Readers of this blog know that I have a serious soft spot for the writing of Gerard Durrell, a man I’ve always considered the ultimate eccentric, as well as the ultimate civilized human. Reading one of his books is to leave angry political discourse on Twitter–what I consider to be the ultimate lack of civilization–far behind.
My family and Other Animals, part of Durrell’s Corfu Trilogy is a particularly lovely read because it tells the story of a period of years which he spent on Corfu as a boy of ten to about fourteen years old. It shows how his already-present love of animals and the natural world flourished in this formative age.
Better still, the tale is told by Durrell who has one of the greatest eyes for the odd and not-quite-sane that I’ve ever encountered. despite his obvious affection for his family and friends on the island, he leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that they are all at least slightly nuts.
As I was reading (locked in coronavirus quarantine), I looked at the children around us, obsessed with their devices and wondered, not for the first time, if modern idiocy is the fault of kids who who lost their way before becoming adults or helicopter parents who didn’t let them collect scorpions when they were eleven. Or row out to sea in a homemade boat as a pre-teen.
I blame the parents but, that aside, it’s wonderful to see how independent children used to be before he world went stupid, and this book illustrates it gloriously. From one anecdote to the next, a sense of the slightly unreal, despite the fact that every single one of these events happened, probably exactly as described, permeates the book.
If, like me, you’re stuck inside during these strange days, I recommend giving this one–or any Durrell–a go. He has the rare ability to completely remove your surroundings and take you outdoors.
And this one takes you to a Greek island for the cost of a paperback and without coronavirus risk.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist whose book set in Greece is very different from the one described above. It’s a fast-paced sexy thriller called timeless, and you can buy it here.