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Corfu Trilogy #1

My Family and Other Animals

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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, from the many eccentric hangers-on to the ceaseless procession of puppies, toads, scorpions, geckoes, ladybugs, glowworms, octopuses, bats, and butterflies into their home.

273 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1956

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About the author

Gerald Durrell

221 books1,498 followers
Gerald "Gerry" Malcolm Durrell was born in India in 1925. His elder siblings are Lawrence Durrell, Leslie Durrell, and Margaret Durrell. His family settled on Corfu when Durrell was a boy and he spent his time studying its wildlife. He relates these experiences in the trilogy beginning with My Family and Other Animals, and continuing with Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods. In his books he writes with wry humour and great perception about both the humans and the animals he meets.

On leaving Corfu he returned to England to work on the staff of Whipsnade Park as a student keeper. His adventures there are told with characteristic energy in Beasts in My Belfry. A few years later, Durrell began organising his own animal-collecting expeditions. The first, to the Cameroons, was followed by expeditions to Paraguay, Argentina and Sierra Leone. He recounts these experiences in a number of books, including The Drunken Forest. Durrell also visited many countries while shooting various television series, including An Amateur Naturalist. In 1958 Gerald Durrell realised a lifelong dream when he set up the Jersey Zoological Park, followed a few years later by the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust.

Durell was married twice; Jacquie Durrell (1951-1979), Lee Durrell (1979-1995).

Gerald Durrell's style is exuberant, passionate and acutely observed. Gerald Durrell died in 1995.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,437 reviews
Profile Image for Kevin Ansbro.
Author 5 books1,396 followers
February 9, 2020
A delightful, lyrical and altogether MAGICAL read.
Review includes mention of tortoise sex!

It's usually a huge mistake to return to a childhood favourite, imagining it would be just as good the second time around. So when I found this book in the attic, with its dog-eared cover held together with Sellotape and pages jaundiced with age, I had mixed feelings about reading it again.
(A side note to any fellow Brits who once strode majestically in platform shoes: the price on the book was a nostalgic three shillings and sixpence).

My Family and Other Animals is the semi-autobiographical account of prepubescent Gerald's expat life on the Greek island of Corfu with his upper crust, eccentric, English family.
Happily, this entertaining book far-exceeded my expectations. I rediscovered the same Mediterranean island from my boyhood wish list; a sun-drenched idyll of olive groves, cypress trees and hidden coves.

Durrell was better known as a leading naturalist and conservationist, but it would be a huge mistake to disregard his skill as an author.
Without a shadow of a doubt, he was a formidable storyteller and his command of the English language would shame most of our modern-day scribblers. Not only this; his human imagery is up there with the best.
Durrell generates genuinely laugh-out-loud moments with his impish descriptive humour: his sister Margot's acne-ridden face, for example, is described as being "swollen up like a plate of scarlet porridge".
Animals on the island are cheerfully anthropomorphised, including Geronimo the gecko, Quasimodo the pigeon, plus Widdle and Puke, the gambolling puppies.
Durrell's overuse of similes and adjectives might cause some readers to grind their teeth to powder, but I personally adore this overkill of descriptive imagery.

The author's personification of animals extends to goats, whose "udders swing like bagpipes" and also in respect of some tortoise-shagging (the tortoises with each other, not any deviant behaviour on Durrell's part).

Set in the 1930s, before the hedonism of mass tourism had descended upon the Greek islands, Gerald Durrell puts the 'Cor!' into Corfu.
This is not just a novel for bookish school kids. I enjoyed it as a boy and I relished it even more as an adult.
Methinks it was three shillings and sixpence well spent!

Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,637 followers
April 6, 2019
When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a veterinarian someday. I loved learning about animals. We were never without a cat and a dog. We were the proud owners of some clever parakeets. One of them would perch on the back of the dog and hitch a ride around the living room. Hobie the poodle was less enthused than Cocoa the bird. I loved reading books about four-legged critters. Looking back, none of these things were all too astonishing – didn’t every little kid have pets and a desire to be a vet? However, my parents drew the line at these domesticated, household pets. Certainly a tortoise was out of the question, as was a lizard or a gecko. A scorpion would not even have crossed my mind. In fact, about five years ago I was cleaning out the basement, yanking down boxes that had traveled with my husband from his childhood home to his first home to the home we now share together. There was a curious little wooden box among some of his old letters and cards to and from old teen aged flames (yes, I peeked at these!) I opened the wooden box expecting to see a piece of jewelry or some curious memento from one of these girls. Instead, what I found was the shell of a scorpion! I’m certain this would not have fazed Gerry Durrell in the least; I, however, ceased my snooping for the day. I later found out that this had been a treasured pet while my husband was away at college. Cats and dogs weren’t allowed in the dormitory, but apparently there were no rules about keeping a scorpion. Gerry would have approved.

This book is the first in Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy. It’s a memoir of his time as a youngster spent on that enchanting Greek island along with his mother and siblings. It highlights his love for wildlife, his affinity with the natural world. We get a glimpse of this conservationist and writer’s first encounters with the animals he grew to cherish and protect on a professional level. He tells his story with clarity and humor. His family gets mixed up in the stories along the way, and this just added to the charm of the book. I love the way he explains his intentions in the introduction:

"It was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic account of the natural history of the island, but I made a grave mistake by introducing my family into the book in the first few pages. Having got themselves on paper, they then proceeded to establish themselves and invite various friends to share the chapters. It was only with the greatest difficulty, and by exercising considerable cunning, that I managed to retain a few pages here and there which I could devote exclusively to animals."

I laughed at so many of the personal anecdotes, savored the beautiful descriptions of the island, and was entertained by his interactions with many of the island locals. The encounter with the Rose-beetle Man (what a fantastic figure this man must have been!), a meeting with a convict let out for a temporary jaunt, and the appointments with various tutors (including one with quite the impressive bird collection) all pointed to the fact that Gerry lived quite an extraordinary young life. I expected to be amused by and pleased with this story, but what I found to be a pleasant surprise was that Gerald Durrell could really write! I didn’t just highlight the funny stuff (although there are loads of those bits marked up too), but passages like this one left me gaga over his choice of words:

"Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen. Each day had a tranquility, a timelessness, about it, so that you wished it would never end. But then the dark skin of night would peel off and there would be a fresh day waiting for us, glossy and colourful as a child’s transfer and with the same tinge of unreality."

Naturally, the stars of this memoir were the animals – from Roger his faithful dog, to a pair of water snakes, to a tortoise ‘wedding’ and ‘honeymoon’ (rated PG-13), to a ferocious battle to the death between a praying mantis and a gecko, Gerry’s descriptions are hilarious and compelling. I loved the way he personified all of his creatures. You can tell instantly that these are not ‘just animals’ but an important and vibrant part of his life. Don't forget that Roger is a dog:

"Roger and I would squat by the hour in the heather, watching the tortoise knights in their ill-fitting armour jousting for the ladies, and the contests never failed to entertain us. Sometimes we would lay bets with each other as to which one was going to win, and by the end of the summer Roger had backed so many losers that he owed me a considerable amount of money."

Check out this rendezvous with a pair of toads:

"They squatted there like two obese, leprous Buddhas, peering at me and gulping in that guilty way that toads have. Holding one in each hand, it was like handling two flaccid, leathery balloons, and the toads blinked their fine golden filigreed eyes at me, and settled themselves more comfortably on my fingers, gazing at me trustfully, their wide, thick-lipped mouths seeming to spread in embarrassed and uncertain grins."

There are plenty of other tales for you to discover on your own, should you choose to pick up this book – which I highly recommend! It’s a wonderful diversion and was just what I needed at the moment. It may be considered ‘light’ reading – yes, it is – but it is certainly not without value! I was rather interested to learn that Gerald Durrell was dedicated to protecting endangered species during his adult life. An admirable endeavor indeed.
Profile Image for dream.
10 reviews12 followers
May 31, 2015
The first from the trilogy and the first of Durrel's I've ever read. No words can express my love for this author and his immense sense of humor, pure and light, nothing topical or scathing beneath. I remember vividly laughing out loud on the streets and on buses while reading it, so wisely consider your reading spot! Howling with laughter in public places might cause you troubles, but the best part - you won't care a bit and will always consider it worthy!
Profile Image for Kimber Silver.
Author 1 book225 followers
April 7, 2023
"This is the story of a five-year sojourn that I and my family made on the Greek island of Corfu. It was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic account of the natural history of the island, but I made a grave mistake by introducing my family into the book in the first few pages. Having got themselves on paper, they then proceeded to establish themselves and invite various friends to share the chapters."

I say, Mr. Durrell, introducing your wildly entertaining family was the icing on the cake to this spectacular tale!

The things I’ve seen, heard and experienced in the pages of this novel could hardly be put into words without the picturesque writing skills that Gerald Durrell possessed. However, if I could pick a family to call my own, it would be the Durrells. With Gerry’s siblings, Larry, Leslie, and Margo, the amusement is endless! Their unflappable mother is adorable: so calm and collected considering she lived in a home that had become a cross between a madhouse and a zoo! And the supporting characters are every bit as lovable. Spiro, a local taxi driver, takes the family under his wing and becomes an integral part of their daily lives.

One of my favorite scenes, which I’ve aptly named ‘the flinging of the scorpions’, follows:

"Then one day I found a fat female scorpion in the wall, wearing what at first glance appeared to be a pale fawn fur coat. Closer inspection proved that this strange garment was made up of a mass of tiny babies clinging to the mother’s back. …I made up my mind to smuggle them into the house …"

Gerry placed his new find in a matchbox and left it on the mantle while they all sat down to lunch. As luck would have it, brother Larry was a smoker. I yelled at my Kindle to warn Larry of the hidden danger inside the matchbox he was about to open, but of course, they never listen to me!

"He uttered a roar of fright that made Lugaretzia drop a plate and brought Roger out from beneath the table, barking wildly. With a flick of his hand, he sent the unfortunate scorpion flying down the table, and she landed midway between Margo and Leslie, scattering babies like confetti …"
The ensuing chaos had me doubled over with laughter!

I also giggled as the ‘magenpies’ – the name Spiro gives to magpies - destroyed Larry’s manuscript; and again when a snake-filled bathtub sent Leslie streaking into the midst of a party with only a small towel for covering. In fact, I hooted aloud so often that my own dogs would watch me with rapt attention, perplexed by my sudden outbursts.

Every page is filled with dreamily descriptive writing so remarkable that I feel as if I’ve experienced the entire book first hand. I would urge anyone, no matter your age, to give this heart-warming, hilarious romp a go. Gerald Durrell is one of the most gifted writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
May 1, 2022
My Family and Other Animals (Corfu Trilogy, #1), Gerald Durrell

My Family and Other Animals (1956) is an autobiographical work by British naturalist Gerald Durrell. It tells of the years that he lived as a child with his siblings and widowed mother on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939. It describes the life of the Durrell family in a humorous manner, and explores the fauna of the island.

It is the first and most well-known of Durrell's Corfu Trilogy, together with Birds, Beasts, and Relatives (1969) and The Garden of the Gods (1978).

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال1996میلادی

عنوان: خانواده من و بقیه حیوانات؛ نویسنده: جرالد مالکوم دارل؛ مترجم: گلی امامی؛ تهران، نشر نو، سال1363؛ در323ص؛ چاپ دیگر نشر چشمه، سال1376، در326ص؛ شابک9646194338؛ چاپ دیگر سال1386؛ چاپ سوم سال1393؛ چاپ چهارم سال1395؛ شابک9789646194335؛ چاپ پنجم 1397؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا- سده20م

کتاب «خانواده‌ من و بقیه‌ حیوانات» را «جرالد دارل»، با الهام از یادمانهای پنج سال زندگی خویش، در جزیره‌ «کورفوی یونان» بنوشته است؛ در میان این یادمانها، علاقه ی فراوان نویسنده به طبیعت، و جانوران بسیار نمایان است؛ زمانی که خانواده «دارل» از اقلیم نمناک و خاکستری انگلستان به ستوه می‌آیند، خانه‌ شان را می‌فروشند، و راهی جزیره آفتابی «کورفو» در «یونان» می‌شوند؛

کتاب «خانواده من و بقیه حیوانات» قرار بوده، کتابی درباره ی تاریخ طبیعی جزیره ی «کورفو» باشد، اما در پایان، به کتابی درباره ی تجربه‌ های بی‌همانند خانواده «دارل» با «عقرب‌»ها، «کفشدوزک‌»ها، «لاروهای شب‌تاب حشرات»، «اختاپوس‌»ها، «خفاش‌»ها، «وزغ‌»ها، «پروانه‌»ها و «مارمولک‌»ها در خانه‌ شان، و در جزیره، بدل می‌شود؛ «جرالد» ده ساله، سفرش به «کورفو» را، با تمام وسایلی که به نظرش برای چنین سفری لازم است، آغاز می‌کند: یک تور حشره‌ گیری، یک سگ، و یک شیشه پر از کرم پروانه، که هر لحظه ممکن است پیله ببندند؛ در زمان زندگی در جزیره، «جرالد» چندان برهان غرغرهای برادرها، و خواهر بزرگ‌ترش را، درباره ی پیدا شدن «مار» در وان حمام، یا «عقرب» روی میز غذاخوری، درک نمی‌کند؛ کتاب «خانواده من و بقیه حیوانات» کتابی سرشار از لحظات خنده، از مواجهه ی خانواده ی «دارل» با طبیعت جزیره ی «کورفو» است؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 20/03/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 10/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Jola.
180 reviews248 followers
August 18, 2017
I loved 'My family and Other Animals'(1956) by Gerald Durrell from start to finish, thoroughly and in detail. That's why I will tell you about it from A to Z.

A is for animals
The way Gerald Durrell describes them is unbeatable. He casts a spell on you not only when he portrays quite spectacular species but also quite prosaic ones.

Gerry Durrell.
[Image source]

B is for bathing-costume
The chapter in which mother purchases an extravagant garment, 'covered from top to bottom with hundreds of frills and pleats and tucks', is one of my absolute favourites. Just to give you a foretaste:
‘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 to me like a badly skinned whale,’ said Larry, peering at it closely.

C is for Corfu
'Here in Corfu,’ said Theodore, his eyes twinkling with pride, 'anything can happen.' A picturesque Greek island Gerry (aged ten) and his family (mother, two older brothers and one sister) moved to from Britain. They lived there from 1935 to 1939. The beauty of the place depicted by Durrell is dazzling, in all seasons, in all times of the day. Nowadays Corfu probably looks quite different, with thousands of tourists, but I’m sure the magic captured in 'My Family and Other Animals' still lingers there: 'Outside, the island was striped and patched in black and silver by moonlight. Far down in the dark cypress trees the owls called to each other comfortingly. The sky looked as black and soft as a mole-skin covered with a delicate dew of stars. The magnolia tree loomed vast over the house, its branches full of white blooms, like a hundred miniature reflections of the moon, and their thick, sweet scent hung over the veranda languorously, the scent that was an enchantment luring you out into the mysterious, moonlit countryside.' The enchantment really works. Since I finished 'My family and Other Animals', I have been dreaming of going to Corfu.

Herbert List, Ionian island of Pondikoisi seen from Kanoni, Corfu. 1937.
[Image source]

D is for Dandy Dinmont Terrier
Mother's dog. Dodo constantly challenges beauty standards. Affectionately called by Larry 'that canine Frankenstein'.

E is for education
Gerry doesn’t attend any schools on Corfu, he has lessons with tutors. I’m sure you will be astonished by the gallery of his eccentric teachers.

F is for family
The most obvious thing you are attracted to are the adventures of the Durrells and their portrayals but there is something not so obvious worth exploring also. I mean the relationships between the members of the family, full of warmth and tolerance. One of the keys to the success is probably the fact that they are communicating almost all the time: 'we seemed unable to extract the full flavour of our letters and magazines unless they were shared.' The siblings are nasty to each other at times but even the most malicious remarks have a cordial lining.

Gerry Durrell and a part of his family, 1936. The Daffodil Yellow Villa in the background.
[Image source]

G is for guests
Mostly neurotic artists and writers. Invited spontaneously, in large amounts: 'Sometimes the fresh load of guests would turn up before we had got rid of the previous group, and the chaos was indescribable'.

H is for humour
Ubiquitarian! It's one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read. I would have never guessed that Durrell was seriously ill while writing 'My family and Other Animals' - he was recovering from jaundice. If you think it's sensible enough not to read this book in public places to prevent bursts of uncontrollable laughter, you are wrong. And I'm speaking from experience. It is enough to recall some scenes to get hysterical while you are for example travelling on a bus or doing shopping. You will encounter various kinds of humour: funny situations, chucklesome comments, cranky personalities, elements of black humour or a comedy full of gags: 'Living in Corfu was rather like living in one of the more flamboyant and slapstick comic operas.'

I is for I am grateful!
Three Goodreads friends inspired and convinced me to read this ludicrous book. Thanks from the bottom of my heart to Jennifer B., Julie and Roman Clodia. I will always associate them with this uproarious, amazing read and it will make my memories even lovelier. If you check the Goodreads shelves of these three exceptional ladies – which I strongly recommend - the first thing you will probably notice is the diversity of their literary tastes. It goes to show that Durrell adequately caters for a variety of readers' needs and preferences.

Gerry Durrell.
[Image source]

J is for just perfect
...for a rainy day. Or a day when you want to forget about your worries. Or a day when you get bad news. Or a day when you are just feeling blue with no reason. From now on 'My family and Other Animals' will make an indispensable part of my bookish first aid kit. Durrell takes care of his readers' well-being in a truly touching way: the real cause why the family decided to come back to Britain was the war, while it's not mentioned in the story even once.

K is for Kralefsky
Gerry's teacher. One of the most comical characters in the book. Known for his chivalry and wrestling skills. Which turned out to be quite virtual.

L is for Lugaretzia
A Greek housekeeper who continuously moans and entertains the Durrells’ guests with generous displays of her gums. 'There was only one thing in life that could bring a smile to Lugaretzia’s gloomy countenance, a glint to her spaniel eyes, and that was a discussion of her ailments.'

M is for Mother
Patient. Practical. Sane which seems to be quite an exception in this family. Adorable. You might try not to love her but you won't stand a ghost of a chance. Her hobbies are cooking and gardening.

Gerald (aged eight) and Mother.
[Image source]

N is for Nirvana
The state Mother has gradually reached: 'that happy Nirvana where nothing shocks or startles is exemplified by the fact that one weekend recently, when all alone in the house, she was treated to the sudden arrival of a series of crates containing two pelicans, a scarlet ibis, a vulture, and eight monkeys. A lesser mortal might have quailed at such a contingency, but not Mother.'

O is for other family members
We meet only Gerry, his siblings and mum but no doubt other family members are remarkable too, for instance 'Aunt Bertha, keeping flocks of imaginary cats' or 'Great-Uncle Patrick, who wanders about nude and tells complete strangers how he killed whales with a penknife…'

P is for pink
Strawberry pink, to be exact. The colour of the first house the Durrells rented on Corfu. The villa had an air of pink-faced determination.

Q is for quirky
Most people would probably find the Durrells and their pets quite bizarre. When they were coming to England by train a ‘disgracefully efficient official’ at the Swiss frontier described them in a form: 'One travelling Circus and Staff'.

R is for Roger
Gerry’s dog and companion. One of the most candid and poignant canine portraits I have encountered in literature so far.

S is for Spiro
A taxi driver, devoted friend of the Durrells who speaks unconventional English, adding 's' at random.

Gerry and Spiro.
[Image source]

T is for tortoise
Achilles, one of the first pets the Durrells had on Corfu. A connoisseur of wild strawberries.

U is for universal
Chances are this book will be loved by readers from about 9 years old to infinity. Most children will probably focus on crazy adventures while more mature audience will indulge in Durrell's irony and beauty of his writing style. I think the omnipresent humour is the strength of the book but its weakness at the same time: if it's not compatible with yours, you will probably get bored and frustrated.

V is for veracity
According to Gerald Durrell 'all the anecdotes about the island and the islanders are absolutely true'. Am I the only one who has the impression that the author is winking now? The sad part is that the idyllic image of his family in the book seems to be highly idealised.

Gerry and Roger, 1935.
[Image source]

W is for writer
Larry, up-and-coming man of letters, one of Gerry’s brothers, later famous for 'Alexandria Quartet'. Twenty-three years old, dreaming of literary career. He considers himself a genius who has to cope with cruel reality and is not always successful: 'I assure you the house is a death-trap. Every conceivable nook and cranny is stuffed with malignant faunae waiting to pounce. How I have escaped being maimed for life is beyond me. A simple, innocuous action like lighting a cigarette is fraught with danger. Even the sanctity of my bedroom is not respected. First, I was attacked by a scorpion, a hideous beast that dripped venom and babies all over the place. Then my room was torn asunder by magpies. Now we have snakes in the bath and huge flocks of albatrosses flapping round the house, making noises like defective plumbing.' I was surprised when I found out that real Lawrence, was married and lived on Corfu with his wife. There’s no trace of her in the book.

X is for xenophobia
Fortunately not present at all! The hospitality of Corfiots was really moving. Kind and generous, they offered delicious food to Gerry and made his family feel at home.

Y is for yes
Yes, I’m definitely going to read the other two parts of 'The Corfu Trilogy'.

Z is for Zatopec
An elderly Armenian poet, one of the peculiar guests: 'His voice shook the house like a sirocco as he swept into it, his cloak rippling, his arms full of bottles'. Notorious for his enthusiasm for the opposite sex, forlorn Lugaretzia included.

Now you know my ABC,
Next time won't you read with me?

Gerry Durrell.
[Image source]
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,743 reviews2,268 followers
August 8, 2019
4.5 Stars

”I should like to pay a special tribute to my mother, to whom this book is dedicated. Like a gentle, enthusiastic, and understanding Noah, she has steered her vessel full of strange progeny through the stormy seas of life with great skill, always faced with the possibility of mutiny, always surrounded by the dangerous shoals of overdraft and extravagance, never being sure that her navigation would be approved by the crew, but certain that she would be blamed for anything that went wrong.”

There’s a charm in this semi-autobiographical tale of Gerald Durrell’s family’s life after moving from England to the Greek island of Corfu as a young, inquisitive lad at the age of ten, surrounded by nature and discovering the wildlife of his new surroundings. His nature, from his youth through his entire life, seems to center around the bond between man, the natural world and animals, and he quickly gathers new “pets” to bring home to his less than enthusiastic family over entertaining some of these species. And while I can completely understand not wanting to find some of these critters have been released into my home, in his skillful hands these stories are charmingly humorous, and I loved every second of his escapades, especially since all of these anecdotes are true.

”Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen. Each day had a tranquility, timelessness, about it, so that you wished it would never end. But then the dark skin of night would peel off and there would be a fresh day waiting for us, glossy and colourful as a child’s transfer and with the same tinge of unreality.”

Shortly before I was born, my parents were gifted an Irish Setter puppy from a family two houses away, they owned the sire of the litter, and the puppy had originally been briefly owned by another couple who had it sent straight off to some Edgar-Sawtelle-like intense training camp without ever interacting with it. He arrived at our house, essentially, as perfectly behaved a dog as possible – especially for an Irish Setter. I took my naps on him, while my mother was busy with other things. There’s been very few days, months, years since then that I have lived without a dog or cat in my home. I grew up wanting to become a veterinarian, as well, and couldn’t imagine anyone not wanting to do something where you could interacts with dogs and cats. Certainly there were other critters in my neighborhood, where we spent our days exploring, catching pollywogs and traipsing through the woods or swinging on vines all while trying to avoid snakes and such, or catching lightning bugs at night (but then releasing them back to the darkening skies), but I can’t imagine bringing home even a snake, let alone some of the creatures young Gerald brought home.

But it isn’t just his love of these creatures, or his love of nature in general that moves this story along, it’s this delightfully quirky family he happens to belong to, and their various reactions to coming home to yet another new strange “pet” that he has brought home. A curious boy and a lenient, loving mother together make this a wildly eccentric ride, in the best way. Shared with a sprinkling of nostalgia, a love of family and a captivating humour throughout, he managed to make me wish I’d been there through it all (well, almost all… I think I would take a pass on the incident with the scorpions.)

”It was no half-hearted spring, this: the whole island vibrated with it as though a great, ringing chord had been struck. Everyone and everything heard it, and responded. It was apparent in the gleam of flower petals, the flash of bird wings and the sparkle in the dark, liquid eyes of the peasant girls. In the water-filled ditches the frogs that looked newly enameled snored a rapturous chorus in the lush weeds. In the village coffee shops the wine seemed redder and, somehow, more potent. Blunt, work-calloused fingers plucked at guitar strings with strange gentleness, and rich voices rose in lilting, haunting song.”

Many thanks to Candi whose review prompted me to add this:

Many thanks, as well, to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!
Profile Image for Robin.
484 reviews2,620 followers
December 22, 2017
This is a perfectly charming memoir written by Gerald Durrell, a well known British naturalist and zookeeper. It's charming because it chronicles his experiences with his family on Corfu, as a 10-year-old animal enthusiast. It's charming because it is beautifully written. It's charming because it is humorous. It's charming because his family is so colonial and ooze Englishness but at the same time are quite unconventional.

For all those reasons, I would recommend this book and indeed, I had a few chuckles over the antics of the various animals. I had more chuckles when the humans were involved, though, as I found the family dynamics really funny, if not entirely realistic.

It's a lovely palette cleanser between the heavy literary fiction I've been reading, that is certain. It's an escape to not only another country and time, but also from reality. This story, while having a certain truth that comes with memoirs, has been distinctly sanitised. If this is to be believed, this family's biggest troubles are that one of their dogs' hips comes out of place from time to time, or that they've argued over the naming of a homemade boat, or that they had too many guests to comfortably accommodate.

It's a sweet, Winnie-The-Pooh world. It's an uncomplicated, kind rendering of all characters and animals within. If you can settle into this, you will no doubt enjoy yourself. If you are looking for anything beyond, you'll find yourself looking longingly over your TBR list, where the complexities of Updike, Franzen, Laurence, Atwood, and many others beckon.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Jonathan Terrington.
593 reviews559 followers
May 28, 2012
I went back and decided to write a review on this non-fictional novel/memoir (not all events are fully true I believe) which is considered by some to be a modern classic.

I remember finding a box of Gerald Durrell stories on the shelf as a twelve year old and reading them in luxury. They captivated me as Durrell told the story of his childhood in Corfu hunting animals. Not only was it full of interesting facts about the animals he caught but also about the people in his life. Told with wit, humour and the pure ability of a natural storyteller this is a sort of autobiography that you can read as a novel full to the brim with short stories.

If there's one thing Durrell does exceptionally well it's write description. And my thought has always been that a gifted writer is a master of description. His descriptive writing almost drips from the page so that you feel every detail in your imagination as a real sense.

However I would recommend this book and his other works because of the memories they'll leave with you after reading. You'll laugh at the outrageous characters he meets, the wacky things his family gets up to and be fascinated by the details of everyday life magnified to an extraordinary degree.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,164 reviews511 followers
January 17, 2018
"I would like to make a point of stressing that all the anecdotes about the island and the islanders are absolutely true. Living in Corfu was rather like living in one of the more flamboyant and slapstick comic operas." - thus claims Gerald Durrell in his Speech of Defense - or as other authors would prefer to call it: The Foreword or Introduction.

Gerard Durrell: My grateful thanks then to:
My wife, who pleased me by laughing uproariously when reading the manuscript, only to inform me that it was my spelling that amused her.

Sophie, my secretary, who was responsible for the introduction of commas and the ruthless eradication of the split infinitives

Split infinitives was a popular vice for authors such as Daniel Defoe, Benjamin Franklin, William Wordsworth, Abraham Lincoln, George Eliot, Henry James, and Willa Cather.

And so begins a memoir spanning over the five years of living on the Greek island of Corfu pre WWII, by the author and his family. A slapstick, comic opera it was for sure. The author was a young boy of around ten years old when his widowed mother with her four children, three boys and a girl, decided to leave Britain for a place with sunshine, clean air and open spaces. What ensued made great fodder for several books, an opera and ultimately a CBS series (The Durrells) in the end. I briefly watched a few episodes, but turned back to the books. The series captured the atmosphere and background of the Corfu trilogy well, but lost the soul of the author's writing completely. It is challenging to get animals to do on film what they did in the book after all. The choice of actors did not represent the characters on the island quite the same, and that's a mild diplomatic statement.

Nevertheless, Gerry and his menagerie of fauna brought much laughter and mayhem into his family's life. The magpies had their moment of glory during a luncheon to which the family, who overflowed with human kindness invited everyone they could think of, including people they cordially disliked.
There was something decidedly queer about the culprits, I decided; instead of flying away as quickly as possible they remained squatting among the tattered flowers, swaying rhythmically, their eyes bright, uttering tiny chucks of satisfaction to each other. Having gazed at me with rapt attention for a moment, one of them walked very unsteadily across the table, a flower in his beak, lost his balance on the edge of the cloth, and fell heavily to the ground. The other one gave a hoarse cluck of amusement, put his head under his wing, and went to sleep. I was mystified by this unusual behaviour. Then I noticed a smashed bottle of beer on the flagstones. It became obvious that the Magenpies had indulged in a party of their own, and were very drunk. I caught them both quite easily, though the one on the table tried to hide under a butter-bespattered napkin and pretend he was not there.
It was also the day Dodo the other dog came into season and had just about the entire island's dogs bursting through the front door to be of service to her. There were the two water-snakes in the bath tub who needed resuscitation after being left out in the sun for too long. It resulted in Leslie almost losing the towel around his loins and his dignity running out the front door and in front of the guest as he tried to describe the size of the monsters in the bath. They were suffering from sunstroke, poor things, said Mrs. Durrell. The whole circus resulted from obtaining Old Plop, a regal and ancient terrapin, who did not do well residing with the snakes in the same pond. Old Kosti, the man who murdered his wife and who received only three years of imprisonment, was Gerry's fishing mate and partner in passion in collecting rare and endangered fauna species. So by the way, a five year prison sentence was regarded much more important and only meant for people who dynamited fish - a very serious offense.

The four siblings had a daunting task. As Larry, Gerry's oldest sibling put it, the four children had to bring up their mother. In the end she was a credit to them all. Mrs. Durrell, as she was addressed on the island, had a few mountains to climb, a number of surprises to address, and a hungry family to feed while establishing themselves in the Strawberry-pink villa. Life brought lessons for a courageous, even-tempered woman who brilliantly and successfully navigated through it all.

Most of the animals became characters in the tale. Quasimodo, the pigeon, refused to inhabit the specially constructed pigeon-loft. He demanded to sleep on Margo's bed. When she turned in her sleep, he would hobble up the bed, perched on her face, cooing loudly and lovingly. Quasimodo became embittered, sullen and irritable when he woke up one morning and saw the egg he laid between the cushions during the night. When the same thing happened the next night, another egg, his personality changed completely...

Gerry was tutored by various men on the island. But the young boy did not deem education very important. In fact, he regarded education as an imminent danger.
I said I liked being half-educated, you were so much more surprised at everything when you were ignorant...
A family friend became the tutor and quickly realized that young Gerry is only willing to study anything if a zoological tinge is added to the lessons.
We would draw giant maps, wrinkled with mountains, and then fill in the various places of interest, together with drawings of the more exciting fauna to be found there. Thus for me the chief products of Ceylon were tapirs and tea; of India tigers and rice; of Australia kangaroos and sheep, while the blue curves of currents we drew across the oceans carried whales, albatross, penguins, and walrus, as well as hurricanes, trade winds, fair weather and foul. Our maps were works of art...

George discovered that by seasoning a series of unpalatable facts with a sprig of zoology and a sprinkle of completely irrelevant detail, he could get me interested. Thus I became conversant with some historical data which, to the best of my knowledge, have never been recorded before. Breathlessly, history lesson by history lesson, I followed Hannibal’s progress over the Alps. His reason for attempting such a feat, and what he intended to do on the other side, were details that scarcely worried me. No, my interest in what I considered to be a very badly planned expedition lay in the fact that I knew the name of each and every elephant. I also knew that Hannibal had appointed a special man not only to feed and look after the elephants, but to give them hot-water bottles when the weather got cold. This interesting fact seems to have escaped most serious historians...
The lectures were attended by Gerry, his dog Roger, Achilles the tortoise and Quasimodo the pigeon. The four musketeers doted on the juicy big grapes of Corfu. Achilles loved the wild strawberries the best though.

Outdoor tutoring brought the best results. In the shallow water on the beach, lying spread-eagled in the sun, Gerry learnt:
'So the French and British Fleets were slowly drawing together for what was to be the decisive sea battle of the war. When the enemy was sighted. Nelson was on the bridge bird-watching through his telescope … he had already been warned of the Frenchmen’s approach by a friendly gull … eh? … oh, a greater black-backed gull I think it was … well, the ships manoeuvred round each other … of course they couldn’t move so fast in those days, for they did everything by sail … no engines … no, not even outboard engines … The British sailors were a bit worried because the French seemed so strong, but when they saw that Nelson was so little affected by the whole thing that he was sitting on the bridge labelling his birds’-egg collection, they decided that there was really nothing to be scared about …’
The characters on the island were as picturesque as the prose. There was Yani, the goat shepherd.

The old shepherd, as I expected, was in the tattered shade of the vine that sprawled on its iron trellis-work above my head, but to my intense annoyance he had not woken up. He was sprawling in a plain deal chair, which was tilted back against the wall at a dangerous angle. His arms dangled limply, his legs were spread out, and his magnificent moustache, orange and white with nicotine and age, lifted and trembled with his snores, like some strange seaweed that is raised and lowered by a gentle swell.
'Today I should have taken my goats to Gastouri. But it was too hot, much too hot. In the hills the rocks will be so hot you could light a cigarette from them. So I went instead and tasted Taki’s new white wine. Spiridion! what a wine … like the blood of a dragon and as smooth as a fish … What a wine! When I came back the air was full of sleep, so here I am.’
There was Spiros who took the family under his wing upon their arrival on the island and who would become a big influence in the author's life.
Yous English? Thought so … English always wants bathrooms … I gets a bathroom in my house … Spiro’s my name, Spiro Hakiapoulos … they alls calls me Spiro Americano on accounts of I lives in America … Yes, spent eight years in Chicago … That’s where I learnt my goods English … Wents there to makes moneys … Then after eight years I says: “Spiros,” I says, “yous mades enough …” sos I comes backs to Greece … brings this car … best ons the islands … no one else gets a car like this … All the English tourists knows me, theys all asks for me when theys comes here … Theys knows theys wonts be swindled … I likes the English … best kinds of peoples … Honest to Gods, ifs I wasn’t Greek I’d likes to be English.’
Don't you just love the title of this book? It caused a few giggles on this side of the equation. Gerald Durrell wrote autobiographical accounts of his family and all the animals in his life. Wikipedia describes his work as of such kind — characterised by a love for nature and animals, dry wit, crisp descriptions, and humorous analogies of human beings with animals and vice versa.

I like the idea of 'crisp descriptions'. That it was for sure.

Gerald Durrell reminds me so much of William Smith as Smith is depicted in a biography: The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester. Smith spent twenty-two years piecing together the fragments of this unseen universe to create an epochal and remarkably beautiful hand-painted map. His discoveries of fossils in 1793, while digging a canal in Britain, enabled (in a nutshell) for Charles Darwin(1809-1882) to become famous.

This memoir is the first in the Corfu trilogy:
My Family and Other Animals (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1956)
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives (Collins, 1969)
The Garden of the Gods (Fauna and Family) (Collins, 1978)

Did I mention that I LOVED this experience? Well, there you have it. Brilliant. The reader became part of the family, of the picturesque island, of all the peasant neighbors and every single adventure by the lure of the prose. One of the best memoirs I have read in a very long time. Poking fun at himself, first and foremost, and then at his nuclear blood relations, as well as his adopted island 'family', just made this an adorable, wonderful, charming, delightful read. I read the 2004 edition.

Gerald Durrell was an internationally well-known naturalist who spend his entire career in saving endangered animal species. He was way ahead of his times.

This spoiler contains all the honors bestowed on this remarkable man.
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,242 reviews2,256 followers
June 14, 2019
Gerald Durrell is pure pleasure to read - the ideal medicine if you are stressed out or down in the dumps. Like P. G. Wodehouse, he is guaranteed to lift up your spirits.

This book is slightly different from his usual tales about zoos and animal collecting, though - humans actually take up a large part of it. As Durrell says in the introduction:
This is the story of a five-year sojourn that I and my family made on the Greek Island of Corfu. It was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic account of the natural history of the island, but I made the grave mistake of introducing my family into the book in the first few pages. Having got themselves on paper, they then proceeded to establish themselves and invite various friends to share the chapters. It was only with the greatest difficulty, and by exercising considerable cunning, that I managed to retain a few pages here and there which I could devote exclusively to animals.
Well I, for one, am not complaining. Durrell's family is as funny and eccentric as his animals; and even the friends they pick up seem to inhabit the twilight zone between amusing eccentricity and brilliant lunacy.

The Family
Larry, the eldest brother (the famous author Lawrence Durrell), who is so puffed up with importance about his literary talents that he cannot avoid behaving like a pompous ass;

Leslie, the typical gun-toting, empire-building Englishman whose life revolves around guns and shooting;

Margo, whose interests centre exclusively around her well-being and looks, and (of course!) the young men who wander into her sphere of attraction;

Gerry, interested only in filling up the domicile with various types of fauna; and

Mother, obsessed with herbs and cooking, who loves her family unconditionally with all their eccentricities.

The Friends
Spiro, the brutally efficient taxi-driver who "adopts" the Durrell family the moment they land on Corfu, who can even steal goldfish from the King's house to satisfy Gerry;

Theodore, an "expert" on most sciences, but more importantly, Gerry's mentor on zoology and botany;

George, Gerry's first tutor who converts each lesson into a zoological adventure to keep his pupil interested, and practices his fencing as his charge is wrestling with arithmetic;

Kafelsky, another one of Gerry's tutors who is an ornithologist too in his spare time - and his old mother, who talks to flowers...

...and many more.

The Animals
Quasimodo the pigeon who later turned out to female; Achilles the tortoise who met his sad demise at the bottom of a well; the dog contingent - Roger, Widdle, Puke and Dodo, always ready for a bit of adventure; the redoubtable "Magenpies" who play havoc with Larry's literary efforts; Alecko the ill-tempered gull who, Larry insists, is an albatross...

...and many, many more.

The story is filled with exciting happenings. The fight between Geronimo the gecko and Cicely the praying mantis; Larry's attempt to do some hunting which lands him head first in the swamp; the love-sick Margo, trying to row a boat in a sirocco with eyes swollen shut by sunburn; a drunken Larry almost setting fire to the house... all these and many more, most of them triggered by Gerry's ever-increasing animal collection. The fitting finale is provided by a sort of "Mad Tea Party", where most of the islanders congregate at the Durrell household for a day of festivities which are duly disrupted by the household menagerie.

Gerald Durrell uses the time-tested technique of underplaying the momentous and exaggerating the humdrum to brilliant effect. We know that this is a fictionalised account and has to be taken with a large lump of salt - yet we feel it should be like this: that even if such an eccentric family didn't exist, it should.
Profile Image for Johanna.
79 reviews137 followers
March 8, 2019
Hay tres ingredientes que hacen esta lectura exquisita: naturaleza, sensibilidad y humor. Los animales son personajes principales a los que el narrador les atribuye motivaciones, intenciones y personalidad. Terminas encariñándote con ellos y disfrutando la divertida fabulación que Gerald va mezclando con apuntes científicos y tiernas descripciones. De esa manera, hacen parte del escenario termitas, tortugas, escarabajos, escorpiones, aves, delfines, urracas e innumerables especies que habitan Corfú. Por supuesto, también está Roger, ese can que como actor principal se roba los focos de atención y el lector espera atento su próxima aparición, porque Gerald hace de él todo un personaje.

Lo he leído despacio, consumiendo solo un par de capítulos diarios y asegurando de esa manera mi dosis cotidiana de humor. No recuerdo haber reído tanto con un libro en toda mi existencia lectora. Me he visto soltando sonoras carcajadas y marcando las páginas para volver a ellas cuando necesite nuevas risas. Gran parte de la responsabilidad recae sobre la familia, ese grupo heterogéneo y excéntrico dueño de un mordaz humor inglés. Es envidiable la incondicionalidad que profesan, en medio de alaridos por alacranes sueltos en la casa, reproches por los bichos que Gerald solía recolectar, se percibe respeto y una hermosa comunión con la naturaleza. También resulta envidiable la posibilidad de disfrutar la niñez en un lugar mágico, un edén para cualquier niño, sin restricciones ni limites que le permitieran explorar y aprender de la naturaleza. Justamente, una niñez en ese espacio y ese entorno familiar, hicieron posible el magnífico naturalista en el que Gerald Durrell se convirtió. Como habrán imaginado Mi familia y otros animales es uno de esos libros que te llevan inmediatamente a leer sobre la vida de su autor, a preguntarte cuanto de real y cuanto de ficción habrá en lo narrado, a incluir en los planes futuros de viaje a Corfú como infaltable destino, porque después de la lectura quedan ganas de conocer esa estupenda isla, y por supuesto, queda esa avidez por devorar los otros dos libros que componen la trilogía, que bueno que escribió mucho y que hay Gerald Durrell para rato.
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,559 reviews2,312 followers
August 19, 2021
My Family and Other Animals
(Corfu Trilogy #1)
by Gerald Durrell

This is supposed to be about the author's life growing up so, as expected, his family is quirky but wonderful and he is just a fun kid loving animals. The reader doesn't get a real sense of the family characters but other peculiar people are described. Mostly it's about the author as a boy and his love of animals.
He does go into a lot of detail about many animals and how how they interacted with the family, home, and his feelings towards them.
It's a cute book but it's mainly a boy that loves animals in a strange British family in Greece.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,737 reviews1,469 followers
August 17, 2016
I just finished My Family and Other Animals. It's VERY, very good. It's light, it’s fun and in fact what it teaches about animals, human beings included, is absolutely spot-on! It teaches about animals which a lay person doesn't usually get all that inspired about - snakes and lizards and turtles and bugs. Some special birds too. I was running to Wiki time and time again to see these creatures. One can't help but be drawn in because the stories about the strange bugs and beasts are so bizarre! Fun stories based on the author’s own diaries, begun when he was ten, visiting Corfu with his family for the first time. Stories both about his strange pets and the bedlam that repeatedly arises in this very special family. The eruptions of total bedlam will surely have you reminiscing about your own familial calamities.

OK, so have your read books by Gerald’s brother, Lawrence Durrell? These two brothers don’t write the same at all! I was curious to see the two authors side by side. Larry/Lawrence is drawn by Gerald as a younger brother might. Lawrence is thirteen years Gerald’s senior and not the naturalist or conservationist his brother came to be! The tone never gets nasty; the ensuing events are simply related as they happened. The whole family, quirks and all, is viewed through the author’s observant ten-year-old eyes. Lawrence was highbrow even back then, always giving advice, inviting friends over, eating and drinking and telling others what they should do. I think I see the Lawrence Gerald draws in Lawrence’s own books; I think he has drawn him to a tee. I read the first two books of Lawrence’s well-known The Alexandria Quartet and decided I had had enough. Too highbrow for me.

I think this, the first of the author’s Corfu Trilogy is better than the second, Birds, Beasts and Relatives. In the near future I will be picking up the third, The Garden of the Gods. I simply have to check it out. What if it is as good as the first?! Don't get me wrong, the second is good too, but just not as good as this.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Nigel Davenport. It is easy to follow and very well done.

This is really a very good light read. Everyone needs books like these on and off. Lots to laugh about - concerning both humans and animals. Don’t disregard the interesting details on flora and fauna. Look at the title. It’s a perfect fit for the book. Some of the writing is simply gorgeous. You will want to visit Corfu.
Profile Image for Annelies.
161 reviews3 followers
August 14, 2018
Never before were animals (and yes, also insects) as funny and interesting as in this book. Insects will never be boring again after reading this book. Nor will birds or frogs or... Durrell handles them all with a lot of humour in the stories in this book. Exhilarating!
Profile Image for Julie G .
883 reviews2,743 followers
January 4, 2017
Imagine that you receive a phone call that your eccentric uncle has passed away and you, his niece or nephew who barely knew him, have been tasked with the dreaded job of wading through some eighty years of his belongings.

Days later, you find yourself in his dusty home, making piles of old pants for Goodwill, and in doing so, you discover a tall column of meticulously organized journals. What's this?

Next thing you know, you're down on the floor, reading through page after page of fascinating notes about creatures from the island of Corfu, in Greece, and, even though you've never been particularly interested in the mating habits of the scorpion, you can't stop reading. And, it turns out. . . Uncle wasn't merely a dedicated observer of the natural world of animals, he was a keen recorder of his family of origin as well.

And it's freaking hilarious.

Like, when the family moves into a new villa on the island, and they inherit a Greek housekeeper named Lugaretzia, who is known for her ailments, and your Uncle writes:

Shortly afterwards, to our relief, Lugaretzia's stomach got better, but almost immediately her feet gave out, and she would hobble pitifully round the house, groaning loudly and frequently. Larry said that Mother hadn't hired a maid, but a ghoul, and suggested buying her a ball and chain. He pointed out that this would at least let us know when she was coming, and allow us time to escpe, for Lugaretzia had developed the habit of creeping up behind one and groaning loudly and unexpectedly in one's ear.

Your Uncle didn't write with cliff hangers or drama, and his style and wit are subtle and soft and so very welcome in this fast-paced world. His stories unfold in the style of Enchanted April or Under the Tuscan Sun and, it turns out, you'll treasure his words for years to come.
Profile Image for Metodi Markov.
1,304 reviews298 followers
September 29, 2022
Най-жизнеутвърждаващата книга, която съм чел някога.

За мой късмет бях връстник на автора и буквално я погълнах при първия ми прочит. За да се връщам още, и още към нея през годините. И естествено изчетох от кора до кора всичко преведено на български от чудесния природолюбител и умел писател Джералд Даръл.

Джери е хлапе, когато се местят с майка му, двамата му по-стари братя и сестра им на остров Корфу, в търсене на по-достоен живот. И намират там своя рай.

Вкусна и обилна храна, интересни нови и стари приятели, живописният остров и обитателите му - хора и животни, те са наистина съчетание, което се пада веднъж. Не им остава нищо друго, освен да гребат с шепи от насладите на живота.

Джери майсторски описва флората и фауната на острова, както и чешитите от всякакъв род и калибър, с които семейството му влиза в досег. Дотолкова, че почти да ги приема всичките, като свое семейство.

И комай истински съм завиждал през живота си само нему, скитащ на воля из Корфу, в компанията на верния пес Роджър!

Семейство Даръл пред Жълтата вила, една от няколкото наемани от тях за престоя им на острова:

И снимка от симпатичния сериал направен по трилогията на Даръл:

P.S. Бръмбар носорог като този на корицата съм намирал в дъбовите гори около Иракли, не знам дали още ги има...
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
569 reviews3,935 followers
September 6, 2017
¡Me ha encantado! Es entrañable, evocador y MUY divertido, hacía tiempo que no me reía a carcajada limpia con un libro pero Durrell lo consigue con una facilidad envidiable.
Esta familia y su peculiar zoo ambulante se ha quedado conmigo, por supusto leeré las secuelas ♥
Profile Image for Laysee.
498 reviews233 followers
June 29, 2019
My Family and Other Animals (The Corfu Trilogy Book 1) is a delightful memoir by Gerald Durrell, a British naturalist, conservationist, and author. It documented with hilarity the Durrell family’s five-year sojourn on the Greek island of Corfu, a magical island paradise that I would love to visit one day. I read it rapturously over a few days and learned so much about the flora and fauna while vicariously tromping all over the island with the enthusiastic child botanist the author was at that time. Amongst other things, I learned that crab spiders can change color just as effortlessly as any chameleon and that lacewing flies lay eggs on stilts. I looked up pictures of yellow crocuses and majenta or wine-colored cyclamen.

Gerry, as he was affectionately known, was only ten years old when his family made a spontaneous decision to quit the dismal rainy weather in Bournemouth located at the southern coast of England for Corfu with its startling blue skies and glittering sea. The greatest pleasure was reading about Gerry’s unbridled fascination with the amazing world of insects and animals that were right at his doorsteps. I marveled at his compulsive effort in collecting an incredible range of living creatures that he merrily carted home to the consternation of his longsuffering family. At the Yellow Daffodil villa in which the family lived, Gerry recalled: ‘In the crumbling walls of the garden lived dozens of little black scorpions, shining and polished as if they had been made out of Bakelite; in the fig and lemon trees just below the garden were quantities of emerald-green tree-frogs, like delicious satiny sweets among the leaves; up on the hillside lived snakes of various sorts, brilliant lizards, and tortoises.’ Alongside rose-beetles, blue carpenter-bees, lady-birds, and trapdoor spiders, these creatures were Gerry’s constant companions.

You have to love a child who put this as a label on a tortoise egg shell: ‘Egg of Greek Tortoise (tesudo graeca), laid by Madame Cyclops.’ In fact, Gerry wrote about his pets with great affection; they had names and each its own personality. This was especially true of his adorable dog, Roger, who went everywhere with him. I loved that episode which recorded the titanic fight between Geronimo, the gecko and Cicely, the mantis.

For a precocious child with a burgeoning interest in natural history, that time in Corfu was an exhilarating immersion in the richness nature had to offer. Gerry also had the benefit of being mentored by Dr. Theodore Stephanides, a Greek doctor, naturalist, poet, and author. Those years, I surmised, laid a firm foundation for Gerry’s pioneer work in zoo biology years later. He founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1959.

Gerry wrote beautifully. Here is a description of spring: ‘It was no half-hearted spring, this: the whole island vibrated with it as though a great, ringing chord had been struck. Everyone and everything heard it and responded. It was apparent in the gleam of flower petals, the flash of bird wings and the sparkle in the dark, liquid eyes of the peasant girl’s. In the water-filled ditches the frogs that looked newly enamelled snored a rapturous chorus in the lush weeds. In the village coffee shops the wine seemed redder and, somehow, more potent. Blunt, calloused fingers plucked at guitar strings with strange gentleness, and rich voices rose in lilting, haunting song.’

It was fun getting to know the zoo that characterized Durrell’s family: Louisa, his widowed mother and her bemused tolerance of her children’s antics; Larry, aspiring writer and adult brother with his pompous know-it-all attitude, hysterical theatrics, and murderous intent toward Gerry’s collection of strange creatures; Leslie, the gun-loving, hunter brother who built him a boat, and Margo, his sister with her enthusiasm for all things salubrious to health and beauty. The Durrell family would host a party ‘at a moment’s notice, and for no other reason other than we suddenly felt like it.’ Their parties never ever went as expected, but that was part of the charm. It was also lovely to hear of friendships forged with the Corfu peasants who had the gift of hospitality, and the Durrells’ special bond with Spiros, the Greek taxi driver who became a trusted guide and close family friend.

My Family and Other Animals (The Corfu Trilogy Book 1) is a magical read and promises to be a treat for individuals who love animals and sunny days on a Greek island. Many thanks to Candi, whose lovely review lit the way to this charming memoir.
Profile Image for Antoinette.
754 reviews39 followers
April 11, 2023
This audiobook was perfectly narrated by Hugh Bonneville!
A delightful, humorous book about Gerald Durrell ( Gerry) and the 5 years he spent on the island of Corfu with his family. Apparently, from the age of 2, Gerry has loved the outdoors, insects and animals. At the age of 10, he finds himself in his kind of paradise- an island filled with so many wonders. He had freedom to roam and explore. This was 1935, when Corfu was not so populated with tourists. Gerry was a patient boy- he often just sat observing and then documenting All that he observed. I couldn’t believe how many insects there are on Corfu.

I must admit my favourite parts in the book were the interactions within the family. He is there with his widowed mother, his brothers Laurence(Larry) and Leslie and his sister Margot. The conflicts that arose thanks to Gerry’s finds were laugh out loud funny. All those family moments were just brilliant.

One thing I was not expecting but received was an education in tortoise mating. Amazing to think of this young boy taking it all in.

A perfect listen if you are needing a few laughs and Hugh Bonneville’s voice in your life!

Published: 1956.
Profile Image for Anne .
443 reviews361 followers
November 22, 2019
Laugh out loud funny and endearing. Gorgeous setting beautifully described. Wish I could take a trip to Corfu now. Can't do that but at least I have the next two books in the trilogy to read. :)). Watched the BBC adaptation first which was wonderful.
January 11, 2019
Η απογοήτευση όταν αγοράζεις ένα βιβλίο με τη βεβαιότητα πως θα το απολαύσεις αλλά στο τέλος σε αφήνει με ανάμεικτα αισθήματα. Είναι το πρώτο μέρος μιας τριλογίας.
Τα άλλα δύο είναι τα:
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives
The Garden of the Gods.

Αλλά επειδή σαν ιστορία είναι καλογραμμένη και ευχάριστη και έχει μεγάλο ενδιαφέρον ο τρόπος που ο συγγραφέας ζωντανεύει την εποχή (Κέρκυρα 1935) και τους χαρακτήρες του βάζω πέντε. Άλλωστε δεν φταίει ο Ντάρελ που προφανώς το παιδί μέσα μου έχει πεθάνει. Πιστεύω πως είναι ένα βιβλίο που μπορεί να το απολαύσει καλύτερα ένα παιδί ηλικίας από 8 ως 14 ετών.

Πρώτα από όλα ο Τζέραλντ είναι ο αδερφός του Λώρενς Ντάρελ που έχει γράψει το αγαπημένο μου “Αλεξανδρινό Κουαρτέτο”. Και μου έδωσε την εντύπωση πως σκόπιμα παρουσιάζει μια καρικατούρα του αδερφού του, ως εκκεντρικού και ενοχλητικού, φαντασμένου καλλιτέχνη, γεμάτου έπαρση προσφέροντας προφανώς την απαραίτητη δόση διακωμώδησης, εκμεταλλευόμενος το ενδιαφέρον μερίδας των αναγνωστών για τον διάσημο αδερφό του, τύπου: "Ε, παιδιά ελάτε να σας πω μερικά ανεκδοτάκια για το πόσο κόπανος ήταν στα νιάτα του, ο αγαπημένος σας συγγραφέας”.

Πίσω από το παραπέτασμα των αστείων, η οικογένειά του είναι μια οικογένεια προβληματική. Έχουν οικονομικά προβλήματα, η χήρα μητέρα τους προσπαθεί να συμμαζέψει τα ασυμάζευτα, η κόρη παρουσιάζεται σαν ρηχή και επιφανειακή bimbo, και ο Τζέρυ δεν έχει κανένα πρόβλημα να ζει κάτω από την ίδια στέγη με τον άλλο αδερφό του τον Λέσλι που έχει αρρωστημένη μανία με τα όπλα και σκοτώνει ασταμάτητα ζώα, δεινός κυνηγός που διατυμπανίζει τα κατορθώματά του.

Συνεχώς καυγάδες και ανικανότητα να ριζώσουν κάπου, ακόμα και στ��ν Κέρκυρα αναγκάζονται να μετακομίζουν συνεχώς (υποτίθεται λόγω χώρου) αλλά στην πραγματικότητα λόγω οικονομικών προβλημάτων υποθέτω. Τον δε Τζέραλντ δεν τον στέλνουν καν στο σχολείο ενώ είναι ήδη δέκα ετών και την μόρφωσή του την αναλαμβάνουν διάφοροι αλλόκοτοι τύποι. Σαν παιδί θα ενθουσιαζόμουν με την ιδέα. Σαν ενήλικη την βρίσκω εντελώς ανεύθυνη.

Και ο μικρός σαν φυσιοδίφης δεν λέει και πολλά. Ένα άσχετο παιδί είναι που βασανίζει τα ζώα παίζοντας, μου φαίνεται. Χωρίς κακές προθέσεις βέβαια και με μεγάλη περιέργεια αλλά συχνά τα αιχμαλωτίζει και τα εξοντώνει, τα βαλσαμώνει κτλ. Άλλες εποχές άλλα ήθη. Τελοσπάντων μαμάδες , μπαμπάδες, και λοιποί συγγενείς αν έχετε κανέναν προέφηβο που αγαπάει την ανάγνωση δώστε του άφοβα το βιβλίο ως δώρο. Αλλά θα σας συμβούλευα να μη το διαβάσετε οι ίδιοι. Όσα μοιάζουν ονειρο στα μάτια ενός παιδιού στα μάτια ενός ενηλίκου μπορεί να φανούν σαχλά. Πικρό. Αλλά αληθινό.

Στα μείον η έκδοση του Καλειδοσκοπίου. Μια θερμοκόλληση της κακιάς συμφοράς με χαρτονένιο εξώφυλλο και σελίδες τύπου προσφοράς εφημερίδας και το πουλάνε και 15 ευρώ; Εντάξει παιδιά χαλαρώστε λίγο. Μέχρι να την τελειώσω, η κόπια μου έγινε κουρέλι.

(Ωραία, πέντε αστερια αρνητική κριτική και τόσο θάψιμο πρέπει να είναι παγκόσμια πρωτοτυπία πάντως. Απλώς διαχωρίζω την αντικειμενική ποιότητα του έργου (ένα έργο πλέον κλασικό και πολυαγαπημένο) από την δική μου υποκειμενική άποψη).
Profile Image for Melody.
2,629 reviews259 followers
January 4, 2011
1/2010 Review:
I inhabit this book. I walk through the olive groves and swim in the crystal seas of pre-war Corfu. I think I can never go to Greece because of this book. I would want the taxis to be horse-drawn, and the small boys to be ranging freely about the island.

I love so much about this book it's hard to pick and choose. I love that Gerry was so devoted to animals from the very beginning. I love the self-centered, irascible Larry (who grew into the genius Lawrence Durrell). I love Mother, in all her well-meaning but vague glory. And who can forget Theo, the natty naturalist? The people are hilarious, and then just when one is weak from laughing, the viewpoint shifts, and there's a tortoise to observe, a cyclamen to watch bloom or a scorpion to secrete in a matchbox.

This is such a gem.

2/2006 Review:
Perhaps my favorite comfort read. This is the book I turn to when I'm blue and need to laugh. Hilarious chronicle of a budding naturalist and his eccentric family when they are living on the lovely island of Corfu. My favorite part, the part that reminds me most of my own house, my own boy is this:

"Then one day I found a fat female scorpion in the wall wearing what at first glance appeared to be a pale fawn fur coat. Closer inspection proved that this strange garment was made up of a mass of tiny babies clinging to the mother's back. I was enraptured by this family, and I made up my mind to smuggle them into the house and up to my bedroom so that I might keep them and watch them grow up. With infinite care I manoeuvred the mother and family into a matchbox, and then hurried to the villa. It was rather unfortunate that just as I entered the door lunch should be served; however I placed the match box carefully on the mantelpiece in the drawing-room, so that the scorpions should get plenty of air, and made my way to the dining-room and joined the family for the meal. Dawdling over my food, feeding Roger surreptitiously under the table and listening to the family arguing, I completely forgot about my exciting new captures. At last Larry, having finished, fetched the cigarettes from the drawing-room, and lying back in his chair he put one in his mouth and picked up the matchbox he had brought. Oblivious of my impending doom I watched him interestedly as, still talking glibly, he opened the matchbox.

Now I maintain to this day that the female scorpion meant no harm. She was agitated and a trifle annoyed at being shut up in a matchbox for so long, and so she seized the first opportunity to escape. She hoisted herself out of the box with great rapidity, her babies clinging on desperately, and scuttled on to the back of Larry's hand. There, not quite certain what to do next, she paused, her sting curved up at the ready. Larry, feeling the movement of her claws, glanced down to see what it was, and from that moment things got increasingly confused.

He uttered a roar of fright that made Lugaretzia drop a plate and brought Roger out from beneath the table, barking wildly. With a flick of his hand he sent the unfortunate scorpion flying down the table, and she landed midway between Margo and Leslie, scattering babies like confetti as she thumped on the cloth. Thoroughly enraged at this treatment, the creature sped towards Leslie, her sting quivering with emotion. Leslie leapt to his feet, overturning his chair and flicked out desperately with his napkin, sending the scorpion rolling across the cloth towards Margo, who promptly let out a scream that any railway engine would have been proud to produce. Mother, completely bewildered by this sudden and rapid change from peace to chaos, put on her glasses and peered down the table to see what was causing the pandemonium, and at that moment Margo, in a vain attempt to stop the scorpion's advance, hurled a glass of water at it. The shower missed the animal completely, but successfully drenched Mother, who, not being able to stand cold water, promptly lost her breath and sat gasping at the end of the table, unable even to protest. The scorpion had now gone to ground under Leslie's plate, while her babies swarmed wildly all over the table. Roger, mystified by the panic, but determined to do his share, ran around and round the room, barking hysterically.

"It's that bloody boy again ..." bellowed Larry.

"Look out! Look out! They're coming!" screamed Margo.

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

"What on earth's the matter with you all?" Mother kept imploring, mopping her glasses.

"It's that bloody boy ... he'll kill the lot of us ... Look at the table ... knee deep in scorpions ..."

"Quick ... quick ... do something ...Look out, look out!"

"Stop screeching and get me a book, for God's sake ... You're worse than the dog ... Shut up, Roger ..."

"By the Grace of God I wasn't bitten ..."

"Look out ... there's another one ... Quick ... quick..."

"Oh, shut up and get me a book or something ... "

"But how did the scorpions get on the table, dear?"

"That bloody boy ... Every matchbox in the house is a deathtrap ..."

"Look out, it's coming towards me ... Quick, quick, do something ..."

"Hit it with your knife ... your knife ... Go on, hit it ..."

Since no one bothered to explain things to him, Roger was under the mistaken impression that the family was being attacked, and that it was his duty to defend them. As Lugaretzia was the only stranger in the room, he came to the logical conclusion that she must be the responsible party, so he bit her on the ankle. This did not help matters very much.

By the time a certain amount of order had been restored, all the baby scorpions had hidden themselves under various plates and bits of cutlery. Eventually, after impassioned pleas on my part, backed up by Mother, Leslie's suggestion that the whole lot be slaughtered was quashed. While the family, still simmering with rage and fright, retired to the drawing-room, I spent half an hour rounding up the babies ..."

Profile Image for Christy.
654 reviews
January 29, 2020
This one took me a long time to read, but I'm not sure why. I really enjoyed it for the most part each time I picked it up. This is basically the recollection of Gerald Durrell's early childhood when his family picked up and moved to the island of Corfu. I had never heard of this place before and was super intrigued. There were some parts I found a little boring when it talked about some of the nature parts. I loved hearing about the different animals Gerald came across and learning right along with him. You could really tell how passionate he was about this subject matter. Every single character in this book was amazing and all the shenanigans that continually happened!! Any part involving his family or conversations they had were HILARIOUS. If that would of been more of the book it definitely would of been a 5 star read for me. His mother and brother Larry in particular.... classic!!! =) =)
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,736 reviews14.1k followers
September 21, 2012
What a delightful book and what a quirky family. Durrell is a natural born storyteller, he does such a great job with the visuals. I could really experience Corfu through his writing and some of the visulas were darn near hysterical. A turtle for a pet, a turtle who will come when called and loves strawberries. A baby pigeon who they hand feed and who than doesn't learn how to fly but follows them everywhere, running behind them and cooing. A traveler trader who has beetles tied around their waist and than tied to his hat, as he walks they fly and circle his hat. Such amusing characters, such vivid pictures of the bugs, fauna and wildlife. A very enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Niccolò Desiati.
45 reviews5 followers
July 29, 2021
Bellissima lettura.
Durrell ci offre un bellissimo quadro dell'isola di Corfù attraverso la descrizione dei paesaggi e degli abitanti del luogo.
Ho adorato la narrazione delle divertenti disavventure della famiglia Durrell, vicende che si intrecciano con le storie di altri personaggi per la maggior parte stravaganti ed eccentrici. Il tutto raccontato in maniera molto divertente, ironica e a tratti anche un po' nostalgica.
Bellissime descrizioni dei luoghi.
Le lunghe descrizioni della fauna locale, invece, mi hanno un po' annoiato.
Questo è l'unico difetto che sono riuscito a trovare nel libro. Devo ammettere che ho saltato alcune pagine, cosa che faccio molto raramente quando leggo.
Tuttavia, lo stesso autore afferma che, inizialmente, il libro doveva essere esclusivamente dedicato alla descrizione degli animali dell'isola, quindi era plausibile che una parte del libro fosse dedicata ad essa.
Comunque, credo proprio che leggerò altro dell'autore.
Profile Image for Dagio_maya .
912 reviews256 followers
June 30, 2022

Pubblicato nel 1956, “La mia famiglia ed altri animali” è un testo autobiografico del naturalista inglese Gerald Durrell.
Una narrazione talmente romanzesca che, spesso, leggendo si fatica a ricordarsi la vera natura del testo.
Insomma, sembra tutto inventato ma non lo è.

Siamo tra il 1935 ed il 1939 a Corfù dove i Durrell si trasferiscono per fuggire dall'inclemente tempo inglese.
Assieme a Louise, la madre, ci sono Larry e Leslie (i due fratelli) e Margo la sorella, il piccolo Gerry di dieci anni.
L'arrivo sull'isola è da subito sbalorditivo.
Gerald si ritrova a contatto con una natura incontaminata dove può esercitare la sua grande passione, ossia quella di scovare animali di ogni tipo e osservare il loro comportamento.

La famiglia vivrà in tre diverse case da favola: la villa color rosa fragola, la villa giallo narciso e la villa bianca come la neve.

il piccolo Gerald Durrell assieme al fedele Roger: pronti per una nuova avventura

Un racconto esilarante ai limiti del grottesco nel dipingere la famiglia in modo eccentrico:
un circo ambulante al completo, come li definirà un funzionario della dogana svizzera.

Meravigliose descrizioni del paesaggio e curiose scoperte nel mondo degli animali.

Veramente più che un testo autobiografico sembra un romanzo di formazione dove la natura è un libro aperto da cui imparare ogni giorno.
Profile Image for Otis Chandler.
388 reviews113k followers
February 1, 2018
I got hooked on the show which was amazing, and was recommended to read the book, which I'm glad I did because it's equally amazing yet different. The Durrell's story is an escape from ordinary life in a way that I can't articulate but I kind of love. It's also hilarious - what a family! I really feel like I got to know Larry, Leslie, Margo, Mother, Spiro, even Lugaretzia.

One of my favorite quotes:

Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen. Each day had a tranquillity, a timelessness, about it, so that you wished it would never end. But then the dark skin of night would peel off and there would be a fresh day waiting for us, glossy and colourful as a child’s transfer and with the same tinge of unreality.

Profile Image for Sonia Gomes.
308 reviews94 followers
September 21, 2020
Gerald Durrell just loved animals; any shape any size, big or small. The criterion was ‘just be an animal’.
During the Second World War, the Durrells went to Corfu and Gerald as a ten year old could not have been happier, he would roam the entire island with his collection jars, his butterfly nets and his dissection box.
Of course he had to study; tutors came teaching all sorts of interesting things, skipping the prescribed curriculum altogether letting their imagination roam way beyond any school.
Think of Gerald’s gift on his birthday, Sally the beautiful donkey her soft ears protruding from a crown of flowers, to help Gerry on his trips around the island, think of the circular boat Larry built for him to collect samples from the deep, blue sea.
The Family, Mother, Lawrence, Larry and Margot knew that whatever they did, Gerry would always love animals, otherwise which crazy family would tolerate a matchbox exploding with baby scorpions at dinner.
Or which loony family would not go berserk on finding water snakes in their bath tubs, or the innards of a tortoise strewn on their garden path one hot afternoon.
But ‘My family and Other Animals’ is not all about Gerry, it is about all the other family members too. Picture Mother in that tent-like bathing suit, floundering, losing her balance in the shallows, the dog pulling her bathing suit with the intention of rescuing her from the black monster, the bathing suit.
Picture Margot kissing the relic of the Saint and Mother frantically gesturing her not to, because of the germs. Margot‘s constant battle with acne, the numerous creams to try and get rid of the problem.
The Birthday Celebrations that went on for weeks with tons of food, drinks and friends dropping in at any moment.
Gerry gives us a slice of his life with such pleasure and abandon, that I wish with all my heart that I had been there too.
Profile Image for Anna [Floanne].
546 reviews230 followers
July 13, 2017
Che libro meraviglioso!!! La mia famiglia e altri animali, primo romanzo della Trilogia di Corfù, che ho intenzione di continuare al più presto, è il racconto spassosissimo dei primi cinque anni di vita del famoso zoologo inglese nell'isola greca, in compagnia della sua bizzarra famiglia. Durrell racconta l'isola e le sue meraviglie naturali, mescolando, alla sua crescente passione per la Natura, aneddoti della propria vita familiare. La madre con la passione per cucina e giardinaggio, una sorella adolescente alle prese con le diete e l'acne, due fratelli, Larry e Leslie, uno scrittore e l'altro appassionato di armi, a cui si aggiungono Spiro, interprete tuttofare, e una varietà di strani abitanti locali (l'uomo delle Cetonie è indimenticabile!): questi personaggi unici popolano il mondo del giovane Gerry, il quale, accompagnato dal fedele cane Roger, si avventura alla scoperta della flora e della fauna dell'isola, innamorandosene a tal punto da trasformare poi la propria passione in una professione, da adulto, e da ritornare a casa ogni giorno con nuovi animali da studiare ed addomesticare. Il lettore farà quindi la conoscenza della tartaruga Achille, del gufo Ulisse, di Pipì e Vomito e di tanti altri ignari protagonisti a quattro o più zampe. Scritto in modo magistrale, è un libro che andrebbe fatto leggere a scuola, per lo stile, curato e ricco di vivide descrizioni, ironico e divertente, leggero come un soffione, sorprendente come un ragno botola.
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