Monday, July 3, 2017

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

The Shostakovich Cello Concerto is playing, performed by the incomparable YoYo Ma.  I hope you will enjoy listening to it as well.

Incidentally, the card in the picture below was painted by my mother before her Macular Degeneration became too advanced.

My Family and Other Animals (Corfu Trilogy, #1)My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All in all, a cute story. Gerald Durrell, about twenty years after the fact, hearkens back to a segment of his childhood that was spent on the island of Corfu. The year is 1935 and WWII is gathering like storm clouds on the horizon but you won't get any hint of that in this story.

When he is ten years old, Gerald's family, which includes his widowed mother, brothers Larry and Leslie, sister Margo and a dog named Roger pack up and move to the island of Corfu.

You must erase from your mind the overcrowded tourist-stricken Corfu of today and imagine a virgin island with old world charm.

Uh, and also old world primitivism. After finally finding a villa with indoor plumbing or at least a bathroom that doesn't require a trip to the beach, the Durrells settle in.

We soon are acquainted with peasants and villagers, all who are friendly and hospitable. As an example, Gerald, one afternoon finds himself far from home and ravenous so he simply wakes up a friendly neighbor (by sending his dog barking like a maniac to the man's porch) who immediately shares his own repast of cheese, grapes and wine with him.

Gerald enjoys the people, enjoys his eccentric family (because he is equally eccentric), the peculiar people his mother assigns to tutor him (Theodore a diffident scientist in love with puns and corny jokes, Katelvsky, owner of many birds and even larger owner of romantic fantasies of which he plays the hero saving a lovely lady, and Peter, alas, Peter did not last long due to his "inappropriate interest in sister Margo- and her equally inappropriate interest in Peter) and most of all the animal life.

Gerald's story flows back and forth like a warm Mediterranean tide between his adventures in capturing animals (magpies, a ferocious seagull, a lumbering turtle, a large assortment of insects) and his family and friends.

His stories are told with charm and with the innocence of childhood, which is no small accomplishment since Durrell was no longer a child when he wrote the story.

For people interested in a time long past as well as natural history this is an enjoyable little read.

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  1. i'm not sophisticated enough to appreciate most of Shostakovich, although i have heard some things of his i like; the slow movement was kind of peaceful, tho...
    GD was a very funny man; i read this book and watched the tv series(which exaggerated things a lot).... his other books are full of humorous episodes. i went through a period of reading his work until i ran across some of his short stories, one of which is still with me, as it scared me so much(he also wrote ghost stories)... nice to see him featured on a post; i haven't seen that before... tx...

    1. Hi Mudpuddle! Shostakovich is an interesting individual. There was a lot of controversy because he was allegedly the "Soviet" composer. He claimed that he didn't have a choice and decided that he didn't care how others interpreted his music as long as he got to write it.

      So he gave his works titles that promoted "Superior Soviet utopian power etc..." and then wrote what he wanted.

      It is now considered that S was carrying on his own private joke against the Soviets.

      Whatever the truth, I like his music. I was privileged to meet his son some years ago. He is a symphony conductor.

      This is the first GD I've read and it was a lot of fun. I would like to write in a way that conveys the interesting episodes in my life.

      Actually it's the people I meet. I think my book will be primarily of other people's stories because everyone has a backstory and they can be so interesting.

      I will have to look up his ghost stories. I'm addicted to those.

      Have a very happy 4th, Mudpuddle!

  2. Wonderful commentary on this book Sharon.

    It sounds very charming.

    It makes me sad to know that places like this are now overcrowded.

    Have a great 4th of July Sharon!

    1. Thanks, Brian. It is sad. I grew up on the panhandle of Florida when there was hardly any condos. Now it is crowded with tourists and condos. Unfortunately you can't go home again.

      Happy 4th of July!

  3. I really enjoyed the book but I liked the first movie better. I'm presently watching the Masterpiece Theatre Durrells in Corfu. It's pretty good too. I tried reading some of Laurence Durrell's works but haven't quite appreciated them. To much angst and characters that are rather depressingly flawed. But I would like to give him another chance.

    Please tell you mother that I really love her painting. It feels very moody to me. So sad that she can't paint anymore ....

    1. Hi Cleopatra! Is that your real name or an online handle? It's such a beautiful name.

      I would like to watch the Masterpiece Theatre show. They usually put out some really good productions. When I was a teenager, I watched MPT every Sunday night. It was a bad night if I missed the latest episode of whatever show.

      I have not read any Laurence except the reviews of another reviewer. He makes him sound interesting but I guess I would have to read him myself to know if he were my cup of tea.

      I will tell mom. She'll appreciate that. She painted that card even though her eyesight was a little bit distorted but she has had to quit altogether now.

  4. I'm not familiar with Durrell. I'll check my library for a copy. And thanks, Sharon, for the music link. All the best from the white sands of the Gulf coast; it ain't Corfu, but it's not bad (most of the time).

    1. HI R.T. I am familiar with the Gulf Coast because my parents live on the Florida Panhandle ten minutes from Destin. I have never been to Corfu but I defy any beach to be as beautiful as the blinding white sands of the Florida Gulf Coast!

    2. Well, Sharon, you must visit the north of Western Australia and see the beaches there. Unfortunately, you can't swim there - stone fish, sea snakes, sharks...anywhere along the west of the Australian coastline is beautiful. It's also very beautiful on the east coast!
      I've almost finished reading My Family Other Animals with my 12 yr old. She loves it. Durrell had such an incredible way of using metaphors in his writing.

    3. Hi Carol. It is a major wish of mine to visit Australia. Not swimming isn't a problem. I prefer to visit Florida when it is cold and the tourists are few. Also you can see more wildlife.

      We don't have seals or great whites but you can frequently see dolphins, sting rays and the occasional loggerhead, We also have sharks, the hammerhead breeds nearby but luckily the underwater sand dunes and shallowness of the water keeps them away from the shore.

      A funny but true story: my sister was in the Air Force reserve and she flew on a carrier plane over the beaches once. Looking down she could see the people in the shallows of the water and sharks swimming where the sand underwater dropped sharply off. It wasn't that far from the beach.

      I will get around to reading his others. They are fun.

  5. Sounds like a charming book and your mom's card is lovely--kudos to her! Also, I am a fan of Yo Yo Ma. His daughter was in school with my son and I like to follow his success. Great link choice!

    1. Thanks, Marcia! That's so cool that your daughter went to school with his son. Ma is one of my favorites!


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.