My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

read by Hugh Bonneville

A minor classic and a great read, My Family and Other Animals established Durrell's writing career and outlined the boyhood obsessions that dominated his life and determined his career path - from animal collector to naturalist to zookeeper to conservationist.

The book is semi-autobiographical, and concerns itself with five years of Gerald Durrell's life from the age of ten. The setting on the island of Corfu is exotic, the family eccentric and their lives hectic. It is very much the English abroad between the world wars, decades before they routinely holidayed in the Greek Islands.

Gerald and his older siblings - Lawrence (Larry), whose later writing had a more literary bent (The Alexandria Quartet), the firearms enthusiast Leslie, and food-obsessed sister Margo - together with their widowed mother, fill the pages with enormous good humour, as does the teeming animal life which Gerald collects, including tortoise Achilles, pigeon Quasimodo, owl Ulysses, gull Alecko, and the multifarious spiders and insects. Taxi-driver Spiro champions and protects the naive and demanding newcomers to the island and their frequent and frequently tiresome visitors from the homeland.

This is the English middle and upper classes at their most harmless and amusing and it is small wonder that Durrell's writings have attracted the silver and television screens and of course the radio. Durrell's own descriptions, however, are best, and Hugh Bonneville give a spiritedreading of the original novel.

The interview with Durrell's widow Lee and the enclosed book of photographs make this a recording to keep and the whole package makes a fine gift. Let's hope the several sequels soon also get the CSA treatment.

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