How can you make a book that is all about your love for animals and your family’s decision to move to Greece, an out and out laugh riot? Ask Gerald Durrell, for that is exactly what he has done with the incredibly funny My Family and Other Animals. The book on paper is the story of a ten year old boy (the author, Gerald Durrell) and what happened to him and his family when they decide to move to the Greek island of Corfu.
Sounds routine enough? Well, Durrell’s treatment of it is anything but routine. For, his family is a proper collection of eccentrics. His eldest brother Larry (who would much later became an acclaimed author Lawrence Durrell) is aloof and assumes he knows all the answers, while the middle brother Wally has a penchant for guns. Then there is their sister, Margo, who has an eye for fashion and a healthy interest in the opposite. There is Gerry (Gerald Durrell himself), a ten-year-old with a fascination and love for animals and insects – he brings them home, from grasshoppers to scorpions, and keeps them around, blissfully unaware of the havoc they wreak with the lives of others. And finally, there is their mother who is trying to stay sane while taking care of this extremely insane crew.
The result is about 350 odd pages of the most delightful prose you will see. From Gerry trying to make his family accept his weird pets to Larry getting drunk and bellowing scorn at the town to their mother being rescued by their dog who thinks she is being attacked in the water (she is just wearing a rather bulky swimsuit), this book makes for hilarious reading. Yes, sometimes the descriptions of animals and insects can get a little tiresome – after all, not everyone loves them as much as Durrell does. But these occasions are few and far between. All said and done, this is a wonderful book, and one of the few that will make everyone laugh.
Indeed, what makes My Family and Other Animals unique is its accessibility. You can read it and laugh. So can your parents. So can your twelve year child or nephew. Literally anyone who knows the language can read this book. And laugh. And if that does not make it one of the books you simply must must read, we do not know what does.