21 March 2011

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

This is one of my favourite books of all time.  I get so much pleasure out of reading it again and again.  Gerald Durrell has such a wonderful turn of phrase, in places it is laugh out loud funny.  His descriptions of his forays into the study of naturalism by direct observation of animals is fascinating.  I highly recommend this book.

"My Family and Other Animals is an autobiographical work by naturalist Gerald Durrell, telling of the part of his childhood he spent on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939. It describes the life of the Durrell Family on the island in a humorous manner, and also richly discusses the fauna of the island. It is the first and most famous of Durrell's Corfu trilogy, together with Birds, Beasts, and Relatives, and The Garden of the Gods.

Durrell had already written several successful books about his trips collecting animals in the wild for zoos  when My Family and Other Animals came out in 1956, a title possibly inspired by Louis Bromfield's Animals and Other People (1955).  Its comic exaggeration of the foibles of his family — especially his eldest brother Lawrence Durrell, who later became a famous novelist — and heartfelt appreciation of the natural world made it very successful. It launched Durrell's career as owner of the Jersey Zoological Park in the Channel Islands, as well as novel-writer and television personality; and was also influential in the development of tourism in Corfu."
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