Monday 23 April 2018

Review: The Durrells of Corfu

The Durrells of Corfu The Durrells of Corfu by Michael Haag
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

The Durrell's are one of those well know families that have permeated the British literary culture. There is Lawrence Durrell whose most famous work is The Alexandria Quartet. Then there is Gerald Durrell, founder of the world-renowned Jersey Zoo and author of many books, including My Family and Other Animals, about growing up with animals in the homes in Corfu. The TV series that is proving so popular is loosed based on My Family and Other Animals and the others in the Corfu Trilogy and the books themselves are loosely based on the real-life events that took place when they were living there.

In this book Michael Haag has gone behind the literary curtains to see what really happened, The children were all born in India, to Lawrence and Louise Durrell. Lawrence Durrell was a civil engineer responsible for building some of the railways of India. He died of a brain haemorrhage in 1928, and Louisa and the Leslie, Margo and Gerald moved back to London. They stayed there for a short while before relocating to Bournemouth. By 1935 they had been persuaded to move to Corfu by the eldest Lawrence, who was living there with his wife. It was here that the interest that Gerald had in all thing animals became an obsession. It was aided by his friendship with Theodore Stephanides, a Greek doctor, scientist, poet, philosopher, who nurtured his passion for animals. At the outbreak of war in 1939, they all moved back to the UK.

It is an enjoyable book to read about their slightly chaotic family life in Corfu, full of personal anecdotes and details gleaned from personal documents to fill in the gaps of the stories from the books. He tells the stories of Louisa, Leslie and Margo, the family members often in the shadow of there more famous family members. This unconventional upbringing gave us two world-famous authors, though I did have a wry smile that Gerald Durrell was a best selling author before his more literary brother, Lawrence. Even though my wife met Gerald Durrell once, and we have a lot of his books around the house, I have never read any of them! Something that I am intending on rectifying very soon.

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