience Corfu through his writing and some of the visulas were darn near hysterical. A turtle for a pet, a turtle who will come when called and loves strawberries. A baby pigeon who they hand feed and who than doesn't learn how to fly but follows them everywhere, running behind them and cooing. A traveler trader who has beetles tied around their waist and than tied to his hat, as he walks they fly and circle his hat. Such amusing characters, such vivid pictures of the bugs, fauna and wildlife. A very enjoyable read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Hilarious, vibrant story! It sort of reminded me of two of my favorite authors, Jonathan Dunne and Farley Mowat. The story of a wacky family moving from England to Greece, it's a completely unforgettable memoir with a lot of originality.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bettie☯

    Re-read via the BBC Naturalist Gerald Durrell's magical 1930s childhood with his eccentric family on the Greek island of Corfu. Stars Celia Imrie. 1956 - such a good year!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    If you need to laugh at something genuinely funny with not an ounce of mean spiritedness in it, or if you need to think of sunshine sparkling on the water (John Denver did that best) or maybe you would feel better to learn of the antics of a couple of naughty puppies named Widdle and Puke,an owl named Ulysses, various pet scorpions and snakes who chill out in the bath, then get yourself a medicinal dose of Gerald Durrell. I think I'll make a new shelf called "Medicinal Literature". I myself beg If you need to laugh at something genuinely funny with not an ounce of mean spiritedness in it, or if you need to think of sunshine sparkling on the water (John Denver did that best) or maybe you would feel better to learn of the antics of a couple of naughty puppies named Widdle and Puke,an owl named Ulysses, various pet scorpions and snakes who chill out in the bath, then get yourself a medicinal dose of Gerald Durrell. I think I'll make a new shelf called "Medicinal Literature". I myself began with the Masterpiece Theater production of My Family and Other Animals quite by accident one day while lying on the couch languidly searching the telly for something not horrid. Now, years later, I discover, thanks to Goodreads that it was actually a true story and it came from a book. Here's me doing backflips. Anyway, this charming saga is the first of a trilogy (and there are lots more such novels by this adorable, chubby, funny man) about the global wanderings of a sort of disfunctional family that really does love each other but all have their own idiosyncracies that make them plain hilarious. Of course, my favorite is the youngest, Gerald, who is only 9 years old when the family decides they've had enough of the cold wet of England and immediately make plans to remove to Corfu, and island in Greece. It seems one of the brothers has a friend who's already there and has been sending letters to England raving about how wonderful it is. (That would be Larry who ends up being a rather famous writer himself. I've not yet read his work but Justine is now on my to-read list and I'll let you all know.) The whole time this funny family (mind you, no one tries to be funny, but things keep on happening to them that honestly don't really happen to other people) is on the idyllic island of Corfu (God, just kill me now if I don't ever make it there some day to at least set up some sort of shrine to Gerald Durrell) the boy Gerald mostly runs wild and free to pursue his own interests. That would be the animals, insects and birds of the island. He tells you just enough to make you feel such subjects should be the substance of every young boy's education and maybe they should. He really was a precocious little boy and I hate to think of nature loving kids like that being shut up in some horrid classroom when they are so easily blissed-out by finding trapdoor spider nests, birds' nests and watching all sorts of creatures court, mate and give birth. The descriptions of the family's friends and neighbors and visitors from England are so jolly and bizarre as to make it important that I warn you, dear reader, to take great care when drinking hot coffee or tea while reading this. One is at risk of sudden fits of screeching laughter when reading My Family and Other Animals that can lead to burned nasal passages and ruined shirt fronts if one is not careful. Perhaps keeping a towel handy would be useful. Another word of caution, if reading this at night, do close your bedroom door and have a pillow to laugh into because your family doesn't need to be woken late at night with your shrieks of laughter. REally, it won't do. I would also advise anyone reading this to have the next book in the series either already waiting at your fingertips or at least on your bookseller's wishlist. Don't be like me. Don't wait till you're almost finished reading this one. The pain and anguish of waiting to find out what happens next to this lovable, but let's face it, weird, family is agony. I have ordered my copy but will have to wait. I feel like I've been kicked off the island. Of Corfu. Sob.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    This is a hilarious book. It can be aptly summed up something like this: — In a restaurant, laughing for the past two pages. A woman asks me, "What are you reading?" "My Family and Other Animals." I said, "They just got attacked by scorpions." "And you're cracking up about that?" she asks, curiously. "Yup." — And it's totally true. Everything is funny about this book… even the acknowledgements!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Laugh out loud funny and endearing. Gorgeous setting beautifully described. Wish I could take a trip there immediately. Can't do that but at least I have the next two books in the trilogy to read. :)). Watched the BBC adaptation first which was wonderful.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Five stars all the way for this one. Yes, it was copyrighted in 1956, but this oldie is a goodie! Its hilarious. It captures the culture of the period on the Greek island of Corfu. It contains animals with unique personalities. Colorful characters abound in the form of the family's driver, Spiro, the tutor, Kralefsky, and numerous friends. This family has to be one of the first dysfunctional families to be chronicled. From the "Yes, dear" Mother to the eldest obnoxious son, Larry, to military Le Five stars all the way for this one. Yes, it was copyrighted in 1956, but this oldie is a goodie! Its hilarious. It captures the culture of the period on the Greek island of Corfu. It contains animals with unique personalities. Colorful characters abound in the form of the family's driver, Spiro, the tutor, Kralefsky, and numerous friends. This family has to be one of the first dysfunctional families to be chronicled. From the "Yes, dear" Mother to the eldest obnoxious son, Larry, to military Leslie, only-daughter Margo and of course, animal-loving Gerry. While this book does consist of a lot of description, it serves as a means to show Durrell's obsession with nature. I never found it boring. Here's a sample of what I'm talking about. When the sun sank there was a brief, apple-green twilight which faded and became mauve, and the air cooled and took on the scents of evening. The toads appeared, putty-coloured with strange, map-like blotches of bottle-green on their skins. They hopped furtively among the long grass clumps in the olive-groves, where the crane-flies' unsteady flight seemed to cover the ground with a drifting curtain of gauze. They sat there blinking, and then would suddenly snap at a passing crane-fly; sitting back. Looking a trifle embarrassed, they stuffed the trailing ends of wing and leg in to their great mouths with the aid of their thumbs. Above them, on the crumbling walls of the sunken garden, the little black scorpions walked solemnly, hand in hand, among the plump mounds of green moss and the groves of tiny toadstools. The passage is descriptively beautiful, but yet the thought of a toad looking "a trifle embarrassed" and the word picture of "groves of tiny toadstools" ignite the imagination. The description sets the stage for funny anecdotes such as....ah no, I'm not going to reveal a single crazy episode, I'm going to let you find out for yourself! This is the first of many Durrell's for me.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    This is a wonderful account of a 10-year old boy's childhood years on the greek island of Corfu after his family moves there from England in the 1930s. The boy is a rabid naturalist, and is always collecting poisonous, slithering, leggy, and/or hostile creatures home (much to his family's dismay) to study and keep as pets. Parts of the book are laugh-out-loud funny, especially descriptions of the antics of his bizarre family members. One thing did keep nagging me throughout the book- I kept thin This is a wonderful account of a 10-year old boy's childhood years on the greek island of Corfu after his family moves there from England in the 1930s. The boy is a rabid naturalist, and is always collecting poisonous, slithering, leggy, and/or hostile creatures home (much to his family's dismay) to study and keep as pets. Parts of the book are laugh-out-loud funny, especially descriptions of the antics of his bizarre family members. One thing did keep nagging me throughout the book- I kept thinking, who ARE these people? and who DOES this?...They must be independently wealthy b/c they keep moving from villa to villa, buying things like mad and none of them have jobs of any kind (with the possible exception of the 23-yr old brother who could dubiously be described as a struggling artist). The 10 yr old boy, Gerry, doesn't even have to go to school- he has occasional inept tutors but otherwise runs wild. None of this is ever explained in the book, so you kind of have to just let it go, because really, what would a 10-yr old boy care about those details anyway.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Vicky "phenkos"

    3.5 stars -- rounded down to 3 because Nancy, Lawrence's first wife who lived with the family in Corfu, is written out of the account. I've been watching the ITV series with enormous interest and delight, captivated by wonderful performances by Keeley Hawes (Louisa Durrell), Josh O'Connor (Lawrence Durrell), Daisy Waterstone (Margo), Callum Woodhouse (Leslie) and Milo Parker (Gerald). The adventures of this resourceful family in 1935 Corfu and the people that move around them (Dr. Stephanides, Sp 3.5 stars -- rounded down to 3 because Nancy, Lawrence's first wife who lived with the family in Corfu, is written out of the account. I've been watching the ITV series with enormous interest and delight, captivated by wonderful performances by Keeley Hawes (Louisa Durrell), Josh O'Connor (Lawrence Durrell), Daisy Waterstone (Margo), Callum Woodhouse (Leslie) and Milo Parker (Gerald). The adventures of this resourceful family in 1935 Corfu and the people that move around them (Dr. Stephanides, Spiros) make for a quirky and ultimately very satisfying viewing experience. So how does the book compare to the tv series? The book is strong on natural history, but not on characterisation or plot. We learn a lot about the lives of spiders (a species digs "bunkers" into the soil complete with "trapdoors" behind which the spider hides in wait for their victim -- yes, true!) and a variety of other animals (gulls, tortoises, scorpions, etc), but less on the other characters with the exception of Spiros whose funny English lends him a unique quality. By contrast, the series is very strong on dramatisation with Simon Nye, the scriptwriter, taking a few liberties with the original account (Mrs Durrell's lovers, the family's money problems) but on the whole producing a story that is attractive and highly entertaining. Is it also believable? Well, I think that the series paints a somewhat idealised picture of the characters with Lawrence, in particular, coming across as charming and utterly likeable. In real life his relationships with women were strained and bordering on the abusive. Accounts of him and Nancy (his first wife) suggest a strong misogyny -- Nancy was frequently told to "shut up" and publicly humiliated. Sappho, Lawrence's daughter from his second marriage, committed suicide at the age of 34, and her journals and correspondence published by Granta in 1991, suggest an unhealthy relationship with her father. I'm currently reading that issue of Granta and will review it separately. So on the whole an interesting read -- though full of lyrical descriptions of the countryside which I'm not very fond of -- but not a book that provides any deep insights into the characters or their predicament, except perhaps its animal characters ;-)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kiwi Begs2Differ ✎

    I am so glad that I finally read this book who stood neglected on my TBR shelf for too long. Durell’s remarkable ability of observation enables him to vividly portray on paper the behaviour of the creatures (and the people) around him in their minuscule details. The descriptions of the landscapes of Corfu Island in their changing seasons are equally beautifully poetic and glossy. Part nature guide and part autobiography, with plenty of humorous anecdotes, this memoir is a pleasure to read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shirley Revill

    Really enjoyed reading this book. Highly recommended. Thank you to Goodreads for a copy of this wonderful book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Gomes

    Gerald Durrell just loved animals; any shape any size, big or small. The criterion was ‘just be an animal’. During the Second World War, the Durrells went to Corfu and Gerald as a ten year old could not have been happier, he could roam the entire island with his collection jars, his butterfly nets and his dissection box. Of course he had to study; tutors came teaching all sorts of interesting things, skipping the prescribed curriculum altogether letting their imagination roam way beyond any school Gerald Durrell just loved animals; any shape any size, big or small. The criterion was ‘just be an animal’. During the Second World War, the Durrells went to Corfu and Gerald as a ten year old could not have been happier, he could roam the entire island with his collection jars, his butterfly nets and his dissection box. Of course he had to study; tutors came teaching all sorts of interesting things, skipping the prescribed curriculum altogether letting their imagination roam way beyond any school. Think of Gerald’s gift on his birthday, Sally the beautiful donkey her soft ears protruding from a crown of flowers, to help Gerry on his trips around the island, think of the circular boat Larry built for him to collect samples from the deep, blue sea. The Family, Mother, Lawrence, Larry and Margot knew that whatever they did, Gerry would always love animals, otherwise which crazy family would tolerate a matchbox exploding with baby scorpions at dinner. Or which loony family would not go berserk on finding water snakes in their bath tubs, or the innards of a tortoise strewn on their garden path one hot afternoon. But ‘My family and Other Animals’ is not all about Gerry, it is about all the other family members too. Picture Mother in that tent-like bathing suit, floundering, losing her balance in the shallows, the dog pulling her bathing suit with the intention of rescuing her from the black monster, the bathing suit. Picture Margot kissing the relic of the Saint and Mother frantically gesturing her not to, because of the germs. Margot‘s constant battle with acne, the numerous creams to try and get rid of the problem. The Birthday Celebrations that went on for weeks with tons of food, drinks and friends dropping in at any moment. Gerry gives us a slice of his life with such pleasure and abandon, that I wish with all my heart that I had been there too.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dov Zeller

    Where do I even begin? Above all things, what I can say about Durrell is that he is a fantastic observer of animal behavior, and his observations don't stop with the human animal. Durrell, as he looks back on his childhood, gives the impression of being wildly at home in the world and full of awe, reverence, mischief, curiosity. I am reminded of reading "The Wind in the Willows" because I have a similar feeling that I am reading a deeply spiritual text. Durrell basks in the quirks of his fellow c Where do I even begin? Above all things, what I can say about Durrell is that he is a fantastic observer of animal behavior, and his observations don't stop with the human animal. Durrell, as he looks back on his childhood, gives the impression of being wildly at home in the world and full of awe, reverence, mischief, curiosity. I am reminded of reading "The Wind in the Willows" because I have a similar feeling that I am reading a deeply spiritual text. Durrell basks in the quirks of his fellow creatures and describes them with great detail, humor and love. I laughed out loud at least five or six times. Sometimes when reading of the family dynamics with Larry the pompous, infuriating artist who believes he is above all humans and most human activity, Leslie the avid hunter who loves his guns perhaps a little too much, Margo the smart but not always thinking self-absorbed teenager, the mother, cartoonishly permissive, literal, charming and ineffectual. I laughed each time Durrell causes yet another family crisis by leaving live scorpions in a matchbox or overheated snakes in the bathtub to cool off. And I laughed during the stories told by Durrell's adult, naturalist, friend Theo. Theo tells of the opera coming to Corfu and describes the ensuing calamities with great, but quiet relish. He tells the story of the local fire station trying to upgrade to a fancy red truck that's pretty to look at, but much too big to drive down Corfu's streets and he describes with his unique blend of mischief and sheepish shyness the blundering failure of the fire station to handle a fire that erupts in a garage. The childhood Durrell conjures in this book is one of freedom and adventure and slapstick misadventure. Durrell is daily thrilled with the strange wonders of insect, mammal and reptilian business. He is mesmerized by every landscape, and mesmerizes us by sharing not only the beauty, but the startling layers of activity. "Once, five jackals appeared out of the myrtle bushes, paused in surprise at seeing me, and then melted among the trees, like shadows. The nightjars on silent, silky wings would slide as smoothly as great black swallows along the rows of olives, sweeping across the grass in pursuit of the drunken whirling crane-flies. One night a pair of squirrel dormice appeared in the tree above me, and chased each other in wild exuberance up and down the grove, leaping from branch to branch like acrobats, skittering up and down the tree trunks, their bushy tails like puffs of grey smoke in the moonlight." Reading a book written by someone who takes such pleasure in the eccentricities and details of each creatures life, not just each kind of creature, but each individual, whether it be a gull, a scorpion, a mantis, a gecko, a dog, a tutor, a friend, a relative, a magpie, a water snake...Reading a book that is at once a celebration of life and an acknowledgement that we are all strange creatures who have some thrilling moments and some less-thrilling moments of action, some violent tendencies and some peaceful ones, that our adventures begin and our adventures end and that it is a simple fact, and part of the excitement of being alive, well, it's refreshing. There are so many moments I wish I could share here. The magenpies. Spiro. All the moves (the Durrells move first to a small villa in Corfu, then a larger one because Larry insists they host his artist friends. They subsequently move back to a smaller villa so as not to have to host certain relatives). Larry's hunting debacle. Kralefsky's mother. The building of the Boodle Bumtrinket. Wrestling with Kralefsky. Bioluminescence. The saga of Gerald's mother and a dog named Dodo. Clusters of grapes fresh off the vine, so delicious and happily described I felt I could touch them. A few notes of frustration and curiosity. 1) The book does not make any mention of a father. 2) There is no explanation of their financial situation and no satisfactory explanation of how they landed in Corfu and what their life was like before. 3) It is unclear to me how old Larry and Leslie are (I think one review said Larry was 23). 4) Sometimes Durrell's attitude toward the people of Corfu "the peasants" is a bit disconcerting and though he clearly loves everyone he comes into contact with, I worry he gets into the territory of condescension. 5) It is not clear to me what happens to a lot of the animals taken into captivity. Ulysses for example. Maybe I missed something or am forgetting, but what ever happened to Ulysses the owl? 6) Sad to see all the caged animals. The magenpies are hilarious, but they are also brilliant, bored, trapped animals.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Having read this for the second time now (the first being maybe ten years ago), I can easily say that this book is one of my favorites. The author recounts the time his family moved from the cold and dreary climate of England to the sunny and warm Greek island of Corfu. As stated in the notes, Gerald Durrell initially set out to write about nature and his experiences with all the animals he watched, captured, tended to, studied, and loved. However, it was apparent early on that he could not writ Having read this for the second time now (the first being maybe ten years ago), I can easily say that this book is one of my favorites. The author recounts the time his family moved from the cold and dreary climate of England to the sunny and warm Greek island of Corfu. As stated in the notes, Gerald Durrell initially set out to write about nature and his experiences with all the animals he watched, captured, tended to, studied, and loved. However, it was apparent early on that he could not write about the animals without also including his mother, two brothers and sister as well. Given that the animals brought to live at the various villas during the Durrell’s time on Corfu were either allowed to roam free or escaped in one way or another, the antics which ensue are always hilarious, if only for the family’s reactions (Larry was a favorite of mine in this regard). Not only do we get to hear about Gerry and his family (and other animals!), but we are also treated to Gerry’s encounters with the various peasants of the countryside, his different tutors, and the family’s friendships with Spiro, a local who helps the family with everything from finding lodging to taxiing them around, and with Theodore, the doctor who loves nature as much as Gerry. Owls, tortoises, dogs, geckos, scorpions, snakes, magpies, pigeons, mantises, gulls, toads, and many other animals fill these pages as Gerry tells of his time with them in a lovingly and humorous way.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Malia

    This was such a delightful book. I can only recommend it. It's not terribly long, but written in such an elegant but humorous way I cannot believe it took me this long to read it. I'm not a big nature person, and while this book is written by a future zoologist it doesn't seem to matter. The story is much more than a catalog of a boys adventures on Corfu, but rather a story of a very real family. I have been to Corfu and can attest to the fact that it is striking, so reading of this family who f This was such a delightful book. I can only recommend it. It's not terribly long, but written in such an elegant but humorous way I cannot believe it took me this long to read it. I'm not a big nature person, and while this book is written by a future zoologist it doesn't seem to matter. The story is much more than a catalog of a boys adventures on Corfu, but rather a story of a very real family. I have been to Corfu and can attest to the fact that it is striking, so reading of this family who fell in love with the place is easily understood. Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com

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