My Family and Other Animals Summary & Study Guide

Gerald Durrell
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My Family and Other Animals Summary & Study Guide Description

My Family and Other Animals Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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My Family and Other Animals is an attempt at zoological dissertation on the island of Corfu, Greece. The novel succeeds in being a creative mixture of natural history study and autobiographical account of the Durrell family as they live on Corfu for five years. The first in a trilogy of books on the island, My Family and Other Animals is a creative introduction to Gerald Durrell, child animal collector, and his eccentric family. The novel is a humorous study on human and animal behavior by a best-selling author and zoologist.

August has brought dreary, raining weather with it. Each family member suffers a physical ailment due, in Larry's opinion, to the dank climate. Finally having enough brooding at the window, Larry demands the family move to Corfu. Mrs. Durrell insists the option is impossible, as they have just bought their home. Despite Mrs. Durrell's protest, the family sets sail for Corfu with only their essentials, which for each member is an assortment of equipment dedicated to their hobby. Gerald's necessities include a butterfly net, books on natural history, and his dog, Roger. Gerald and his family watch with great expectation as the boat approaches the island.

Gerald's family spends a day house hunting with their hotel manager but does not succeed in finding a villa with a bathroom. The family sets out the next day determined to find a villa with a bathroom. The unsuspecting group is surrounded by cab drivers all determined to get their fare, individually or torn to pieces. They are saved from the mob by Spiro, an English-speaking driver who quickly becomes the family's close friend and advocate.

After a long drive of twists, turns, and relaying of Spiro's history, the cab driver comes to a halt in front of a strawberry-pink villa. The family instantly feels they are at home in the small villa surrounded by cypresses. Gerald encounters many unique people in his rambles around the olive groves. The most interesting is the Rose-Beetle Man, a mute peddler who sells Gerald a young tortoise on their first meeting. The two become fast, if silent, friends. Soon, Gerald's morning excursions are grounded when his mother decides Larry's friend George will be his tutor. George realizes Gerald cannot be deterred from his interest in insects and animals and decides to integrate zoology into their lessons.

Larry informs his mother he has invited a few guests to stay for an indeterminate amount of time. When Mrs. Durrell insists there is no room at the villa Larry counters that the best option is to move to a bigger home. Mrs. Durrell is adamant they are not moving again. Mrs. Durrell capitulates and soon Spiro finds the family the daffodil-yellow villa. The house offers Gerald the opportunity to dedicate more time and space to his hobby. George has left the island leaving Gerald with complete freedom to explore his new surroundings. As Gerald explores, Larry's guests begin to arrive in a seemingly endless stream. As conversations float over her head, Mrs. Durrell flutters around nervously as her fears that the guests will be highbrow is infinitely realized.

A mishap with a matchbox of scorpions leads to Gerald being sentenced to a French tutor, the Belgian consul. With the summer comes another tutor, Peter who is on break from Oxford. Peter is strict at first but as he becomes interested in Margo, he eases up on Gerald. Before the summer's end, Mrs. Durrell believes Peter and Margo have become too close. Peter is gotten rid of amidst high drama in the Durrell household. Margo drifts around the villa and then locks herself in the attic, while Leslie threatens to kill Peter if he steps foot on the island again.

It is spring again in Corfu when Great-Aunt Hermione writes that she is thinking of visiting, as she believes the weather will aide in improving her health. Mrs. Durrell and her children balk at the idea of their relative staying with them, but Mrs. Durrell sees no way around it, since she has extolled the virtues of Corfu and informed her aunt they have moved to a large villa. Larry finally decides the best thing to do is to move to a smaller villa. Margo and Leslie agree and soon the Durrells are making their third and final move on the island.

Gerald and his family immediately like the old, elegant snow-white villa. The small villa is perched atop a small hill Gerald finds is home of hundreds of mantises of all sizes. Gerald temporarily captures an extremely large pregnant mantis he names Cecily. One evening Gerald watches in excitement as a Gecko he has named Geronimo and Cecily engage in battle. Gerald's happiness at his loss of another tutor is short-lived when he is informed he has been found a new tutor who shares a common interest in birds. During Gerald's first meeting with the man, he is introduced to Mr. Kralefsky's extremely large bird collection. The entire first day is spent feeding and talking about birds. Soon, Gerald inadvertently meets Mr. Kralefsky's mother. The ailing woman lies in bed in a room as filled with flowers as her son's room and balcony are with birds. Although Mrs. Kralefsky thinks Gerald will believe her ideas strange, Gerald accepts her views that flowers have a language all their own.

Before long Mr. Kralefsky informs Mrs. Durrell it is time for Gerald to enter formal schooling. Mrs. Durrell announces to her children they are returning to England. Gerald insists he is comfortable with his level of knowledge. His siblings are no happier to be leaving Corfu. Their mother's suggestion they look at it, as a holiday does nothing to lighten anyone's moods.

Unlike their meager luggage on arrival to Corfu, the Durrells are returning to England with a multitude of trunks and animal cages. The family bid farewell to Theodore and Mr. Kralefsky, and attempt to comfort a sobbing Spiro before their ship leaves the island. The family's moods are not improved when Mrs. Durrell learns the Swiss official has classified her family as a traveling circus and staff. Larry coolly admonishes it is only their recompense for leaving Corfu.

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