Various publishers have produced editions of this over the years. Macmillan though have just published a lovely little hardback – all edges gilt, in their Macmillan Collectors Library collection, with nice endpapers, pale blue cloth boards, with blind blocking on the front and a dust jacket…

This could be my favourite book. It is beautifully written, funny, an extraordinary observation of an English family abroad, full of natural history and animals. It makes me laugh every time I read it and it is a pure piece of pleasure for me. I have several copies. I don’t have one to read in the bath, or to read without too much care in the garden, however, and must buy a cheep copy for that purpose.

The BBC recently did a series based on the volume. The characters were almost perfect, but what happened in the film didn’t bare much relation to that in the book. Which wasn’t to be expected, but don’t rely on what you saw being an indication of what you will experience when you read it.

Should you not be aware Gerald Durrell collected animals from the age of about 2 – and grew up to be one of the greatest naturalists and conservationists of the 20th Century; setting up the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust and the zoo on the same island.

This volume is about a short period he and his family made to Corfu when he was aged about 10. It is about the people of the island, the animals, the island itself and of course his family. It is superb.

The animals included in the story include the following:

Roger, Gerald’s faithful dog, who travelled with the family to Corfu. Caterpillars, nameless, who also travelled to the island, transported in a jam jar. Widdle and Puke, two puppies given to Gerald for his birthday…crab-spiders, earwigs, a pigeon called Quasimodo, rose-beetles, a tortoise named Achilles, trap-door spiders, and oil beetles…amongst others, not including the scorpion, that was central to such a wonderful episode in the book that always makes me laugh till I cry.

All of which give a wonderful back ground to the story of Larry, Leslie, Margo, Gerald and of course his mother, Spiro, Lugaretzia and Theodore – and that’s without mentioning Larry’s various friends who arrive regularly and en-mass to add to the confusion.

It is a very English book – and is marvellous.

One day I shall have to purchase a first edition – if I can find one that is signed, that will be all the better.

If you haven’t read this, then, you really should.

 

 

 

 

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