A most delightfully cheerful book this week in the shape of My Family and Other Animals. It was written by British naturalist Gerald Durrell and first published in 1956, which is, like, almost 60 years ago.
It’s an exaggeratedly comic take on the young Durrell’s time with his family on the Greek island of Corfu (not to be confused with tofu).
Whilst living there in the ’30s with his quintessentially eccentric family members, the lot of them casually bounced off each other (on a personality front) and caused overall havoc, not aided by Durrell’s regular interaction with the island’s wildlife.
My Family and Other Animals
The Durrell family consisted of their optimistic mother, pretentious intellectual eldest son Lawrence, gun toting Leslie, and obsessive sister Margo.
As a child Durrell was fascinated by animals and would come to study them extensively on Corfu, owning the likes of affable family dog Roger, a strawberry obsessed tortoise, and an incredibly angry scorpion.
These interactions turn the book into a classic, and the humour stems from the family member’s often bizarre behaviour.
Leslie, for instance, rigs shotguns to scare would be burglars, Lawrence prances about the island like Richard E. Grant in Withnail and I, and Durrell terrifies his family by bringing genuinely bloodcurdling creatures into the household. Most notably the highly agitated scorpion, whom besieges a dinner party and causes total mayhem in the process.
Durrell grew up to become a famous naturalist (as well as a best-selling author), and has the Durrell Wildlife Park named after him on the island of Jersey. A fitting tribute to a cool dude and his wonderful ook.
f you’re a fan of animals, eccentric behaviour, or cheese* then this really is the book for you. It’s a fantastic read, with the sunshine beaming from the pages and making your face stretch out into one of those things called a “smile”. Indeed.
On a final note, there are many adaptations of the book to other media formats. It’s mainly made its way across to TV, where over the decades there are a batch of versions to choose from.
Most recently, British channel ITV ran with the above. If that looks like your type of thing then give it a whirl.