Get Ready for ‘The Durrells’ With Bonus Reading

September 25, 2016 Susannah Brooks Leave a Comment

If you think Poldark is a bit… well, dark, have we got a series for you. Beginning Sunday, Oct. 16, Masterpiece airs six episodes of The Durrells in Corfu, based on a warm, funny trilogy of memoirs that has captivated generations of readers.

Before the series begins, you’ve got plenty of time to immerse yourself in the Durrells’ world through the written word. Here are some recommendations to help you meet this unusual family.

The Corfu trilogy

Go straight to the source for the beloved works that inspired it all. The trilogy covers the period from 1935-1939, beginning when author Gerald (the youngest of the four children) is 10 years old. The best known volume My Family and Other Animals became a Masterpiece Theatre film in 2005, featuring Imelda Staunton as Mother and Matthew Goode as eldest brother Larry (Lawrence) Durrell.

binocularsThe trilogy also includes Birds, Beasts, and Relatives (1969), and The Garden of the Gods, sometimes known as Fauna and Family (1978).

The anecdotes are not necessarily in chronological order and are semi-fictionalized.

Later adventures

A Zoo in My Luggage follows the adult Gerald Durrell from his trip to Africa to his attempts to find a home for his menagerie in England. Once he and his wife established the Jersey Zoo in the Channel Islands, he wrote about his further adventures in The Whispering Land and Menagerie Manor.

The Alexandria Quartet

Larry had just married and published his first novel when he persuaded his family to move to Corfu in 1935. (Nancy, the first of his four wives, is not mentioned in the books.)

%ce%bb%cf%89%cf%81%ce%b5%ce%bd%cf%82_%ce%bd%cf%84%ce%b1%cf%81%cf%81%ce%b5%ce%bbLawrence Durrell’s most famous works were first published in the late 1950s, just after the release of My Family and Other Animals. The acclaimed tetralogy – which, to be clear, is MUCH more cerebral and sensual than Gerald’s work – shares multiple perspectives on a set of events taking place before and during WWII in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. The fourth novel, Clea, moves forward in time to reach a conclusion.

Other works in the same vein

Love the Durrells’ tight-knit eccentricity amidst genteel poverty? Try I Capture the Castle. Dodie Smith may be better known for 101 Dalmatians, but the Mortmains have captured the hearts of readers since 1949.

The 2003 film version features Romola Garai as narrator Cassandra Mortmain and Bill Nighy as her father James.

All Creatures Great and Small

All Creatures Great and SmallThis humorous, semi-fictionalized memoir by rural veterinarian James Herriot also became a PBS favorite, running for seven seasons in the 1980s. Like My Family and Other Animals, its anecdotal chapters make it a great read for any age. Followed by All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful and (fans of Anglican hymns, I bet you can guess this one) The Lord God Made Them All.

We Bought a Zoo

A contemporary take on a family whose love for animals brought them together in a crisis, Benjamin Mee’s true story also became a 2011 movie starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson.

Cold Comfort Farm

cold-comfort-farm-673x1024This wickedly funny novel satirizes the melodramatic country novels of writers such as D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy. Next time you need an excuse – any excuse – just channel Aunt Ada Doom and think of “something nasty in the woodshed.” (And, yes, it’s a movie as well, starring the great Eileen Atkins, Joanna Lumley and Kate Beckinsale.)

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