Gerald Durrell moved from England with his eccentric, oh! so eccentric family to Corfu, an island in Greece. He spent almost all his time exploring the island and making nice with it. His experiences on Corfu eventually took the form of the autobiographical novel, My Family and Other Animals.
Here is a teaser:
"This is the story of a five-year sojourn that I and my family made on the Greek island Corfu. 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."
Let me tell you right away that I absolutely adored this book; and if it hadn't been for Urbi Chatterjee of The Bootle Bum Trinket I wouldn't heard about this probably for a really long time.
Gerald Durrell with his family captures your imagination right out and what ensues is many hours of enjoyment getting acquainted with the Durrells and their singularly funny experiences in Greece. I loved the family (in fact I wish I could adopt them; please don't ask me for an explanation, it is just one of those things) and the dogs Roger, Widdle and Puke and Dodo; I loved The Magenpies (curious aren't you? Ain't telling. Now you have GOT to read the book); I loved Achilles the Tortoise and Quasimodo. I loved the gecko (shudder) and the mantid that fight a deadly turf battle on Gerry's bedroom wall. And then there is Spiro and Lugaretzia and Theo and Peter. The book brims over with lives; human and otherwise.
The family to the most part take Gerry's menagerie of animals in their stride but the moments in the book when they are troubled by a somewhat belligerent animal that Gerry has acquired are laugh-out-loud funny. And even though you are Team Gerry, you can't really blame the others for wanting to strangle his "pets" at times. Larry with all his pomp and bossiness gives you many reasons to grin; Leslie manages to find a soft corner in your heart with his guns and barrels and smoke; Margo, well, at her you just shake your head now and then because she is not good for much else except sun bathing. And Mrs. Durrell! That woman was a star! She steers her jigsaw puzzle of a family with admirable skill; she is unfazed by the scrapes they get into and gets into their lives and their little doings with an alacrity that is beautiful to behold.
Gerry's book is a testimony to his life and just a glimpse into what was actually a lifelong love and effort to nurture what he called "the little brown jobs" and "small uglies". All sorts of troubles tend to go up in smoke when you are in Corfu with Gerry and Company, so I strongly suggest that you get yourself a fix.
You can visit the The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust's website here. There is also a Dodo Club for kids. I can feel a visit to Jersey on the Channel Islands coming. Thank you Mr. Durrell, I was transformed into that grinning, at-peace-with-the-world-creature that only animal books/movies can induce in me.