Fillets of Plaice

Durrell’s hilarious and warm My Family and Other Animals (1957) began a trio of reminiscences of his life growing up with a slightly dotty family – the overbearing and omniscient Larry; the affectionate and loving siblings, Margot and Leslie; and, of course, the overburdened and patient Mother – on the island of Corfu in the 1930s, when a pound could buy a villa and life was conducted as a series of riotously high (and sometimes low) adventures. But what shines through these five vignettes is the author’s engagement with and immense affection for animals in all their forms. From fish to fowl, from lizards to little water fleas (daphnia), Durrell’s eye is acute and his prose is tart. You can read this book for the humor alone (for he did perceive his family as some rare and rarefied species), but between the lines you can discern the makings of a world-class naturalist and a cultivated and engaging writer.

Gerald Durrell founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Durrell Wildlife Park on the isle of Jersey in 1959. He is perhaps best remembered for the books based on his life as an animal collector and enthusiast and his immortal My Family and Other Animals trilogy, which has now been adapted into a Masterpiece Theater Series titles, The Durrells in Corfu.