The warm air, the wine, and the melancholy beauty of the night filled me with a delicious sadness. It would always be like this, I thought. The brilliant, friendly island, full of secrets, my family and my animals around me and, for good measure, our friends.
I think it’s hard to find a more appealing book to read aloud than Gerald Durrell’s accounts of growing up with an eccentric family on the island of Corfu in the 1930s. His two books of memoirs, of which this title is the second (the first being My Family and Other Animals) are a marvelous combination of rich, evocative language and hysterically funny accounts of a family of determined iconoclasts- human, animal and reptile. Durrell later became a famous naturalist, and from birth was fascinated with living things. He collected pets of all sorts, even as a young boy in London, but his passion for animal collecting got a huge shot in the arm when the Durrell family moved to the Greek island of Corfu. It’s hard to say what’s more fun, his accounts of the family (the artsy brother Lawrence, of Alexandria Quartet fame; the gun-toting blowhard brother Leslie; sister Margo, obsessed with fashion and spirituality; their long-suffering mother, who dealt with most situations with remarkable equanimity; and a cast of wonderful Greek characters who become family of choice) or his adventures in the natural world, catching and collecting creatures from octopi and turtles to bats and owls. But the reason I read Durrell aloud to my children is the language: it is sublime. Save for Kipling, there’s no better way to bathe a young ear in beautiful prose and awaken a love of the written and spoken word. The chapter I reread to them most often describes Gerry’s lunch with a crazed gourmand Countess, and the descriptions of food are deliciously over the top. If you didn’t read these as a child or teen, it’s not too late- and indeed, Durrell’s work is intended for an adult audience, but suitable for anyone over 6.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: Birds, Beasts and Relatives