My family and other books

One of my favorite books of last year is an oldie but a definite goody: My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I was finally motivated to read this book when PBS aired a movie version, and I almost never see a movie before reading the book it's based on. Months later, I found out that it was a friend's favorite book, and he told me about other Durrell books he had enjoyed including two short story collections: The Picnic and Other Inimitable Stories and Marrying Off Mother and Other Stories. Durrell is a keen observer (as any naturalist should be!) of not only nature, but of family, friends and other people he comes across in his peripatetic life, and his delightful descriptions make for lots of fun reading.

My Family and Other Animals is about the time he spent with his mother and three siblings on the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930s. Larry (I had a "Duh!" moment when it finally hit me that Larry was the novelist Lawrence Durrell, author of the Alexandria Quartet!) is querulous and self-absorbed, Leslie - the second eldest brother - will shoot anything that moves (and some things that don't), and Margo, the lone daughter, could be a teenage girl today, with her boyfriend troubles and diets. Mother is vague and sweet, constantly mediating her family's quarrels while cooking a constant stream of tasty-sounding dishes.

Gerry delights in bugs and all other things in the natural world, and finds friends among the locals while enjoying his status as the youngest family member. This early love of nature endured throughout Gerald's life - he became a well-known naturalist who established the Jersey Zoological Park, and a prolific author and TV personality. The other two books in the Corfu trilogy are Birds, Beasts and Relatives and Fauna and Family. If you've never read Gerry, you're in for a treat!