Date of publication – 2006 (Penguin)
Number of pages – 757
Average Goodreads rating – 4.53
Genre – autobiography/memoir/science
This bind up is a collection of three main books:
- My Family and Other Animals
- Birds, Beasts and Relatives
- The Garden of the Gods
All of them are set on the island of Corfu before and after WWII, and tell the story of the eccentric Durrell family who moved there to escape the cold, wet English conditions. For the youngest member, and budding naturalist and zoologist, Gerald (Gerry), the island was a natural paradise for his pursuits. However his family – consisting of his mother, brothers Larry and Leslie, and sister Margo – were not always appreciative and often objected to his burgeoning animal collection. Of course this living arrangement leads to chaos and many crazy antics.
Rich in description, the entire trilogy capture the endearing portrait of a family life and the beginnings of a lifelong love of animals.
What I really liked about this trilogy is that it had all the style of a James Herriot story and it didn’t skimp on the details. Sometimes the dense description did make it slow but at the same time it helped to create the mood and the feel of the island. It was also interesting reading about different animals and insects that are indigenous to those warmer climates.
For me this is the perfect escapist read. It’s light, witty and the characters and make me want to laugh at every turn. Although some of them, particularly Larry and Margo, come across as over-exaggerated. However, as it is a common trait of autobiographical fiction, it’s not exactly surprising and I did come to quite enjoy their overbearing personalities.
The only negative comment I have about the trilogy is that the ending was very abrupt and unexpected. There was no smooth transition and it was if the Durrell family antics just suddenly ended there and then. It was a bit of a letdown after the excellent fluidity of the writing and narrative throughout the rest of the book.
Nonetheless it was still fun, and a really good book to start off the reading year.
Perfect for fans of James Herriot, anyone who is interested in wildlife and exotic cultures, or for anyone who just wants a light, long read.