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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Monday, 9 July 2018

"Birds, Beasts and Relatives" by Gerald Durrell

This is the sequel to My Family and Other Animals and it contains the stories that were left out of the first volume but which can nevertheless be very funny. Thus we learn of the wedding and accouchment of Katerina, Gerry going fishing with a convicted murderer and catching cuttlefish with love, Corfiot justice as arranged by Spiro, Margo's spiritualist diet, gay Sven and his accordion, Max and Donald, the wonderfully lecherous Captain Creech, the recluse Countess who argues with her servant, and the gypsy with the talking head and the dancing bear. I laughed out loud on several occasions.

Every chapter is introduced with passages of beautiful description. There is lots of interesting natural history. But, as before, the stars are the wonderfully bonkers members of the Durrell family:

  • Larry has a brilliant line in acerbity: 
    • The entire population of the British Isles seems to do absolutely nothing from one year’s end to another except shuffle around in small circles sneezing voluptuously into each other's faces ... a sort of merry-go-round of reinfection.” (p 314)
    • "I am not going to be turned into an early Christian martyr at my time of life." (p 531)
  • Margo merges and mangles proverbs: 
    • "There's many a slip without a stitch." (p 427)
    • "There are no bricks without fire." (p 446)


Some of the wonderful moments:
  • "'You mean he's a philatelist?' said Larry at length. 'No, no, Master Larrys,' said Spiro. 'He's not one of them. He's a married man and he's got two children.'" (p 426)
  • "Andreas was a gay, kind-hearted, exuberant boy who inevitably managed to do the wrong things. They said of him in the village that he would ride a donkey backwards if he could." (p 462)He tries to fish with a stick of dynamite but after he lights the fuse the fish swim away so he rows after them still holding the dynamite ...
  • "It smelt as strongly of garlic as a peasant bus on market day." (p 464)
  • "Half-asleep and still bee-drowsy from the liquor I had consumed." (p 494)
  • "'Strumpets! How lovely! Donald, we have strumpets for tea'. 'Crumpets,' corrected Donald. 'They're scones,' said Mother. 'I remember a strumpet in Montevideo', said Captain Creech. 'Marvellous bitch. Kept the whole ship entertained for two days. They don't breed them with stamina like that nowadays.'" (p 510)
  • "limericks of such biological complexity that, fortunately, Mother could not understand them." (p 511)
  • "'I'm a bit too old to have babies,' said Captain Creech. The padre's wife choked. 'But', he went on with satisfaction, 'I have a lot of fun trying'." (p 511)
  • "Two hedgehogs, drunks as lords on the fallen and semi-fermented grapes they had eaten from under the vines, staggering in circles, snapping at each other belligerently, uttering high-pitched  screams and hiccups." (p 522)
  • "The grapes ... looked like the jade eggs of some strange sea-monster." (p 540)
  • "As the wine fermented in their brown bellies, the barrels gurgled and squeaked and growled at each other like an angry mob." (p 546)

Beautiful descriptions, wonderful characterisations, hilarious comedy. July 2018


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