Review of Himself and Other Animals

Originally published in 2 parts, on March 17-23, 2004
Book 8 in my first 52 books challenge.

Entry 1:

Full title: Himself and Other Animals: Portrait of Gerald Durrell
Author: David Hughes
Published: 1997
Where got: public library
Genre: Biography, memoir

This week's book is about one of my favorite authors: Gerald Durrell. David Hughes, a longtime friend of Durrell's, wrote the book as a tribute to his friend back in the seventies, but it wasn't published until after Durrell's death. It's more a portrait of the man than a regular biography - I guess it should be called a memoir rather than a biography.

Entry 2:

Finished it last night. The book is well written and set up as a busy week in the life of Gerald Durrell, back in the 1970's when it was originally written. Interspersed with descriptions of Gerry's daily routine, character and moods are comments and reminiscences of himself, his friends and his family. He is shown in different environments and interacting with different kinds of people and what emerges is a portrait of a man who was contradictory in many ways.

Strong willed and selfish, generous, charming, moody and used to having his own way, yet admired and loved by people who knew him, Durrell was no ordinary person. His upbringing was eccentric and his education sporadic and specialized: he basically read a lot of books, studied everything to do with animals and nature, and didn't bother much with the rest. Yet he emerged as a fine writer and an enthusiastic nature lover and conservationist who was capable of sweeping other people along with his writing. After all this, it's hard to believe that he was shy and retiring when it came to meeting the public or standing up to make speeches.

This books only gives snippets of biographical information, mostly concentrating on Durrell's personality. I really think I will have to read his biography now to get the whole picture.

Rating: A biographical appetizer that one might follow up with Durrell's own autobiographical books for the main course, followed by his official biography as a dessert to complete the meal. 3 stars.


Gallimaufry said…
Thanks you for this review. I'm going to go look for David Hughes.
Gerald Durrell was a sweet and quirky character. I first read his "My Family And Other Animals" at age 11 and promptly fell in love with him. A must-read for all animal-lovers.
Bibliophile said…
You're welcome :-)

I have enjoyed every single one of Durrell's books that I have read, but "My Family..." remains my favourite. I reread it every few years. It's hard to believe, having read all those wonderful descriptions of animals, people and places, but Durrell once said that he hated writing and only did it to get money for his zoo and his animal collecting expeditions.

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