- Larry the writer with the world's best put-downs
- Margo, searching for love and always mangling her expressions
- Leslie, obsessed with guns
- Gerry the naturalist with his dogs Roger, Widdle and Puke and an ever-growing bestiary
- Mother, presiding over domestic chaos with all the governance of an anarchist
- Theo who knows everything but is utterly modest about it
- Spiro whose motto is: Don'ts yous worrys, Mrs Durrells, I will fixes it.
- And the lecherous Captain Creech who tells women they are putting on weight but that “A thin woman's no good in bed - like riding a horse with no saddle.” (p 737) and who, having accidentally ripped off his partner's dress during a dance, exclaims "that's a fine pair of knickers you're wearing" (p 756)
There are new characters too of whom my favourite is JeeJee who turns out not to be an Indian prince (Prince is just his first name) and who falls from a window while trying to learn to levitate. And there is also the dreadful French Count who repeatedly insists that everything French is better than everything else and wears perfume: “He drenched himself in a scent so thick that it was almost visible and he had only to spend a second in a room to permeate the whole atmosphere, while the cushions he leaned against and the chairs he sat in reeked for days afterwards.” (p 620)
These characters interact in a series of hilarious mishaps which against had me laughing out loud.
And there are the usual samples of Durrell's beautiful descriptions.
- “Peaches, as orange or pink as a harvest moon, loomed huge in the trees, their thick, velvety pelts swollen with sweet juice.” (p 563)
- "Trees had been groaning with the weight of cherries, so that the orchards looked as though some great dragon had been slain among the trees, bespattering the leaves with scarlet and wine-red drops of blood.” (p 563)
- “She was in a singularly sullen and recalcitrant mood, even by donkey standards, and annoyed me by deliberately treading on my foot and then giving me a sharp nip on the buttock when I bent down to pick up my fallen butterfly net. She took grave offence at the clout I gave her for this misbehaviour, so we started his expedition barely on speaking terms.” (p 565)
- “There was nothing straight about Mama Kondos; her diminutive body was bent like a sickle blade, her legs were bowed with years of carrying heavy loads on her head, her arms and hands permanently bent from picking things up; even her upper and lower lips curved inwards over her toothless gums” (p 574)
Other great lines:
- “'Any man can avoid having three wives if he puts his mind to it', said Mother firmly.” (p 588)
- “You must remember - when we had the revolution and that cake shop was so badly damaged by the machine-gun bullets. Such unsafe things, I always think, machine-guns.” (p 683)
- “Mother blushed and stiffened. 'I have no intention of driving anyone mad, with or without knickers!' she said with great dignity.” (p 690)
- “In my village where I ‘ave my villa ve have a village idiot. He is charming, tres sympathique, but ve do not want to make him the mayor.” (p 696)
- “Like an early missionary, he was so concerned with himself that it never occurred to him that somebody might look upon him simply as a meal.” (p 711)
- “‘Well, I'm supposed to be on a diet’, said Margo. ‘You can't go forcing me to have stuff like that’. ‘Nobody's forcing you, dear’, said mother. ‘You could always say no’. ‘Well you know I can't say no, so that’s forcing’.” (p 730)
Another fabulous helping of a feast. August 2018; 194 pages
Another, perhaps even better, memoir of Greek Island life, this time on Symi in the Dodecannese, is Bus Stop Symi by William Travis.