Anne's Reviews > My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
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's review
Nov 08, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: book-group
Read in January, 2005

I just read this again in October 2012 as it was a selection for our book group. Even the third time around, this book has not lost its charm. Durrell's keen powers of observation extend not only to his beloved natural world but also are trained on the eccentricities of his family, their friends, and the people he encounters on Corfu like Spiro, who takes the family in hand when they first arrive and “Like a great, brown ugly angel he watched over us as tenderly as though we were slightly weak-minded children."

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

Mother: “I do wish you wouldn't argue with me when I'm knitting.”

“‎'All we need is a book,' roared Leslie; 'don't panic, hit 'em with a book.”

“We stared at the odd garment and wondered what it was for. 'What is it?' asked Larry at length. 'It's a bathing costume, of course,' said Mother. 'What on earth did you think it was?' 'It looks like a badly skinned whale,' said Larry, peering at it closely.”

Larry: “I can't be expected to produce deathless prose in an atmosphere of gloom and eucalyptus.”

“I ask you! Isn’t it laughable that future generations should be deprived of my work simply because some horny-handed idiot has tied that stinking beast of burden near my window?” Larry asked.

“Oh , Mother, don’t be so old-fashioned,” Margo said impatiently. “After all, you only die once.” This remark was as baffling as it was true, and successfully silenced Mother.

I was recently asked to name some of my all-time favorite books and this is one of them. A terrific memoir of a life that must have been absolute perfection for a 10-year-old boy. I was filled with delight and pure pleasure while reading this. The synopsis below gives you an overview.
When the unconventional Durrell family can no longer endure the damp, gray English climate, they do what any sensible family would do: sell their house and relocate to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu. My Family and Other Animals was intended to embrace the natural history of the island but ended up as a delightful account of Durrell's family's experiences, including the many eccentric hangers-on. The human comedy is interspersed by descriptions of the animal life which Gerald observes on his expeditions around the family homes, island, and seashore and which he frequently brings back and keeps as pets--puppies, toads, scorpions, geckoes, ladybugs, glowworms, octopuses, bats, and butterflies.
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