Birds, Beasts, and Relatives
|Series||Gerald Durrell's Corfu Saga|
|Subject||Gerald Durrell's life in Corfu|
|Publisher||Viking Press, Penguin Books Ltd; several others|
|Preceded by||My Family and Other Animals|
|Followed by||The Garden of the Gods|
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives is the second volume of the autobiographical Corfu Trilogy by naturalist Gerald Durrell. The trilogy describes his childhood spent on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939.
Like its predecessor, the more famous My Family and Other Animals, Durrell intersperses humorous family anecdotes with rich descriptions of the fauna and flora of Corfu, and of his own formative education in natural history. The book was published in 1969 and followed the huge success of the first Corfu book; like his other books, Durrell wrote Birds, Beasts and Relatives primarily to raise money for his animal collecting expeditions.
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives, like My Family and Other Animals, offers a series of autobiographical anecdotes from the Durrell family's five-year sojourn on the Greek island of Corfu between 1935 and 1939. Gerald was aged ten when his mother, sister and two brothers moved from England to Corfu.
The stories related in the book do not occur in chronological order, and are in some cases semi-fictionalised. For example, Gerald's eldest brother Larry - the novelist Lawrence Durrell - was not living with the rest of his family as is depicted in the stories, but was living separately with his wife Nancy, who is not mentioned in the books.
Characters in the book also include their widowed mother, the gun-mad brother Leslie, his sister Margo, and Roger the dog. The family are protected by their local friend, taxi-driver Spiro (Spyros "Americano" Chalikiopoulos) and mentored by the physician and polymath Dr Theodore Stephanides, who provides Gerald with his education in natural history.
Background and Content
Durrell wrote Birds, Beasts, and Relatives in 1968. His literary agent, Curtis Brown were reportedly very happy with the manuscript, and the book was published a year later in 1969. It received positive reviews and has been in print ever since.
The book introduces new characters that were not present in My Family and Other Animals. Gerald makes a trip to London with his mother, to visit Margo, who is temporarily there for medical reasons. Larry brings a new collection of highly eccentric friends and acquaintances into the Durrell home. The family are invited to a Corfiot wedding and Gerry witnesses the birth of the bride's first baby. Gerry visits an elderly countess, is made the gift of an owl and has an impossibly sumptuous meal.