It’s cold outside. It is practically arctic (for those of us who live in the UK at least!). If you are looking for a book to remind you of the warmth of the summer sun: this is it. In his semi-autobiographical novel, Durrell describes part of his childhood when he and his family moved to Corfu.
Eight year old Durrell is obsessed with collecting animals and creating a mini menagerie. In following his quest in collecting exotic creatures, the passion Durrell has for nature is utterly infectious (regardless of whether you are an animal lover or not) and hilarious – for example, when describing his observations of the to-ings and fro-ings of the tortoises resident on his island he recounts this story of being witness to two tortoises making ‘love’ for the first time:
“At last, more by luck than skill, he hoisted himself up, and I was just heaving a sigh of relief when the female, obviously bored by the male’s inadequacy, moved a few steps toward a dandelion leaf. Her husband clawed wildly at her moving shell but could get no foothold; he slipped off, teetered for a minute, and then rolled ignominiously over on to his back. This final blow seemed to be too much for him, because, instead of trying to right himself, he simply folded himself up in his shell and lay there mournfully. The female, meanwhile, ate the dandelion leaf….As a punishment for her callous behaviour I carried her up to the most barren and desiccated part of the hillside and left her there…”
How could you not laugh out loud to that?!
This book is not just about the animals that Durrell collects, it is also about the portrayal of various members of his family (in a somewhat exaggerated manner) which make this book so relatable. We all have an obsessive dieter like his sister Margo and an self-confessed ‘intellectual’ like his brother Larry in our families.
Durrell’s observational narrative of what it means to cope outside of your natural habitat is marvellously entertaining. From the discovery of a snake in the family bath to the family coaxing the relentlessly teased mother to move house no less than three times in four years in order to accommodate guests – this book had me in stitches.
Following booking a holiday to Corfu with the girls, we all made the vow that we would take this book on holiday to read. We did. I will always remember this book and that holiday. I struggle to think of a holiday and a book which was as much fun and made me laugh just as hard.
Recommended for: those of us who need to be reminded of the sun and fun filled family days!
Favourite quote: “I said I like being half-educated; you were so much more surprised at everything when you were ignorant.”
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it!