Title: Birds, Beasts and Relatives
Author: Gerald Durrell
Published: Fontana, 1971, pp. 220
Genre: Autobiographical wildlife fiction
Blurb: All Gerald Durrell’s books are extremely enjoyable. My Family and Other Animals is the best, spun from his family’s five-year sojourn, before thewar, when he was in his early teens on Corfu. In Birds, Beasts and Relatives, returning to the same place, he has done it again… He effortlessly immerses us in the glittering bays and sun-shined olive groves, teeming with weird astonishments.
Where, when and why: This book was another find from the Winchester Cathedral book stall earlier this month. I picked it up because I recently read Gerald Durrell’s A Zoo in My Luggage and it reminded me how much I enjoy his writing. Talking about him when reviewing Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day made me decide to reach for this book now.
What I thought: There are few writers who are as skilled at relating an anecdote as Gerald Durrell. His writing has a way of capturing the people, animals and situations that he encounters perfectly; reading this book was almost as good as being in Corfu with Durrell and his madcap family. Reading about the family again was a welcome return after their absense in A Zoo in My Luggage. As the people that Gerals Durrell knows best, they all have well-developed and entertaining personae within the book and are funny and embarrassing in the way that only family can be. Seeing them again was a bit like revisiting old friends and I thoroughly enjoyed laughing with them at their own follies.
As always with Gerald Durrell’s writing, the book was a careful balance of human drama and encounters with local wildlife, containing just enough detail to be interesting without being too scientific. These books are, after all, primarily fun. However, as excellent as Durrell’s grasp of the anecdote is, they aren’t very well strung together in this book. As it contains stories which were left out of My Family and Other Animals rather than being a continuation of the novel, there are large time gaps between the events which are related and they are presented in a random order without any thematic or chronological links. I still enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to anyone else, but I would have preferred the book to have a bit more structure.
Where this book goes: This book joins my other Gerald Durrells on my shelves as they are all perfect quick, light reads for bad days.
Tea talk: This book was accompanied by honeybush tea from Whittards. I don’t put sugar or milk in my tea, so I tend to favour leaves or blends which are naturally sweet and this one did not disappoint. Definitely a good tea to perk me up on a chilly, rainy summer day.