My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell ★★★★★
(Read for October Take It Or Leave It Challenge #1: read a book picked by using the Random Tag Generator – tag: zoology, and 12/12 Challenge #10: Beyond Fiction)
To begin, I should say I fell in love with this book before I’d even read the first page.
First, there was the fact that it was set in Corfu in the 1930s. I spent five glorious months living in Greece (in Crete actually) and was relishing jumping into this tale about the unusual Durrell family* making their home on a Greek island, where I could all too well imagine the quality of the light, the taste of the figs and grapes, the accent of the locals as they muddled their way through approximate English, the goats hopping along rocky outcroppings and the sound of their clanging bells and poignant bleating, the twisted ancient olive trees, the multitudinous variations of blues of sea and skies…
Then, there was the promise of all kinds of strange creatures, and fascinating descriptions of their physical attributes, behavioural characteristics and social habits. Four legged creatures, winged creatures, creatures with pincers and claws, creatures that live under rocks, creatures that hunt in the dark, creatures with homes on their backs, not to mention the two-legged creatures that were family and friends, all of which could be made to live in a home (at least temporarily) or put into jars for closer observation.
Not least, there was the cover of the new Penguin Essentials edition with it’s beautiful and fun illustration by the very talented Scottish artist Brian Cairns in a style that speaks to me as a big kid and lover of creatures big and small, and as an artist and designer too of course.
But what earned this book the distinction of earning a full five-star rating (the 4th book out of nearly 150 read so far this year, making it part of a very exclusive 2.72% club) was the fact that from the first page to the last, my expectations were not only met, but exceeded, provoking laughter and much delight and happiness. My only regret is that I did not discover Gerald Durrell in my childhood and teens, which might have set the course of my entire life in a very different direction. Thankfully, it’s never too late to discover a kindred spirit, or the value of finally finding one’s own ideal kind of comfort reading.
Best of all? There are two more books in the Corfu Trilogy and Gerald Durrell penned a great deal of other amusing zoological tales besides to finance his extensive conservation efforts. The wonder is he claimed not to enjoy writing and doing it only for the money, which hardly seems believable given how much humour and charm he exudes.
* Lawrence Durrell aka “Larry” (author of The Alexandria Quartet, currently sitting on my shelves) was little Gerry’s oldest sibling.