The Durrells in/of Corfu

With the showing of the second season of The Durrells in Corfu on PBS, I pulled up my copy of The Durrells of Corfu by Michael Haag because it was still bugging me that though the source is supposedly Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals.  I’m not sure the show and the book have one story in common.  I thought maybe they came from Gerald’s later books, but they aren’t really in the same style.   I also tracked down my copy of My Family and finished it.   I’d come very close, I don’t know why I didn’t finish it.  It’s a charming book, not laugh-out-loud funny to me, though others have declared it so.   Living in Corfu 1935-39 was a magical time and place for all of them it seems.  Haag’s book makes it clear that at least some of the material for the show came from letters, memories of some people still living and snippets of unpublished autobiography Gerald left behind.

I almost didn’t watch the show because most of them are disagreeable, annoying, selfish people.  Gerry isn’t, but one can see how his obsession with bringing home all the wildlife of the island could get on anyone’s nerves.  If you read anything about the Durrells though (which I only just last year learned is not pronounced DurRELL, but DURel) you learn it’s not all how Gerry wrote it.   He’s writing a light, amusing memoir of his boyhood, I suppose that’s why he left out Larry’s wife Nancy.  They don’t seem to have money problems in My Family nor in Haag’s book once the bank sends their funds, but in the show she is improbably trying to pay the rent by making food and poisoning half the island.  There seems to be an emphasis in the show in showing a good deal of unhappiness, which is definitely not Gerald’s emphasis.    Showing reality instead of a boy’s fantasy I suppose, but there’s something to be said for boy’s fantasies.

It was the fact that two of those young men grew up to be famous writers that kept me watching and then buying the books. Haag’s book fills in some of the blanks, but neither his nor My Family has enough of the nitty-gritty I enjoy – what they couldn’t get there, how they had to adapt.   Each of them has a bit of this, but not enough.   And I’m not sure if any of them is true.   Haag’s book makes it clear that all the Durrells would make up stories or appropriate each other’s.   It also seems to be true that the show has not painted Larry or Leslie very accurately as Larry apparently had a great sense of humor and Margo describes Leslie as a ‘lovable rogue.’  In the show, you’re never laughing with Larry, though sometimes at him, he’s pretentious as hell and sense of humor is pretty much absent.   Leslie is grumpy, dour, and despite being obsessed with shooting, stupidly manages to injure poor Roger.


I’m wondering if perhaps the later apparent estrangement colors the time in Corfu.  From early descriptions they seem to be a merry, loving, if rambunctious family.   Nancy fell in love with the whole family.   I think all of these things are worthwhile – My Family and Other Animals probably being the best.  Haag’s book feels a bit slight, and it annoys me that he refers to Louisa as Mother, but makes a useful companion if you want some idea of what really happened.  It’s the only one which acknowledges Nancy’s existence.  I might someday read the other two in Gerald’s trilogy or Larry’s book on Corfu.  They were interesting people and well worth spending some time with.

24 Hour Readathon (er, sort of)

So where the hell are you?  you might well ask.   I went out to a show and dinner and all that took 7 hours.   And, you might say, you didn’t leave until after noon, so what happened to the morning, hmmmm?   Yes, well, er, um, clearly my enthusiasm for getting up early and reading is a thing of the past.  I still intend to read some, maybe I should stick with Sherlock Holmes stories.   I don’t know.   I can’t even make up my mind what to read.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

If I could decide that, I would be reading it.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Hot chocolate.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Old friend from out of town and theater tickets killed much of the day, but I hope to read something.   Or part of something.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Read less?


10 Book Recommendations

2007 – The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett

2008 – I don’t seem to have read many books from this year, but I liked all of this series :

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (The Mysterious Benedict Society, #2) 

2009 –

2010 – The Big Short – Michael Lewis

2013 – The Goldfinch- Donna Tartt

Okay, this is taking too long.  Maybe I’ll find more later, but I can’t spend all the time trying to find ten to recommend.


5:10 Oct 22 – Well, that didn’t go all that well, but I’ve made up some for it today.   I read a small chunk of The Durrells in Corfu and more of it this afternoon.   Sitting around not doing what should be done.  I have fallen down in the snack department, too.   I did have the hot chocolate, but not much else and fell asleep at 1:30 AM.  ‘Til April then, when maybe I’ll do better.


Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon!

Tomorrow at 8:00 AM Eastern time, Dewey’s Readathon begins.   I never read much, I have an engagement much of tomorrow and I can’t stay up 24 hours, but I always try to do some and have a good time.  Reading all day (and night if you can!) with, at this point, thousands of others around the world is a great idea and the emphasis on snacks makes it even better.   I don’t know what I’ve got in the way of snackage, but I will do my best.   I’m pretty sure there’s a couple around here.  There doesn’t seem to be any new artwork.  Guess I will use some old artwork.  Come join us!  Sign up!  Read tomorrow!   You don’t have to read 24 hours.  And did I mention snacks?   There’s a definite emphasis on snacks.




Aurora Leigh November Read-along

Where Reading Rambo reads, I follow.   I know nothing about Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but I like the superior attitude I can adopt if I read it.

I probably won’t ever say it aloud, but I’ll know.  And people will sense a new confidence, a certain poise, a certain je ne sais quoi that comes with having read something hardly anyone else has.   It’s true, I have Morte D’Arthur, but I need all the help I can get.   So, I will join the few, the proud, the Reading Rambo Read-Alongers and hope I do better on this than I did with Wilkie.   (Shh!  Don’t mention Wilkie.   Maybe I can finish it before November.)


I’ve liked all the other readalongs so even if this is a dud, Alice still will have an excellent record for readalong picks.


Slade House – RIP #3

So, this was supposed to be a group read with questions on October 1, but I can’t find any questions, so I guess I’ll just talk about it a bit.   David Mitchell’s Slade House, I was worried because one reviewer compared it to Stephen King, whom I don’t like.   They also compared it to Poe, Shirley Jackson, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and I don’t know who else.   Well, no.  I wouldn’t make those comparisons myself.   At 30 pages I could take it or leave it.   I got a bit more into it and ended up liking it okay.   There’s some things that are never explained, like the jogger.  I guess that’s a slight spoiler, so I’m sorry if that bothers anyone.   Slade House is a mysterious mansion which appears every 9 years and lures some poor sap to their doom.   The whys and hows of this are explained mostly over each section as more saps are lured.   To call them saps isn’t really fair as they have no real reason to suspect any of this is even possible, let alone about to happen to them.   No one seems to own an A to Zed.    I found it readable enough, it’s pretty short, but it lacks…  something.   Depth?  Good characters?   It is fairly repetitive, although he does try to make each luring different enough.



For modern creepy, if you haven’t read Carlos Ruiz Zafon, I much prefer him.   I enjoyed Supernatural Enhancements much more until the end which just came out of left field.  This one’s ending is a fine deus ex machina which simultaneously seems to fit in with the random feeling the whole book has.   Perhaps that’s the problem.   There’s little build up of suspense.  Victims come out of nowhere and are destroyed before they can figure out what’s happening.  For me it’s about on a level with a ghost story I read a couple years ago, which I cannot find on the blog and cannot remember the name of.   Very helpful, no?  Oh, wait, I just remembered it’s by the guy who wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and a google or two later… it was called This House is Haunted.   I guess this is around 3 stars?   Not bad.   Not great.