Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My Family & Other Animals

One of my favorite books of all time. Read it back in high school & it made me addicted to animal books.

First became interested in the book when I watched a TV interview with Durell's sister who stated that one of the changes in her life after her brother's book became famous was that people were always asking her:"And which Other Animal are you?"

Went on to read the rest of Durell's books. Another unforgettable one is called Rosie is My Relative - about an alcoholic elephant. Hilarious.

Then I started on the James Herriott books next like All Creatures Great And Small. And then a host of other Penguin Nature Classics. And then on TV there was Animal Planet. But always stayed loyal to "My Family & Other Animals" as the favorite. First love & all that.

If you love animals, are a nature-lover & you enjoy the British sense of humor, this book is for you.

Would recommend that you read the book first rather than watch the movie. The movie is missing many of the funniest bits & if you watch it first it will kind of spoil the book for you.

Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the book:

"July had been blown out like a candle by a biting wind that ushered in a leaden August sky. A sharp, stinging drizzle fell, billowing into opaque grey sheets when the wind caught it. Along the Bournemouth sea-front the beach-huts turned blank wooden faces towards a greeny-grey, frothchained sea that leapt eagerly at the cement bulwark of the shore. The gulls had been tumbled inland over the town, and they now drifted above the house-tops on taut wings, whining peevishly. It was the sort of weather calculated to try anyone's endurance.

Considered as a group my family was not a very prepossessing sight that afternoon, for the weather had brought with it the usual selection of ills to which we were prone. For me, lying on the floor, labelling my collection of shells, it had brought catarrh, pouring it into my skull like cement, so that I was forced to breath stertorously through open mouth. For my brother Leslie, hunched dark and glowering by the fire, it had inflamed the convolutions of his ears so that they bled delicately but persistently. To my sister Margo it had delivered a fresh dappling of acne spots to a face that was already blotched like a red veil. For my mother there was a rich, bubbling cold, and a twinge of rheumatism to season it. Only my eldest brother, Larry, was untouched, but it was sufficient that he was irritated by our failings.

It was Larry, of course, who started it. The rest of us felt too apathetic to think of anything except our own ills, but Larry was designed by Providence to go through life like a small, blond firework, exploding ideas in other people's minds, and then curling up with cat-like unctuousness and refusing to take any blame for the consequences. He had become increasingly irritable as the afternoon wore on. At length, glancing moodily round the room, he decided to attack Mother, as being the obvious cause of the trouble.

"Why do we stand this bloody climate?" he asked suddenly, making a gesture towards the rain-distorted window. "Look at it! And, if it comes to that, look at us . . . Margo swollen up like a plate of scarlet porridge . . . Leslie wandering around with fourteen fathoms of cotton wool in each ear . . . Gerry sounds as though he's had a cleft palate from birth . . . And look at you: you're looking more decrepit and hag-ridden every day."

Mother peered over the top of a large volume entitled Easy Recipes from Rajputana. "Indeed I'm not," she said indignantly.

"You are," Larry insisted; "you're beginning to look like an Irish washerwoman . . . and your family looks like a series of illustrations from a medical encyclopedia."

Mother could think of no really crushing reply to this, so she contented herself with a glare before retreating once more behind her book.

"What we need is sunshine," Larry continued; "don't you agree, Les? . . . Les . . . Les!"

Leslie unravelled a large quantity of cotton-wool from one ear.

"What d'you say?" he asked.

"There you are!" said Larry, turning triumphantly to Mother, "it's become a major operation to hold a conversation with him. I ask you, what a position to be in! One brother can't hear what you say, and the other one can't be understood. Really, it's time something was done. I can't be expected to produce deathless prose in an atmosphere of gloom and eucalyptus."

"Yes, dear," said Mother vaguely.

"What we all need," said Larry, getting into his stride again, "is sunshine . . . a country where we can grow."

"Yes, dear, that would be nice," agreed Mother, not really listening.

"I had a letter from George this morning - he says Corfu's wonderful. Why don't we pack up and go to Greece?"

"Very well, dear, if you like," said Mother unguardedly.

Where Larry was concerned she was generally very careful not to commit herself.

"When?" asked Larry, rather surprised at this cooperation.

Mother, perceiving that she had made a tactical error, cautiously lowered Easy Recipes from Rajputana. "Well, I think it would be a sensible idea if you were to go on ahead, dear, and arrange things. Then you can write and tell me if it's nice, and we all can follow," she said cleverly.

Larry gave her a withering look.

"You said that when I suggested going to Spain," he reminded her, "and I sat for two interminable months in Seville, waiting for you to come out, while you did nothing except write me massive letters about drains and drinking water, as though I was the Town Clerk or something. No, if we're going to Greece, let's all go together."

"You do exaggerate, Larry," said Mother plaintively; "anyway, I can't go just like that. I have to arrange something about this house."

"Arrange? Arrange what, for heaven's sake? Sell it."

"I can't do that, dear," said Mother, shocked.

"Why not?"

"But I've only just bought it."

"Sell it while it's still untarnished, then."

'Don't be ridiculous, dear," said Mother firmly; "that's quite out of the question. It would be madness."

So we sold the house and fled from the gloom of the English summer, like a flock of migrating swallows.. "

From My Family And Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.



Blogger Al Sharief said...

Funny I was hust talking the other day that people "emigrate" and animals "migrate" not much of a difference I suppose when it comes to the weather when it ges too bad.

I love the part: "What We All need is Sunshine, ... a country where we can grow"

For better economic opportunities people emigrat. So they can grow.

For poltical prosecution and better human rights and freedome, people also emigrate.

10/20/2005 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...


Yes. Animals migrate for better climate. Our 'climate' needs are a bit more complicated than Durell's Other Animals though. We don't just need good geographical climate to grow. We also need good economic, political, cultural climate.

10/21/2005 01:11:00 AM  

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