My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

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My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A classic, and apparently true, story of a boy, his family and their menagerie of creatures, living on the beautiful isle of Corfu in the 1930s.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 400 Date: July 2016
Publisher: Puffin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780141321875

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A Times Educational Supplement Teachers' Top 100 Book

Meet the Durrells, a quintessentially eccentric English Family. We have Larry, the lazy and pompous eldest; Leslie, who loves hunting and the outdoors; Margo, a sulky teenage girl at the mercy of her hormones; Mother, who seems unflappable, even in the most extreme situations; Roger the loyal family dog and finally Gerry, who is 10 years old and has an obsession with the natural world. “My Family and Other Animals” is Gerry's story of what happened when the family decided to uproot to escape the drab monotony of England for the sunnier climes of Corfu.

With a penchant for collecting animals, the Durrell family is about to get much, much bigger, as we are introduced to a menagerie of characters including two pups called Puke and Widdle, a pair of cheeky, thieving 'Magenpies', a murderous gull, a tortoise, a terrapin, a gecko, two toads, two water snakes and many more unforgettable creatures who all become part of the family. The animals all have their own personalities and the resulting anecdotes are very funny indeed. It has been a long time since I laughed so much whilst reading, much to the annoyance of my children and those arround me.

The book is, of course, a classic and has not been out of print since it was first published in 1956. The book used to be required reading in schools and has found a new and eager audience with each subsequent generation. Not only is the book very funny, but it is also extremely well written. The prose is poetic and the scene-setting superb. Durrell really brings Corfu to life and I could almost feel the sunshine on my skin and smell the Mediterranean lilies.

There are so many highlights in this book, it is hard to pick one that stands out, but the scene that made me laugh the most was when Gerry brings home a scorpion with babies clinging to its back. He puts the scorpion family in a matchbox and goes for his dinner, forgetting all about them. When dinner is over, big brother Larry is keen to light up a cigarette and naturally, all hell breaks loose when he reaches for the matches...

“My Family and Other Animals” is one of those classic books that you just “have to read,” The characters are larger than life, the settings idyllic and the stories are laugh-out-loud funny. It's a heart-warming book for all ages and I'm keen to read the rest of the Corfu trilogy to see what happened next. Many thanks to the publishers for my review copy. I will treasure it.

Those who love animals will enjoy An Otter on the Aga by Rex Harper, which features more small creatures with big personalities.

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