During the last few weeks of school, needing distraction from tests and report cards but not having much time to read, I picked up a book that’s been on my shelf for a long time: The Whispering Land, by Gerald Durrell. I knew nothing about Mr. Durrell (although I recognized the name of his author brother, Lawrence Durrell), but this little book was about his travels to Argentina, and that caught my attention. It turned out to be the perfect book to read during intense times!
From Penguin Books:
Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) was born in India, spent his youth on the idyllic Greek island of Corfu, and traveled the world, keenly observing the people and animals he eventually wrote about — the characters that make his readers laugh out loud. His works include a novel and several books based on his myriad worldwide collecting expeditions, including: My Family and Other Animals; Birds, Beasts, and Relatives; A Zoo in My Luggage; The Whispering Land; and Menagerie Manor.
Mr. Durrell was a wonderful storyteller, and the experiences he wrote about were fun and fascinating. I loved his descriptions of Argentina, and loved his stories of the animals and the people he encountered on that trip.
On every side of us the scrubland stretched away, dark and flat, so that you got the impression of being in the centre of a gigantic plate. The sky had become suffused with green as the sun sank, and then, unexpectedly, turned to a very pale powder-blue. A tattered mass of clouds on the western horizon suddenly turned black, edged delicately with flame-red, and resembled a great armada of Spanish galleons waging a fierce sea-battle across the sky, drifting towards each other, turned into black silhouette by the fierce glare from their cannons.
I’m quite fascinated now with Gerald Durrell after reading this book and learning a little bit about him, and I’d like to read more of his books! Mr. Durrell was a naturalist dedicated to saving species from extinction. The zoo he and his wife started is still a charitable organization dedicated to that goal. This year, on July 12th, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is celebrating “Durrell Day,” their 50th anniversary. It is located on Jersey in the Channel Islands, and wouldn’t it be terrific to go there for that celebration?
Two years ago on Masterpiece Theater, there was a very nice film based on his book, My Family and Other Animals. My husband and I ordered it from Netflix and watched it the other evening. It was fun to learn a little more about his family and Durrell’s early passion for animals.
Sir David Attenborough said of Gerald Durrell:
“He was responsible for changing people’s attitudes to zoology and changing their agenda. He showed them that small animals could be as interesting as apes and elephants. His work with endangered species was incredible in that he could persuade them to breed in captivity. He then returned them to the wild. He was a pioneer with a marvelous sense of humour.” –Sir David Attenborough