“Durrell’s writing is as beautiful and picturesque as the island he describes”
Genre: non-fiction / memoir
Four years before the Second World War, the Durrell family travelled to Corfu in search of a cheaper way of living. It was on this glorious, sun-soaked island that the youngest of the four children, ten year-old Gerald, discovered his passion for animals: toads and tortoises, bats and butterflies, scorpions and octopuses. Through spectacular silver-green olive groves and across stunning white beaches, Gerry pursued his obsession, causing hilarity and mayhem in his ever-tolerant family.
Why I love it
Having thoroughly enjoyed ITV’s The Durrell’s, I decided to return to the book that inspired such a moving and entertaining TV series. I was not disappointed. The Corfu Trilogy is a captivating read, not least because of Gerald Durrell’s wonderful prose. Passages that describe the peacock-blue sea and stone walls full of all kinds of creatures are so enjoyable to read. I could really visualise every landscape he depicted. Scenes where he narrated his search for a particular animal, or a fight between a mantis and gecko, were very absorbing to read. I could almost imagine the battle between animals as something similar to a David Attenborough documentary, with music in the background to make it all the more tense. When I travelled to Corfu myself, I completely understood how idyllic the island is, and thought how fantastic an environment it must have been for a ten year-old boy to grow up in.
It is not just nature and animals that Gerry recounts from his childhood, but also his unique and chaotic family life. Whether it was Larry’s eccentric friends, Leslie’s interest in guns, Margo’s love for fashion, or Gerry’s passion for animals, there never seemed to be a dull moment in the Durrell household. Whilst this sometimes resulted in dangerous and shocking events, there was always a hilarious side, which is either detected by one of the children, or by the reader.
Louisa Durrell is an inspirational woman who loves her children very dearly. Whatever their interests are, she allows them to pursue them, even if it is something as dangerous as guns like Leslie’s hobby. She accepted who her children were, their individual personalities and passions, and never prevented them from doing what they wanted to do in order to be happy. Although she worried about how her family might be perceived by Corfiots and about the safety of her children, she did the best that a mother possibly could in her circumstances, being a widow with four children to raise.
Spiro and Theo were perhaps my two favourite characters, both native inhabitants of Corfu. Spiro was the kindest man you could ever meet; when the Durrells first arrived on the island in 1935, Spiro found them accommodation, even moving them from villa to villa throughout the four years they were in Corfu. He always ensured they had enough to eat and fixed any problem that arose, all whilst trying to make a living for his own family as a taxi driver. Spiro’s comments were also very entertaining to read, such as his pronunciation of ‘magpies’ as ‘magenpies’. Theo was instrumental in nurturing Gerry’s love for animals and educated him about the most fascinating and unusual creatures. He was a fountain of knowledge not only about animals, but about a variety of topics, all while remaining humble and modest.
Overall, The Corfu Trilogy is an enchanting read that will make you feel utterly transported to the beautiful island of Corfu. Gerry immerses you in the Greek culture and educates you about a diverse range of animals without being condescending to his reader. His writing is as wonderful and picturesque as the island itself.
Why you should read it
This is a book that everyone should read, adults and children alike. It is not only informative about nature and Greek culture, but is also uplifting as it explores the beauty of carefree days of childhood.