24 February 2009

My Family and Other Animals : Review

Book: My Family And Other Animals
Author: Gerald Durrell
Publisher: Penguin Group (Australia) 2008

My Family And Other Animals is a well known book of humorous anecdotes concerning Gerald Durrell's years as a child on the island of Corfu. Even then, the young Durrell's interests revolved around animals, particularly bugs and slimy things that most people do not care for. This interest, according to his mother at one point during the book, had shown up when he was two. As he hadn't grown out of it yet, she didn't think he was likely to. She was right. All his life Gerald Durrell pursued his interest in animals, working in zoos, going on specimen collecting expeditions, making films and promoting animal conservation. He really only wrote the books to raise funds for his conservation projects, and his projects, films, books etc were many.

Despite his claim that his books were written for the money, they are really enjoyoyable, light, humorous affairs. He makes a lot of fun of his brother, Larry, actually the famous novelist Lawrence Durrell who has the idea, one winter when the family are sitting around suffering from the sniffles, that they should move to somewhere warm, like Corfu. Having come up with the idea, he leaves it to his mother to organise.

Interestingly, it seems that the young Gerald was so engrossed in his animals that he didn't notice that Larry was married at the time of the Corfu expedition, and this his wife came with them.

The young Gerald had a habit of acquiring pets, not all of them the kind considered loveable by most humans. It seemed to Gerald quite reasonable to put a scorpion in a matchbox for safekeeping, and then leave the matchbox on the mantlepiece while he had his dinner. You must remember that this was in the days when most people smoked, and used matches to light their cigarettes. You can guess what pompous person picks up the matchbox.

The cumulation of the Gerald's animal collection and his families various eccentricities all come together in the final chapter where the family try to hold one, big party for all their friends for the funniest series of scenes in the book.

This book is highly recommended for its humour and its sometimes touching view of the world from the point of view of a boy who looks at even quite small things.

Morva Shepley


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